Thursday 21 November 2019

Case for VAR in GAA grows as phantom wide costs champions

CONTROVERSY: Darragh O’Donovan appeals for a ‘65 after taking a sideline cut near the end of Saturday’s game. Pic: Sportsfile
CONTROVERSY: Darragh O’Donovan appeals for a ‘65 after taking a sideline cut near the end of Saturday’s game. Pic: Sportsfile

Back in April, two separate motions from clubs in different counties were rejected by Central Council for reasons of impracticability and cost.

The first, from the Seán O'Heslins club in Leitrim, wanted the establishment of a committee to consider the implementation of a television match official in inter-county matches where adequate television coverage was available.

The intention was to trial this over the summer with an outcome at the end of the championship.

The O'Callaghan's Mills (Clare) motion was similar, calling for TV assistance when there was a doubt about an incident or a score.

On Saturday evening in Croke Park, we had a classic example of how technology might have enhanced a referee's ability to make an accurate decision at a vital part in a huge game.

SATISFIED: Kilkenny manager Brian Cody
SATISFIED: Kilkenny manager Brian Cody

Having spurned four chances to get level in their All-Ireland semi-final, Limerick's last act as All-Ireland champions was a sideline ball from the Hogan Stand touchline, swiped by Darragh O'Donovan that ended up wide of Eoin Murphy's' right-hand post.

To the naked eye - certainly those of referee, Alan Kelly and his umpires - no deviation in flight was spotted but replays clearly showed the sliotar changing direction after it grazed the hurley of Cillian Buckley.


Immediately, O'Donovan and Limerick maor uisce Brian Geary protested with linesman Patrick Murphy but to no avail.

According to John Kiely: "We knew straight away. We could see by the flight of the ball. It was taking a certain flight, it changed, it flew off to a different angle," he explained.

"We knew it was after taking a touch, what can we do?

"The crowd on that side of the field. You could see from their reaction, it was obvious that something had happened."

There is considerable backing among referees for the use of technology as a support mechanism for making more informed decisions, while some players and managers have endorsed the implementation of something akin to the systems that have been brought into rugby (TMO or television match official) and soccer (VAR or video assistant referee).

Recently, Kevin McStay made a strong case on The Sunday Game for video footage to be accessed by referees in-game to prevent wrong decisions, such as the phantom Limerick 'wide', being made.

It was surely the biggest regret for Limerick on the day they joined the ranks of fallen Munster champions.

Since 2008, when the winners of Munster were granted direct access to an All-Ireland semi-final, just three of them have won.

Limerick's loss on Saturday night made it nine defeats in 12 years for the holders of the Munster Cup in their subsequent games.

"We have no regrets on anything we did," Kiely insisted.

"We gave the lads a week off, we trained hard.

"We were ready for tonight, we were absolutely ready. Kilkenny brought a ferocious intensity to the first 15 minutes but we responded to that in kind in the second quarter.

"We dominated it. We felt very comfortable at half-time that we had the resolve to push on in the second half but we probably struggled a little bit with our efficiency in front of goals.

"They had eight wides, we had 15. You only need one of those, but that's just sport."

For his part, Brian Cody wasn't sure what effect a four-week layoff had had on Limerick but what he did know was that his team were finely tuned for having beaten Cork just two weeks previously.

"I would say from our point of view, the (Cork) match certainly helped us I'd say, because all year the way things are going, you don't get chances to do that in matches, or training or stuff in between," he noted.

"That gave us a two-week gap to get a serious game under our belts, massively competitive game again, up here again, which I certainly don't think did us any harm. We started very well obviously, our first 15 minutes was really really good. And that stood to us in the end, because every point we scored in that period of the game counted at the end."

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