Republican News · Thursday 06 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Video replays needed

Perusing the sporting headlines this weekend, a couple of incidents have led to calls for the use of video evidence in order to ensure fair play. There were allegations of a point that never was in the Offaly v Clare National Hurling League Game and in the Bray Wanderers v Bohemians FAI Cup tie there were accusations of punches thrown, penalties not given and legitimate goals disallowed.

Consistent refereeing, heavy suspensions and zero tolerance of anything other than clean football and hurling is needed. There is a need for draconian actions to save us from ourselves
The regularity of these incidents would be greatly reduced if a system akin to that in operation in Professional Rugby League was introduced. If you're not already aware, in rugby league the referee has a microphone and earpiece linked to a fourth official with access to video action replays. If the referee has any doubt about an incident, he can consult the video referee to enable him make the correct decision. Logistically, this is of course, quite an undertaking and the financial aspect of this system may prove to be prohibitive in most cases, but I feel it is definitely the way forward for our major field games.

It is with this in mind that I again shift rather uncomfortably in my seat due to severe neck pain from an injury picked up at the weekend. During a rather hotly contested Senior Football League game on Sunday, I was struck heavily on the back of the head in an off-the-ball incident. I have to admit that on balance I probably deserved a good thump, having been the main aggressor in an earlier altercation. But nothwithstanding the perfect karma associated with my smack, the issue of such incidents is becoming a serious one.

In Gaelic Games in particular, there have been a couple of high profile on-field assaults. The last one I witnessed was at the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final where a St. Josephs player was only booked for dangerously pulling across the head of an Athenry defender. The main reason for the continuance of this type of behaviour on pitches all across the country is the fact that players get away with it. Referees invariably fail to report such incidents correctly. The fact that striking carries the heaviest suspension can ultimately lead to referees being pleaded with by club officials after a game and thus reducing the incidents in a match report to the lesser and yet more ambiguous `rough play' offence. This is a common occurrence if a county player is involved in something unsavoury during a club game in close proximity to an important county fixture. The inconsistencies in decisions and suspensions have led players (and I include myself in this) to be more likely to cross the line when it comes to acts of violence. As I speak, I'm well aware of the apparent hypocricy in my statements, but I feel this has to be driven by the GAA authorities. Consistent refereeing, heavy suspensions and zero tolerance of anything other than clean football and hurling is needed. There is a need for draconian actions to save us from ourselves!

These might just be about as popular as the Football Development Committee proposals, which are being put to Congress next week. Personally I see them as an honest attempt to improve the existing Football Championship and a positive step in the right direction. The jury is still out, however, on whether the majority of Congress delegates are mandated to see it that way.

On other sporting matters over the weekend, it was great to see that former Ballyboden St. Enda's hurler Padraig Harrington going well and securing a big win out in Brazil. The popular Dubliner is now in good shape to make his Augusta US Masters debut, although in fairness, this time out he will have to be happy if he is still teeing off on the last day.

Oh! I nearly forgot about our gallant `Guys in Green' going down heroicly to Wales in Landsdowne Road on Saturday. I have to admit; it's been a bumper year for the `Blazer Brigade'. Every dog and divil was boning up on their understanding of the legal labyrinth that is the rules of the game, tickets were impossible to come by and `The Team' were playing `Sexy Rugby'. There were no less than three occasions where the press didn't have to revert to the over-used cliches associated with the moral victory. The hacks seemed initially uncomfortable with the fact that they were actually winning games, but this didn't last long. Although you could sense they were desperately trying not to overhype `The Team', the hyperbole didn't take long to bubble to the surface. The Irish Times produced rainforests of articles dissecting and analysing this `new dawn'. God forbid if we ever win anything at rugby, the `Old Boys' in RTE and D'Olier Street would positively burst. Now that's something I'd buy a ticket for!!

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