Kieran Donaghy believes that there is change needed around umpires in GAA.
With the stakes as high as ever in the football championships given the knockout format, tight games can be decided on narrow margins.
While analysing two contentious decisions in Cavan’s win over Monaghan, former Kerry star Donaghy argued better systems could be put in place.
“My problem with this is, this game was won by a point. So we can sit here and laugh and joke about it, but it’s a serious issue. We need the umpires to be in better positions, to be more agile, to be thinking ahead,” said the 2006 Footballer of the Year.
“Often they are standing on the line when the ball is being kicked at the posts. They don’t need to be on the line. The only time they need to be on the line, is when the ball is coming towards it, to see if it goes out for a 45.
“So it’s a just small bit of better-understanding of the game scenario it’s in, and how important their decisions are. It’s crucial.
“We’re OK in Croke Park and in Semple Stadium where we have hawk-eye. But if they are not sure, and we see it so much by the way in Croke Park [using] hawk-eye, you’re wondering then in venues that don’t have it, ‘what’s happening? Are they guessing?’
“I don’t think anyone has a problem when they are in a great position and they are unsure, nobody has a problem with that. But when they’re in a bad position initially and they miss it and they guess… I think players are putting in way too much effort, county boards are putting too much effort to get players out on the pitch.
“If you lose a game by a point this year, you’re out. There’s no back door. There’s no second chances. So there is huge onus on these guys.”
So what is the solution?
“I think the GAA need to start getting younger referees…have a proper meeting with the referee before the game; what to watch out for, what to be doing. The Aussie Rules have one guy behind the goals that covers 18 metres, six posts. And they are running over and back. Young agile guys, they are on top of it, they are helping, always talking to the referees,” Donaghy continued.
“Umpires do a good job, but I do think we have to start looking at younger, more agile guys that are sharper, want to be referees. And their performances lead to them getting promotions up to referee at the top level some day.
“But it is something that bugs me, because if it costs a team the game – and I’m sure the Monaghan players are looking back at that the last day wondering if it was a point – it’s too important to be stuck in the middle of it, and one mistake could cost you.”
There is huge onus on these guys.
Donaghy says it is imperative for umpires to be on the mark
‘It’s something the GAA will have to look at’
Peter Canavan was in full agreement with Donaghy.
“It amazes me, no disrespect but the age of some of the umpires, but they are mates of the referees,” said the former Tyrone star.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good umpires. Kieran is exactly right. Can you imagine the amount of effort and work that goes into building a team, and preparation for these big games, to be denied victory due to a sloppy decision by an official that doesn’t know how to do his job? So I concur 100 per cent. I’m sure there is some training done, but it doesn’t appear to be good enough. And we had the perfect example of that last week [in Clones].
“Rather than the officials being mates and friends, just because they have been an umpire and worked with them for 15, 20 years, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are best placed. On occasion, the referee may not take the advice of the umpire – ‘it’s no big deal’. If it’s another referee or another official, maybe whatever that umpire says, the referee is going to follow.
“There have been examples of the referee ignoring the advice that umpires have given them in very big games, and very important games. Maybe it’s something the GAA will have to look at.”
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