Kick: umpiring or diving, what’s the biggest problem?
WHAT is the biggest problem then: refereeing or the culture of diving which has contributed to the difficulty of their work?
It was a bad weekend for the men in black.
Jerome Henry and Johnny Murphy are both experienced and established cross-county umpires who have found themselves in the eye of the storm.
The reasons they ended up there were very different, but it all adds up the same.
Galway football champions Mountbellew-Moylough had beaten all-conqueror Corofin last month to finally win a county title they had dreamed of and had been so close to for so long.
Tied with Padraig Pearses three minutes after the start of added time in Saturday’s Connacht semi-final, Barry McHugh took a clear mark just outside the 21 ‘.
Jerome Henry did not give the mark, for some reason. The only reason I could think of was that he lost the ball for a second and wasn’t sure McHugh knocked it over and got it back.
If that was the case, a linesman or a referee would have to yell in his ear. It all depends on the referee himself, but it shouldn’t be.
The ball was returned, Padraig Pearses descended on the pitch and kicked the winner instead.
In the end, McHugh was among the Mountbellew-Moylough players running straight to the referee at the final whistle. Some have been seen pushing and pushing him.
Now, there’s no way to defend it. You can not do that.
But I don’t think I’m wrong to have greater sympathy for the players than the referee in this case.
It might be a deeply unpopular sentiment, but listen to me.
Mountbellew-Moylough had waited years to get out of Galway. All three consecutive Irish champions are gone. Connacht and the All-Ireland are sitting there for someone.
Not giving the mark was an unforgivable decision.
Some people will think this is too harsh a description. And this is where the problem lies.
It is as if you no longer have the right to criticize a referee no matter what he does.
Referees are difficult to recruit and more difficult to retain.
But walking on eggshells when it comes to making big decisions is a very precarious form of encouragement.
I have great sympathy for JÃ©rÃ´me Henry, up to a point. It is not easy. The mark is not too complicated in itself, but it makes the game more complicated to referee. There is no call for the rule to exist and that it should be deleted, but that is another debate.
It will have been a difficult weekend for him.
But it was a simple call. Mountbellew-Moylough might never have another chance at a Connacht title. Any player who has received a call like this will tell you how incredibly difficult it is to hold your advice.
If you lose your mind, you end up in serious trouble. But if you keep your cool, what happens? Who is held responsible for the mistake that just cost you your dream?
A lack of accountability contributes greatly to the frustration people have with referees.
It’s the idea that they are in short supply, so we have to protect them at all costs, so let’s not talk about the seriousness of the decisions they make.
Making mistakes is never the problem in any area of ââlife.
The problem is not to learn from them.
Now there is a double thing here. Arbitration has always been difficult, but it has become increasingly so in recent years. You can consider introducing new rules and blame some of them.
But another culture has taken hold of GAA and is just as damaging as bad arbitration.
We need to seriously talk about the diving and try to get the unrolling men kicked out.
It wasn’t plucked from the root when it started, and now the whole place is covered with it.
You still have to whisper it. It’s okay to chop referees to pieces for bad decisions, but you dare not blame players for throwing themselves down like they’ve just known Lee Harvey Oswald.
When Noel McGrath hit Paddy Leavy in the chest with his shoulder, the Ballygunner midfielder threw himself to the ground screaming.
McGrath was sent off by Johnny Murphy, while Leavy bounced back and played.
This was precisely the example of the weekend. But at some point, in almost every game you watch, you’ll see a player pretending to be injured.
Part of it is trying to get the opponents kicked out.
Much of this happens towards the end of games, killing time or momentum. It is so obvious, but we are allowing it to happen.
The lack of accountability for such actions has created a culture of acceptance, which is simply not true.
There must be a duty of care to the players, but the referees should have more leeway to judge when the men gain the advantage.
Play should not be stopped for anything other than a seemingly serious injury.
A natural fear of head injuries is understandable, but unfortunately we took advantage of it.
Team caught on the counter? Go down and hold your head.
The opposition has scored three times in a row? Go down and hold your head.
Defend a one point lead with two to go? Go down and hold your head.
Physiologists must be given more freedom to come and treat the players and allow the game to continue around them.
It’s like the row before the throw-in – the best way to deal with that is to throw the ball.
They soon forget about wrestling, and they would soon forget about going to bed if it had to come at a cost.
It’s serious now, all those dives and rolls. There is nothing worse to watch.
This should be called as much as a bad arbitration decision.
No problem was ever solved by pretending it didn’t happen.
Where there is no responsibility, there will be no responsibility.
The referees will continue to make mistakes but the question is: what are we going to do about it?
How are we going to try to minimize them?
Should we pay the referees more? Recruit them younger? Have a higher level of training and education? Silent sidelines at all underage games? Do you have a strict policy that only the team captain speaks?
It’s great when you have competent umpires with an attitude that lends itself to it.
We all know a lot of umpires who are really good people. It is not a tarring and plumage of the whole clan.
But when, for example, you occasionally come across an arrogant whistler who doesn’t have the courtesy to talk to players in a civilized manner, it’s very difficult to bite your tongue when they’re wrong.
Arbitration standards need to improve, but for that to happen, arbitration needs to be more attractive.
It’s a vicious cycle in which the GAA stabbed it a few times, but really and truly didn’t do enough to breach it.
The diving and feinting injury make life even more difficult for the referees and it is high time that there was a responsibility for that too.