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Saturday 16 February 2019

Semi route opens up for Louth

WITH the mouthwatering clash of Dublin and Kildare on the horizon in a couple of weeks, we must not forget about the other teams still in contention for the Delaney Cup this year.

With all the big guns on one side of the draw, Louth, Westmeath, Wexford and Carlow will all have ambitions of reaching this year’s decider.

Despite missing out on league promotion, Jason Ryan's Wexford side were most impressive when defeating Offaly convincingly in Tullamore in the preliminary round of the Leinster Championship.

Ryan, during his term as Wexford manager over the last four years, has proven himself to be one of the best young managers in the game and Wexford have consistently played their best football during the summer months.

Considering Wexford have one game under their belt and have home advantage this Saturday evening, I expect they will progress against a Westmeath side, even though they have been boosted by the return of their key marksman Dessie Dolan.

Peter Fitzpatrick's Louth have built on the momentum of last year’s championship with a solid league campaign, gaining promotion back to the top flight.

When the draw was made last October, a path was opened up for them to make another appearance in a Leinster final.

In some ways this makes them vulnerable as they now carry a weight of expectation.

However, I do not expect Carlow will be the team to stop them in their tracks and Louth should win with a few points to spare.

When the 2011 Championship commenced a few weeks ago, we all knew it was only a matter of time before we had the first controversy of the summer months. And lo and behold, it arrived in the latter stages of the Meath- Kildare Leinster quarterfinal last Sunday Yes, it was Graham Geraghty's perfectly good goal, which could have swung the momentum of last week's game back in Meath’s favour.

Who could have written the script? The 38-year-old legend had returned to save his county in their hour of need, scoring a goal with nearly his only touch of the game, only for the decision to be over-ruled by referee Syl Doyle.

The easy thing for me to do would be to dance on the Royals’ grave and cry that it was retribution for last year’s Leinster final fiasco, but the simple fact is that it was the wrong decision made by the referee and Meath deserved better.

The abandonment of the square ball rule has been mooted as a solution this week, but I think that would only go so far in solving a wider problem.

The square ball rule is there to protect goalkeepers and maybe it could be tweaked to allow the man to enter the square once the ball has been kicked from outfield in open play, something which was tried out in the 2010 league campaign but failed to get past Congress last year. However, if the rule was abandoned, we would still have similar problems resulting in controversies surrounding disputed goals.

How would a referee make a call on whether the ’keeper was fouled by an opponent from 30 yards out the pitch? It would be back to the official consulting with the umpires, with the potential for the same human errors and wrong decisions.

How long more can players accept these incorrect decisions made by officials, that can potentially can cost them a year of their footballing careers?

EXPLORE

While I fully accept that sport is unpredictable and competitors must take the rough with the smooth where human error is almost unavoidable, the GAA must address this issue.

We must embrace technology that has been implemented successfully in other sporting codes and the GAA must explore the option of introducing a video referee for all Championship games.

I do not accept for a minute the argument of cost as a reason not to explore such an option. RTE and TV3 have cameras in place to cover all Championship games and the GAA should simply fund additional sideline cameras at each venue and embrace the concept of video technology.

Not only will this eradicate issues surrounding, scores, square balls and penalties but it will add excitement from a spectator's viewpoint. It is the least the players and management deserve for their commitment in showcasing our games on the national stage every summer.

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