National League

More common sense required

March 27th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

Last week I made reference here to the number of yellow and red cards being dished out left, right and centre by many referees at both club and inter county games since the season began. I am fully convinced that since these cards were introduced the standard of 'common sense' refereeing has gone out the proverbial window.  The two young Kerry men send off for second yellow cards in the Munster under 21 championship game two weeks ago against Tipperary was a clear case in point. It was in my opinion a complete travesty of justice and to see these two young lads walking to the line with that helpless, confused look on their faces was a sad sight indeed. I believe managers and selectors should have the right to come out and question these ridiculous sending's off and be in a position to tell their players why they got the line.

But of course they can't. They must keep their mouth shut because if they criticize the man in the middle they will be either fined or suspended and from my observations frustration is clearly setting in as the total inconsistency of many referees continues. Just last week we saw the Irish Examiner sports headlines following Tyrone's league match against Galway as manager Mickey Harte blasted the performance of referee Eddie Kinsella. It read, "Furious Tyrone boss Harte wants action on erratic refereeing". And let's not forget the Tyrone had actually won the match, what would he have said if they had lost. Many of the decisions I witness at games I describe as "basketball fouls" as players fighting hard for possession clash and come together and then we often see a referee devoid of common sense banishing a yellow card at a bemused player because he gave his all in attempting to win possession.

Gaelic football is a hard tough contact sport and if it sanitized too much it will literally kill it as the great spectacle it can be. Of course penalizes the dirty player, but there is a big difference between a dirty player and the man who is tough, tenacious and totally committed to his sides cause. And it is here that the good referee stands out from the rest. The wise man will let the play flow, ignore many fouls which while correct, are not serious enough to interfere with the play or penalize either team.  Also it is rare enough to witness the advantage rule being continuously and expertly allowed. This rule which is in the book can help keep the play flowing and add to the enjoyment of the spectators.  The best bit of what I might term old time common sense refereeing I have seen in a long time occurred during the second half of the recent Kerry/Cork National League game in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.  Noel o Leary was brought on for Cork to mark Paul Galvin. Now there is a long and contentious history between these two men. And sure enough the pulling and dragging between the two lads began off the ball. It was a running battle and eventually the linesman called the referees attention to what was happening. Who was to blame is not  the question here but the referee halted the game called both player together, gave them a stern talking to and did not issue a yellow card. It was the right and proper decision and in most cases given the reputation of both men in relation to previous transgressions most referees would have issued yellow cards and indeed I have seen men badly wronged and sent to the line for even less.

Now at the risk of drawing the ire of the present day whistlers I maintain that we saw much more common sense refereeing before the assessors were introduced into the scene. In my own time and I was at the job for close to twenty years we were left mainly to our own devices. Yes there were some meeting, maybe one or two a year and in my situation men like the late county board secretary Tadge Crowley and county treasurer the late Murt Galvin would at times have a quite word in my ear as to what I could do to improve my decision making. Wise men with wise words. But at the end of the day one studied other referees and attempted to improve you own performances. So that brings us the to assessors who have been in place for five or six years. These men who sit in the stand, watches the game and has a list of boxes to tick based on the referees performance and behavior in the game. 

In my opinion these assessors have undue influence on the performance of the referee based on the reports they send to Croke Park. I certainly would find it near impossible to use my own initiative and common sense knowing that there was some individual watching my every move and ticking boxes as to my every decision or non decisions.  Some referees to day are like robots. They attend all the refereeing courses, learn the rule book off by heart, achieve the required level of fitness, do all in their power to please the assessor and forget about common sense. And by the way I always wonder who assesses the assessor?
Lets hope we will seen less yellow and red cards for the remainder of the season, more common sense refereeing and allowance be made for hard, committed and all action play by our players. The mantra for issuing these cards should in my opinion be the very same as awarding a penalty. Be 101% certain it is fully justified.  A simple rule of thumb and if followed through players, managers and supporters would, I am convinced be happy. But what about the man hidden in the stand ticking the little boxes as the referee makes his decisions.  How happy would he be to see common sense returning to the game, and is common sense included in one of these little boxes? 

Fogra; Congratulations to Brosna born the legendary Olympian Jerry Kiernan who was presented with the Hall Of Fame at the Kerry Athletics awards night last Saturday at The River Island Hotel Castleisland. A wonderful occasion as a host of Kerry stars was honored. I had the privilege of handing over the trophy to this remarkable athlete and next week I will have an in dept look at one of Kerrys greatest ever sportsmen. The first Kerryman to run the mile under four minutes.

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