Inconsistencies with Refereeing in the GAA

December 11th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

Eugene McGee and his Football Review Committee (no mention of hurling), certainly set the tongues wagging and the scribes scribbling furiously when they published the findings last week of their deliberations and questionnaires returned from over three thousands GAA activists including many inter-county managers.  I have often written here about the good, the bad and indifferent displays of our referees and indeed I have also pointed out that my own experiences of being the "man in the middle" for close to twenty years helps greatly in appreciating the ups and down of a our referees.  Now while McGee and his committee has done an excellent job in my opinion and have really got to the nub of the problem in many areas they have failed I believe to throw any ray of light and hope on the scourge of the overuse of the hand pass which has resulted in many games both at inter county and club level resulting in what we see to day as a cross between basketball and football.  But for today let's look at their opinions on the refereeing of our games.

Refereeing inconsistency featured as the second highest rated "dislikes about Gaelic football" in over those previously referred to three thousand questionnaire replies to the committee. And in addition to this the fifth highest dislike was 'Disrespect of Referees' and also pointing directly to the referees was the findings that injury time inconsistency also featured greatly in the dislikes column.  McGee and his men pull no punches as they pass on more of their findings re the men in charge of the whistle.  Again referring to inconstancy they include;  a referee applying the same rules differently during the course of a game, e.g. issuing yellow cards early on in the game but less frequently towards the end. This is evidence of more tolerance towards unsporting behavior in the final quarter of the game. And then the findings of the committee go even further as they again zone in on the big problem affecting all referees, inconsistency, when they add. Referees consistently interpreting and applying the same rules differently to each other. Now these are strong words in any mans  language and then one word that stands out above all others is INCONSISTENCY, the greatest single ongoing failure in practicality all our referees.  

So it's back to the drawing board for the men responsible for the training, promotion and appointing of referees, and remember this applies to both club and inter county games. Now one of the findings which I find mystifying is also directed towards the referee as the reports states under the heading; Playing Rules and Refereeing, there should be a clear distinction between Accidental and Deliberate fouls with only the latter attracting disciplinary measures. Now its news to me that there is such a thing as an accidental foul. I was always told when refereeing that there is no such thing as an accidental foul and as a mater of fact at one seminar in Croke Park which I attended back in the seventies it was pointed out in no uncertain language that a foul is a foul and the word accidental must never be used in one's report. 

And all of what I have pointed out here is now directly connected to one of the most controversial aspects in my opinion of the Football Review Committee, the "one yellow card and your off" proposal. Its clear and simple, the first three players on a team shown a yellow card can be replaced by a substitute and those thereafter to go off without a replacement.  Now if this is passed it will heap further pressure on the man in the middle. Picture the scene a big championship game in Croke Park, or even better let's take an example which will probably sum up even clearer what we are discussing. The ball is thrown in; it's the start of the 2009 Al Ireland final, Kerrys Tadgh Kennelly connects with the chin of Corks Nicholas Murphy with his shoulder, escaping a caution in the process.  Murphy goes down injured, it sets the scene for the remainder of the game from a Kingdom prospective, and Kerry go on and defeat Cork.  So put yourself in the position of the referee, in that split second he had to decide was it a complete accident or was it cold blooded and deliberate. The Listowel man stayed on until he was substituted late in the game by Donnacha Walsh.  To most Kerry fans it was not a sending off offence but to Cork followers it should have been a straight red card. Or was it "an accidental foul".

I doubt if this one yellow card and your off proposal will be passed. It will put huge extra pressure on referees and in my opinion would take from the game that physicality which is a great part of Gaelic football. Human nature being what it is you will see players pull back that little bit when challenging the man with the ball, what player training for twelve months will want to be sent to the line in the first few minutes of an All Ireland final just because he miss timed a tackle or was deemed by a fussy, nervous refere that this his very first tackle warranted a yellow card. I believe this if passed will put a massive onus on referees both at county and local level. The devil is in the detail in this submission and the much maligned referee will bear the brunt of much of what is contained in this latest report. 

Fogra; My final book signing before Christmas, My Beautiful Obsession-Chasing the Kerry Dream will be in Caherceiveen next Friday 2-4 pm. Quirke's book store is the venue, drop in for a chat.

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