MICHAEL DUGINAN has never been slow to have his say but his frustration and anger were clearly audible on the radio after Antrim snatched a late draw recently to deny Offaly a place in the Division 2A hurling final.
Duignan questioned the amount of time that was added on in Tullamore as Offaly led by six points in second-half stoppage time before goals from Neil McManus and Conor McCann salvaged the draw for Antrim.
Referee David Hughes added six minutes of added time, but then played a further two minutes when players suffered injuries. “Eight minutes into injury time, there was a minute played in the first half... strange,” said Duignan, who was clearly holding back.
Pushed on whether he was questioning the time that the referee had added on, Duignan said he thought it hadn’t been a good day for Hughes.
“I think in fairness the referee, all through, wasn’t very good. I thought he was very inconsistent. I don’t know where he found six minutes in the second half, and then played another two.”
Duignan wasn’t the only Offaly man to voice his disappointment afterwards, but Brian Carroll was more measured in his tone. Carroll called for a clock/hooter to be implemented to avoid any confusion around additional time.
“The clock which works so well in women’s football should be trialled in next year’s league,” Carroll told RTÉ. “I just don’t think we are helping referees in general by still having them in control of time-keeping.”
The debate goes on. The clock/hooter was voted in twice by Congress in the last decade only to be later voted out on the basis of Central Competitions Control Committee’s recommendation. They just felt that teams ahead on the scoreboard would foul down the clock, or find ways to run down the time.
Issues around substitutions and taking dead-ball restarts further convinced the authorities at a Central Council meeting in March 2014 to draft further rule changes, which were then trialled in the higher education leagues at the end of that year, with a view to bringing new proposals to the 2015 congress.
In 2010, Central Council advised against the use of a clock/hooter on the basis of cost, while they had a number of concerns after a series of road-tests during the 2015 Sigerson Cup.
Under the proposed new timing system at the time, it was confirmed that a team leading by two points could end a game after the hooter had sounded by kicking the ball over their own bar.
The Football Review Committee’s (FRC)clock/hooter recommendation was passed in 2013. When the FRC conducted surveys during their research, 80% of respondents wanted a clock (at inter-county level). The frustration was all the more obvious again considering that a hooter system was installed in almost every stand in every main GAA county ground in the country five years ago.
In the Dublin-Monaghan league game in February, Dublin salvaged a draw after nine minutes of additional time was played, three more than had been signalled by the referee.
When Monaghan defender Karl O’Connell was asked afterwards about a clock/hooter system, he said that it would have to be rigidly monitored if it was adopted.
“If a clock came in you would have to be very disciplined with it,” said O’Connell. “As soon as player went down it would have to be stopped. Seconds can be vital in games.”
That admission hinted at the concerns around the clock/hooter, especially in terms of inconsistency. When to stop the clock, and when not to, could cause even more disruption to games. Teams could argue that the clock wasn’t stopped for one incident, while it was paused for a different one.
The hooter system has worked well in ladies’ football but Dublin forward Lyndsey Davey spoke last month about how the hooter system is not without its flaws.
“I suppose like everything it kind of has its pros and cons really,” said Davey. “If you’re coming down to the last few minutes of a game and there’s only 30 seconds left on the clock, that’s all you’re getting.
“So, if you’re in the middle of an attack and the time is up, that’s it. Whereas with the men’s game if there’s 30 seconds left on his (the ref’s) watch, he may let the play finish out, whereas with the (hooter) clock there’s no chance for that to happen. Once time is up, that’s it.”
That’s a fair point. On the other hand, teams run down the clock and foul it down anyway.
Teams can try and bring on a raft of subs late on to try and dilute the time even more but the clock wouldn’t need to be stopped because 20 seconds are added on for each substitution. '
Teams will always try a way to hold on late on but a clock/hooter system would still bring more uniformity and clarity to so many controversial conclusions of matches. And it would also reduce the load on the referees, which is only getting heavier and heavier with each passing season.