Using inter-county refs as umpires an option, says coach chief

INTER-COUNTY referees who haven’t been chosen for championship matches should be utilised as umpires, Liam O’Neill, National Coaching and Games Development chairman, said.

As things stand, referees are allowed a free rein to choose their four umpires for any given fixture, including All-Ireland and provincial finals, but such a ‘process’ has long been criticised as far too arbitrary.

The whole concept concerning who is an umpire and what he should be responsible for has come under the spotlight again after referee Martin Sludden allowed Joe Sheridan’s goal to stand for Meath against Louth in the recent Leinster football final.

“For a senior inter-county match a referee should not be asked to bring any more than two umpires,” said O’Neill. “We now have an elite group of referees refereeing the championship matches.

“There are plenty of good referees behind that group who know the rules, who should be performing the duty of the goal umpires and we should change the rules to give them the right to call fouls.

“It’s a ludicrous situation that you have seven officials on the field and you have four of them who have no power other than to declare whether something is wide or over the bar. That just doesn’t make sense.

“We have to have a situation where we use the talent that we have and the resources that we have and appoint two referees to act as umpires on the goals and give them the power to help the referee.”

O’Neill’s suggestion is for two referees rather than four on the basis that points are, generally, easier to adjudicate on, whereas the majority of controversies arise over square balls or infringements in and around the penalty area.

Current president, Christy Cooney, has already declared his opposition to the use of technology but O’Neill has given it his backing, while accepting it would possibly prove difficult to push the necessary rule changes through Congress.

“Where it’s available, it’s crazy not to use it, absolutely. That referee should have been able to walk over to somebody or on his ear-piece to someone in the stand, ‘Was there an issue there?’, go into his umpires, thrash it out and deal with it on the spot.

“We had a situation effectively where he didn’t see what happened. He had to make a decision and then he had to stand over it and I’m sure he knew very, very quickly that he was wrong but he had to stand over it because he had it made.”

O’Neill has also sounded his support for an experiment currently being conducted in Scariff, Co. Clare where netting is attached to the outsides of posts in a big to prove a wide. .

“I can’t see why we can’t look at that to make sure that we know what’s going on,” he concluded.


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