REFEREE Diarmuid Kirwan last night insisted he was ‘delighted’ with his handling of September’s All-Ireland SHC final.
Kirwan was criticised for his failure to award a penalty to Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan while pointing to the spot for a foul on Aidan Fogarty though the Kilkenny attacker had over-carried the ball.
However, speaking publicly for the first time since the game, the Cork official said he stood over his decisions and was happy with his performance. The top referee also said he would be against the introduction of video replays fearing they would make the games too ‘stop, start.’
Speaking on the All Star trip to Argentina, Kirwan first dealt with the Callanan incident.
He recalled: “At the time, I was just running behind Seamus, who was going away from me, and suddenly Tommy Walsh crossed in front of me. The next thing I saw Seamus on the ground, I said to myself – ‘Good God, what’s after happening to him?’, but as a referee, you can’t blow that whistle unless you’re 100% sure.
“I didn’t see what happened, but everyone watching on television did, as did many of those in the ground.”
And the penalty at the other end?
“Your biggest critic is yourself. Every referee analyses his own performance after every game, and all I can say, hand on heart, is that I was delighted the way the game went for me, and I am still happy with the way I called my decisions. I refereed the game the same way throughout and I made that call the same as I refereed the rest of the game and I stand over my decision – I have no problem with that. Ye (the media) have a job to do and I have my job to do.”
It’s not just the referee who is in the spotlight these days – his umpires also have a crucial role to play. In this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final between Waterford and Galway, there were a number of decisions which angered both sides.
Kirwan backed his colleagues: “I went back over that game with my umpires, reviewed those scores – they are still adamant they made the right calls, from where they were standing. My biggest thing with my umpires is their positioning, and for those controversial incidents, I looked at that specifically – in every case they were in the perfect position, they were absolutely on the ball where they were standing.
“I stand by my umpires, because I know they would have no problem admitting if they were wrong. I have a panel of seven, we meet regularly, go through all our own games, watch other umpires in action. You get to do an All-Ireland final, and it’s a great, great honour for any referee, but you have to leave three of those umpires out. They came along and were at the game but we work as a team, all of us.”
Given the potential importance of those decisions, however, is there an argument in the GAA for introducing video replay?
“There are always going to be arguments for it, arguments after the All-Ireland final as well, but I stand by the decisions I made that day, I was delighted the way the game went. I think that would make the game very stop-start. You’re always going to have close decisions in games where people are arguing over whether or not the referee or umpires got it right.
“It’s an amateur game, including the officials, and a lot of people tend to forget that. We put a lot of time and effort into this – there’s a lot more goes into being a referee, and being an umpire, than people think.
“The big difference between us and soccer and rugby is that we have umpires in the GAA, and we depend on them. What use are they if you’re going to review every close decision they make? How much trust is that putting in them? I trust my own team, I believe they do an excellent job, but if you bring in video review, you’re going to find it very hard to get umpires after that.”
Would it be an idea that refs should get the opportunity to talk after every game, give their side of things?
“It’s very hard to answer that one. What would happen afterwards, would it become an argument over every decision?
“Maybe the referee could just issue a statement explaining any controversial decision.
“But there are a lot of pluses for refs explaining themselves, yes.”
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