The opening day of a new season for everyone involved in Gaelic games is like no other. All teams start with an equal chance of success and there is a freshness and enthusiasm about a club that is almost palpable as all look forward to the first game of the year. Players, managers and supporters are all eagerly anticipating improvements on the field and the possibility of their team challenging for trophies. Last year’s failures are temporarily forgotten as the appointment of a new manager and the introduction of one or two talented minors seems to point towards promising times ahead.
The same sense of expectation and excitement of course is true for referees as some of them make their competitive debuts in the first round of league fixtures. Just like the players the ref has attended plenty of training and coaching sessions and has prepared as thoroughly as possible in order to be able to do the job as best he can. Of course the fact that referees are no different than players, managers and supporters means that they can make mistakes too and sometimes they do get it wrong.
Unfortunately if you are a player or a team on the receiving end of a wrong decision there is not much you can do about it. In fact following last week’s congress there is now even less you can do as the grounds for appeals for players have changed considerably. If you are the victim of a perceived miscarriage of justice on the field now, unless you have video evidence that might prove your innocence you can for get about appealing. Harsh in the extreme in a sport where you can pick up a three month suspension one week for something which you see done the following week and then it does not even merit a yellow card. So much of Gaelic Football and applying its rules is subjective and subjectivity in our sport often leads to dissension and disappointment.
I saw three dismissals at the weekend in the league games I watched and I have to say that two of them were harsh. In my view they could have been dealt with via yellow cards and a stern word from the ref. However because so many of the match officials, particularly the new ones, are under pressure through assessments they don’t want to end up receiving low marks so they apply the rules to the letter of the law. But you can be guaranteed that just as we saw in The National league the longer the season goes on the more liberal will be the interpretation of the rules of the game. There will still be dismissals and debatable sendings off but I doubt if we will see a repeat of the number of red cards that we saw on Sunday last. In my view good refs control games through good communication and common sense not through cards and being autocratic.