What are the GAA doing to improve umpires?

It gives me no satisfaction criticising hurling referees but after the provincial round robins finished up yesterday, the standard is not at the level it should be.

Much of it has to do with poor umpiring and there was another example of it in Ennis, just 30 seconds in when there was hesitation about judging Shane Dowling’s free.

You could see the undue pressure it put on James Owens and his performance was affected by his uncertainty in what he was being told by them - especially following the sendings off when he again consulted with his umpires.

David Reidy was sent off for nothing and although the Tom Condon decision was the correct call the Reidy one seemed to haunt James for the remainder of the game.

After sending off Condon, he got word in his ear about a Clare player from either an umpire or a linesman and you could see how much he was going on the word of whoever advised him.

In the second half, he missed obvious frees and he looked anything but assured. He just wasn’t comfortable and a lot of mistakes followed.

We should be talking about games but too often now it’s about refereeing and umpiring in particular. The question has to be asked what are the GAA doing to improve umpires?

I know for a fact that they haven’t been brought in as a group this year. You might even have to go back as far as 2016 for the last time they were summoned to Croke Park. The last time any umpires were given guidance was for last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals when the referees in question had their assistants briefed by the refereeing authorities.

Not enough training for umpires is being done because it isn’t available. Nobody is doing video analysis with them. It’s not a case of getting on these fellas’ backs because every weekend they’re giving up eight to 10 hours of their day.

They’re genuine GAA people but they’re going out without the protection of the organisation or being empowered by them as what to do, what not to do, where to position themselves, where not to position themselves.

And what can a linesman or an umpire actually tell a referee? There are mixed messages about whether they have the power to recommend to a referee that they should award a free. There is just too much of a grey area.

It’s not enough, not good enough, just like some of the appointments process. Fergal Horgan refereed last year’s All-Ireland final but has only been in charge of one provincial game so far this summer. He might have missed a red card for Daithí Burke in the Galway-Kilkenny game but other than that he did well, in my opinion.

Fergal wouldn’t be the first to experience that cold shoulder.

I was there for the Tipperary-Kilkenny final in 2016 but got one Championship game last year, and I know James McGrath has been in the same boat in the past. It doesn’t stack up that referees can go from the pinnacle of their business to picking up the odd game.

It’s not an exaggeration to state the standard of football refereeing is at a greater level than hurling right now.

David Coldrick is the best around, as far as I’m concerned, and he had another fine performance in Dr Hyde Park.

There was enough reason to book Roscommon’s Cathal Compton and Galway’s Ciaran Murtagh, one for swinging loosely with the boot and the other for acting beyond what could be deemed fair. The penalty might have been on the soft side but it was still a penalty while the black card for David Murray was another good call.



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