Several incidents in various sports this year have highlighted the need for using technology to ensure that players and teams get fair play for their efforts. In some cases the line between winning and losing can be so small but it can have a huge impact on a team’s season. In professional sports the margin of error can make or break careers and seasons and thus the clamour for such changes.When you watch rugby, tennis or cricket on television now all the key scores or decisions can be reviewed instantly and replayed in order to assist the officials as they seek to get the big calls right. I have no doubt that these sports are all the better for these changes but the nature of them is that they lend themselves easily to such instant review.
However I am not convinced that there is either the need or the demand for something similar in Gaelic games. President of The GAA Christy Cooney has apparently indicated that The Hawkeye system could well have a role to play in decision making within our games at some time in the future but I reckon that is a long way away.
Now call me old fashioned if you like but in all the years I have been watching Gaelic games I have not come across too many situations that merited a huge investment in technology or requests for replays to be granted as a result of human error. Most of the debatable decisions that have arisen over the years, and there have not been that many, would have been called correctly through good positioning by the umpires and better communication between the umpires and the referee.
I recall in The Ulster Final of 1986 when the umpire called the referee’s attention to the fact that Down goalkeeper Pat Donnan had stepped over the line with the ball and in so doing conceded a goal. The umpire in question correctly raised his flag and the referee consulted with him to clarify the situation. He subsequently awarded the goal and Tyrone went on to win the title.
Even now I can recall quite clearly that Down players were very annoyed at the time but realised that the umpire was 100% correct. That to me was umpiring at its best and is the way the job should be done. On the other side of the coin I have witnessed several examples of what I can only describe as inadequate umpiring and scores being awarded when they should not have been and others not counted that should have been. In some cases these have happened in a senior county semi final and that decision, or lack of decision, decided the game. But that is the beauty of the game where the odd mistake or two has led to much debate and a temporary sense of injustice but little else.
I see where the soccer authorities have recently introduced assistant referees on the end line to assist the referee with the goal line calls and that in itself is good for that sport. But as far as Gaelic football or hurling are concerned better training for umpires, improved communication between all officials and possibly higher posts might be a better and less expensive investment than some form of alarm system which is sure to cause as many problems as it seeks to solve.