IT’S happening too often now, the main topic of conversation in the aftermath of hurling games the performance of the referee rather than what transpired between the two teams.
Johnny Murphy from Limerick and Seán Cleere from Kilkenny were in the eye of the storm last weekend after the Dublin and Wexford encounter and the Cork and Limerick collision.
In both games, nearly 100 frees were awarded which resulted with the bulk of the scores coming from placed balls in the Cork, Limerick game.
Cork hit 15 points from frees with Limerick hitting 11 points.
For good measure, there were 13 yellow cards and two reds issued in the game in Croke Park.
In the Cork and Limerick match, it was hard to get a handle on why the play was stopped so often.
In every game, there are legitimate reasons why frees are awarded but on this occasion it was a game of stop, start because the referee saw fit to blow for nearly everything.
A number of frees were awarded for the use of the handpass, players penalised for throwing the ball.
Now, this is a very difficult one for all refs, trying to differentiate what is a proper handpass as is set out in the rule book and what is thrown ball.
It is a challenge for referees, determining if players are making a clear striking action with the ball or not.
It is also a challenge for the Association to sort it out.
Referees are only human at the end of any day and right through the ranks they are under enormous pressure from assessors.
They are mindful that all their decisions are being monitored by these guys sitting in the stand and because of that, there is a fear that if they don’t measure up to what’s required by these assessors they will be punished and removed off the list for high-profile games.
The bottom line in the application of the rule book should, of course, be a common-sense approach and that’s not the case far too often now.
Last Sunday there was far too much use of the whistle for what appeared to be only the slightest of indiscretions.
The advantage rule is not being applied often enough either and there is a complete lack of consistency from one game to the next.
Anthony Daly made the point in Monday’s Irish Examiner that the pool of top refs is too shallow and the departure of the Barry Kellys and Brian Gavins did not help matters.
Look, everybody knows that refereeing in any sporting code is a thankless job, the ref will never emerge as a winner.
Has the game of hurling become far too technical and this is what’s happening as a result With all of these frees now being awarded games are won and lost on the ability to convert them.
The game of hurling contains some of the best dead-ball experts now in the history of the game, Patrick Horgan, Joe Canning, Tj Reid, Seamus Callanan and Jason Forde, Adrian Gillane, Joe Canning, Pádraic Mahony, Tony Kelly to name just a few.
Going through the two divisions and the games that were played last weekend the return from the free-taker were massive.
Let’s go through the games: Horgan 15 points for Cork, Gillane 11 for Limerick, Tony Kelly five for Clare, Alan Murphy seven for Kilkenny, Páuric Mahony seven for Waterford, Ross King nine for Laois, Marty Kavanagh eight for Carlow, Jason Forde nine for Tipperary, Killian Doyle seven for Westmeath, Paul Ryan eight for Dublin, Paul Morris and Rory O’Connor six between them for Wexford.
Throw in Shane Conway with 10 for Kerry in their win over Wicklow and it illustrates that games can be won now on scores from frees alone.
Over the last two Sundays Horgan converted 2-23 from placed balls.
That, of course, means that as a result of all those stoppages for those perceived to be indiscretions there is not nearly enough time for open, free-flowing play.
There is growing disillusionment with all these stop-start games and the greatest field game on earth is suffering It is a matter that needs urgent addressing.