A high profile former GAA referee is calling for a more centralised system to be used for appointing officials who accompany referees to championship games in Clare.
It comes after a number of issues were raised after last weekend’s club football action, with one senior championship game almost having to be abandoned after the match official suffered an injury early in the second period.
Wolfe Tones clubman Jarlath Donnellan, who also took charge of this year’s Cusack Cup final, was the man in the middle for the senior championship meeting of St Joseph’s Miltown and Kilrush Shamrocks. An accidental collision with one of the Kilrush players saw Donnellan injure his ankle with the game being stopped while he received attention. There were fears that he was not in a position to continue which would have led to the game being called off as no alternative referee was available. Only one linesman, newly qualified official Martin Downes from Naomh Eoin, was on duty. Following treatment on the field, Donnellan was able to continue but was clearly in pain.
There were also issues raised regarding a lack of linesmen at a number of intermediate games while Galway based official and Miltown Malbay native Shane Hehir was drafted in alongside fellow clubman Niall Quinn for the senior meeting of Cratloe and Eire Óg in Cusack Park.
Speaking on this week’s Champion Sports Chat podcast, former inter-county referee and Eire Óg clubman Rory Hickey feels the process surrounding the appointment of officials to accompany the man in the middle needs to be looked at.
“When teams are training all year and they come to play their championship matches, they expect to see a full complement of officials. They expect to see four umpires, and a referee with two linesmen. I know there were a lot of fixtures over the weekend but generally it is a rule of thumb that you go looking for your linesmen when you get your match appointment as a referee on a Monday night. There is a WhatsApp group with the refs where they put up who is around and who is not. You can see who is refereeing after you get the appointment and if you are still stuck by the weekend, you look at togging out lads in the club who had done the refereeing course to go with you. I did it myself. I togged out the likes of Niall Malone and Kevin Brennan and brought them with me. For a championship game of this magnitude, you would expect to have a stand-by referee with you. It is nearly inexcusable that you don’t have anyone to replace you if you get injured” he noted.
The appointment of Shane Hehir, who is based in Galway, to accompany Niall Quinn was also something Hickey felt was a talking point.
He said “I know something happened and Shane filled in but he is based in Galway. He shouldn’t have to fill in really in Clare in what was probably the biggest game of the weekend. I was in Cusack Park and I was looking around the stand and there were referees there that are on the list and there was one doing fourth official that could have done the line. We can thank Shane for filling in but we have enough of lads who can do those games”.
Hickey feels that a change in approach to a more streamlined system could be the way to ensure situations like this do not arise in future.
“We have an administrator here in Clare and in other counties the referees get appointed but the linesmen are also appointed. There were a number of new lads in action over the weekend and wouldn’t they love to be contacted on a Tuesday morning to see are they available to be linesmen for those games with whatever referee has been appointed to it. Referees already have to make four phone calls to four umpires and that is enough. The list of referees is there and you see who is down for games and then appoint the linesmen from that. As regards expenses, the ref will get his but I know in other counties they get €10 or €20 to do the line too and that would encourage more young lads to come and do it and then the games would be covered. It sounds simple but the technology is there to do it and I think the numbers are there too. Senior championship and intermediate championship games should be fully covered and centralised from either the referees group or the fixtures committee” he said.