Tipperary are All-Ireland champions and deservedly so after a second-half blitz that totally tamed Brian Cody’s cats on Sunday.
However, despite the tantalising hurling put on show by Callanan and co. The dominating narrative is Richie Hogan’s red card which is fair considering the controversial nature and how the game transpired following his dismissal.
For what it’s worth, it was a red card offence. It wasn’t deliberate nor malicious but it was dangerous and to not show a red for that challenge sets an unwelcome precedent – All-Ireland final day or not.
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 18, 2019
Did it affect the outcome of the game? Maybe, but considering Tipperary had outscored Kilkenny 1-5 to 0-2 in the 10 minutes leading up to the incident it’s clear upon reflection that the momentum had already swung in their favour before Hogan received his marching orders.
Hogan’s dismissal caused division in many circles. On The Sunday Game, Henry Shefflin called for common sense while Donal Óg Cusack described it as a non-negotiable red card. On Twitter, the vitriol was worse, as per usual.
The drama intensified further when footage emerged of Richie Hogan himself on the receiving end of a Bill Cooper challenge in the All-Ireland quarter-final that made his hit on Cathal Barrett look like more of a tickle. Cooper walked away with a yellow card which was ironic considering the referee that day was James Owens, the same man who sent Hogan off on Sunday.
— Brian Lannon (@bbbl9) August 19, 2019
It stinks of inconsistency and it isn’t fair on the players but it’s also not fair on the referees who don’t stand a chance anymore.
Look at the fallout following the two All-Ireland semi-finals last month. Sean Cleere was public enemy number one after disallowing three Tipperary goals in their semi-final win over Wexford while Alan Kelly denied Limerick a clear 65 in the final minute of their defeat to Kilkenny. Both decisions overshadowed what was a complete festival of hurling in Croke Park that weekend.
With the three showpiece games of the season all being somewhat tainted by the standard of officiating, it begs the question.
Has hurling become too hard to referee?
Hurling folk are far too quick to praise the game on its obvious merits while completely ignoring the fact that there are flaws and inconsistencies, in particular, the performances of referees. Meanwhile, many love to knock Gaelic football over blanket defences and sweeper systems with embellished terms like ‘black death’ and ‘puke football’ in the same way that purists describe hurling as ‘the greatest game on earth, handed down by the Gods’…another embellishment.
The fallout from defensive football and strategic fouling saw the introduction of offensive marks and black cards. Some worked while others failed but at the end of the day, they were all trialled.
Why can’t this be done in hurling?
We’ve seen trials implemented in rugby and soccer yet it’s seen almost as an insult to suggest that changes ought to be made in hurling. Every sport evolves and it is important that everyone evolves with it and the sport of hurling is no different.
The first thing to trial is the introduction of two referees. A pretty simple one that could be implemented during the Allianz Leagues. Following this, some variation of VAR must be in the pipeline for trial purposes. Tipperary’s Brian Hogan’s should be lauded for his ridiculous athleticism when rising above the crossbar to field the sliothar, instead, he seems to be continually punished.
These solutions may not work but to think that the status quo as it is, is unimpeachable, is stubbornness to the highest degree.
There’s always going to be human error. We can’t escape that and in a weird way it can often make a sporting occasion more entertaining (for neutrals). But for a game that we all love so much to be ultimately overshadowed come the end of the season because of questionable officiating is not fair on fans, players, managers and most importantly, the referees themselves.
At the end of the day, without the referees, there would be no games, yet they are continually being hung out to dry for poor decision making in a sport that has become too quick and too intense for them to officiate properly.
It’s time we started exploring methods for making their lives easier, for, without referees, there would be no game at all.