Much of what we believe happens in Gaelic football is rather subjective especially when it comes to interpreting rules, viewing referees and even rating players. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with a leading journalist about different matters pertaining to our games. During the course of the conversation we got round to discussing the forthcoming Ulster Championship and the prospects of the various county teams. I happened to mention that I liked the look of Donegal in terms of how they have improved and developed under the guidance of their new manager. He was aghast when I mentioned how impressed I was with some of their players especially Mark Mc Hugh whom he did not rate at all. We agreed to disagree but interestingly according to some of the media coverage of the Donegal/Antrim game the aforementioned Mc Hugh Og was very impressive in that clash.
That however does not mean for one minute that I am a better judge of a footballer than my esteemed friend it merely illustrates the subjectivity of the matter.
Refereeing is another topic that tends to divide opinion and how the men in black apply the laws of the game is a source of discussion and debate among many followers of football and hurling. Once again there is a great deal of subjectivity about this particular topic and it is rarely if ever that you will get two people from opposing teams rating a referee’s performance in a similar manner.
Contrary to what many people think I have great admiration for the people who give up their time to officiate at our games. They make a fantastic contribution to the association and should be properly appreciated and rewarded for it. Referees are only human and like players and managers they can make mistakes. The pace of our games, the physical intensity of them, the nature of the “tackle”, cuteness of players etc makes it impossible for referees to get it right all of the time. Referees find themselves in a very difficult position of trying to please everybody, players, managers, spectators and even assessors. I have said it before that refereeing assessments are not necessarily resulting in better games of football or higher standards in refereeing.
I have spoken with several referees over the past couple of days and each one tells me that they are being “encouraged” to use more yellow cards. Our games are nowhere near as physical or as dirty as they were twenty or thirty years ago. The result of this “confetti” approach to using cards is not an improvement in the levels of discipline in our games but increased frustration for players, managers and spectators alike. The poor old ref comes in for all sorts of grief and abuse and leaves the pitch wondering why he has even bothered to give up his Sunday afternoon to listen to that. I have a great deal of sympathy for them and feel they should not be put under the additional pressure of nit picking, subjective assessments from guys in the stand whose positioning within the ground means they are not going to have a good view of all that happens on the field of play.
In our match at the weekend I felt the referees in both games did a good job in difficult circumstances as the underfoot conditions were very slippery and the play was quite bunched. However a former team mate of mine from the county team of the 1980s disagreed with me completely. Because I find it difficult to make new friends I decided it would be best, like with my journalistic friend earlier, to agree to disagree on this particular matter. All that said mind you, it is my subjective opinion that both match officials contributed positively to the entertainment on Sunday afternoon. Let the debate continue!