The suspensions and non-suspension of GAA players have reached a peak this summer with debacles involving Diarmuid Connolly, Tadgh de Búrca, Austin Gleeson and Adrian Tuohy.
Now, a former inter-county hurling referee, Pat O’Connor has called for the GAA to follow in the footsteps of rugby by introducing a Citing Commissioner.
The inconsistencies this season have asked major questions of the GAA’s current disciplinary protocols. Diarmuid Connoly received a 12-week suspension for laying his hands on a linesman in Dublin’s win over Carlow and a number of weeks later, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody could have been guilty of the same crime, yet no retrospective action was taken.
Tadhg de Búrca received a straight red card in Waterford’s quarter-final success over Wexford for interfering with the helmet of Harry Kehoe. This red card was appealed, an appeal that would go on for 19 days before a definitive conclusion arrived. De Búrca was reprimanded and missed the Déise win over Cork last Sunday.
The De Búrca saga caused endless argument and the debacle with hurling helmets did not end with the Waterford man as Galway’s Adrian Tuohy and Déise colleague Austin Gleeson both felt the wrap of the media and the public as both interfered with opponents helmets but neither received red cards and neither found themselves being banned after the final whistle.
Another Waterford player, Stephen Bennett was banned for one game after their Munster semi-final loss to Cork. Bennett interfered with the helmet of Cork’s Damien Cahalane and was subjected to a one game suspension in the days that followed.
All that has been factually discovered this year, is that the GAA’s disciplinary process is littered with grey areas and inconsistencies.
Speaking with the Irish Examiner, former referee O’Connor has called for the GAA to look at rugby for a solution;
“If a referee, linesman or assistant referee misses a particular foul, like in rugby, there should be a citing commissioner. There are assessors up there watching GAA referees. Why isn’t there a citing official up there, too, bringing these instances to the attention of the CCCC?”
I understand the CCCC went back to James Owens after his report was submitted. Instead of putting the onus back on the referee, if the CCCC had an issue with how a particular incident was dealt with, they should have the power to deal with it themselves”.
“In rugby, the citing commissioner doesn’t show the referee in a poor light. Things can happen in a game that go unnoticed by a referee. It has happened to myself. It has happened to every referee”.
This is a point that is sure to raise eyebrows. A citing commissioner could be seen as the best way to improve the behaviour of players on the field. Will players be less likely to push the boundaries in the knowledge that there is an extra set of eyes watching them in the stands? It is quite possible.
But a look at the bigger picture portrays this idea as nonsense. It is accepted that referees have a difficult job and require support, but a referee already has two linesmen, four umpires and a fourth official in assistance at the top level.
If each of these people apply themselves competently, then there is a lot of support to help referees to come to the correct decisions.
The controversies this year have been dealt with poorly on the field of play. Diarmuid Connolly laid his had on an official, which is against the rules. But if the discretion happened directly to an official, then why wasn’t Connolly issued with a straight red card?
The incident with Stephen Bennet occurred straight in front of the linesman, as did Austin Gleeson’s misdemeanour.
The problem lies with the rulings and the appeals processes and the officials themselves, more than the need to have an extra set of eyes watching in the stands.
The ruling regarding the interference with helmets is not been consistently implemented by referees, a citing commissioner will not solve this.
A player who appeals a red card or a suspension must first appeal to the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee), before moving onto the CHC (Central Hearing Committee), then onto the CAC (Central Appeals Committee) before heading to an independent body, the DRA (Disputes Resolution Authority).
Will a Citing Commissioner assist this? It is initially seen as an extra body or an extra stage into what is a completely unnecessary. While there are large legal proceedings involved in GAA appeals, the process needs to be shortened, not lengthened.
In terms of this years controversies, refereeing failing to issue cards and inconsistent rulings have been at fault. This requires the personnel directly involved needing to improve. While a citing commisioner may help referees, it certainly would have made no difference to the debacles we have seen in 2017.
Take a listen to our team discuss Austin Gleeson’s infringement along with the rest of the week’s GAA on The 16th Man with Dominos;