30 Nov 2021

Opinion: Why complicate appointment of GAA referees? - Jerome O'Connell

Could referees from outside Donegal take charge of games here?

TIMING is everything in sport and timing is also key in the work of public relations and communications.

In that regard commenting on a referee minutes after a defeat isn’t going to come across anything other than sour grapes.

“There are loads of referees from various different counties and I just think there was no need to have the situation we had today. It should have been a Leinster referee in my view but I have no complaints,” the words of Tipperary hurling  manager Liam Sheedy to media after last Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter final loss to Galway.

"Ultimately, the best team with the most scores at the end of the match won but a small bit of common sense in the approach to appointments, like there are loads of referees from Leinster and everywhere else. It’s not sour grapes in any shape or form and I do not want to take away from Galway but I do think a little bit of understanding and not trying to compromise people and put them in positions where various counties are still left in the championship it just makes things a little bit trickier. I want to be very clear - the best team won on the day, Galway deserved to win through to the All-Ireland semi-final,” outlined Sheedy.

Sheedy was speaking of the appointment of Limerick referee Johnny Murphy and John Kiely’s Limerick of course had a very decent chance of playing the winner of the Galway-Tipperary clash.

I happen to agree with Liam Sheedy.

For his words to get gain full credit it probably wasn’t best presenting in defeat but nonetheless it is an issue.

So let’s take the emotion out of it because in terms of the wider argument this has nothing to do with Johnny Murphy and the Limerick-Galway game or indeed Fergal Horgan in the Limerick-Clare when Tipperary were awaiting the winners in the Munster SHC.

Simply, it makes no sense to put a referee in the situation where they are open to reproach or the motives of any decision questioned.

They are under enough scrutiny without adding another layer of intrigue.

Surely that’s the very role of the referees appointments committee and they are selecting from a group of roughly 12 of an inter-couty panel for every match so it’s not like there was a shortage of referees.

Former All-Ireland Final referee Brian Gavin has a weekly column in The Irish Examiner.

“A Limerick man being appointed to a game with a Limerick-born manager and coach involved with Limerick possibly waiting on the winners is not all that new. And I can say with a good bit of certainty that the presence of Shane O’Neill on the sideline for Galway meant little or nothing to Johnny,” said Gavin.

”That being said, Sheedy had a point and it’s something that should be considered in the appointments process,” said Gavin.
”What was to stop them putting Paud O’Dwyer in charge of the Galway-Tipperary game and Johnny doing the Clare-Waterford game? It did put Johnny in an awkward position as you look at it but it wouldn’t have made a difference to him.”

As I said, leave the emotion to one side and it’s a very straight forward argument.

There are amble alternatives and those charged with the appointment of referees should take into account the previous round and the following game permutations when confirming the man in the middle.

Everyone makes mistakes and I am not questioning any refereeing decision but my opinion is more so in terms of protecting any referee from being tarnished before the ball is even thrown in.

If it happened at club level eyebrows would be raised so surely at inter-county level there are sufficient resources to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Liam Sheedy’s timing wasn’t great but it’s a worthwhile debate.

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