Opinion: Time for Cork GAA to learn from rugby and start respecting officials

'Over the last few years Rebel Óg has been dealing less with red card incidents but sadly more and more with abuse of officials by mentors'
Opinion: Time for Cork GAA to learn from rugby and start respecting officials

Referee Hollie Davidson at Musgrave Park last Friday night. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

LAST Friday night I was reminded by the daughter person that the Munster v Emirates Lions rugby match was on the TV and she wanted to know could we watch it.

So we turned it on to see that Hollie Davidson was the referee on the night. A top-class official and one that is respected by all and in fairness she did a great job.

There was little for the players to complain about and when she did give a decision against them they did what rugby players do – they backed off and let the captain query the decision.

Once she explained it was accepted and they got on with the game.

There was no shouting or roaring from the players, no comments made toward her, and no abuse coming from the sidelines. Were either side happy with every decision she made – of course not.

But they got on with it and it turned out to be a great game and a great win for Munster.

However one can only wonder if that was a GAA game would she have gotten the same respect from players and those on the sideline?

Over the last number of years, we have seen abuse of officials rise dramatically and last year it came to a head with a number of unsavory incidents up the country.

Brídiní Óga's Kirsty Laverty, referee Brian Kearney with Rachel Byrne of Knockananna at the coin toss recently. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Brídiní Óga's Kirsty Laverty, referee Brian Kearney with Rachel Byrne of Knockananna at the coin toss recently. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Referees, linesmen, and umpires are constantly on the receiving end of comments and sadly at times, threats, as they attempt to officiate our beloved games.

In Cork last season there were approximately 7,000 games (including challenge matches) played between U12 and minor (U17) across the county.

That’s a lot of games and you need an awful lot of referees to cover those. Some would have been officiated by ‘Young whistlers’ who are trying out to see if they want to be refs. Normally they are involved with Go-Games (from U11 down) or with U12 matches.

Sadly all too many do it a few times but then just stop, saying it’s not worth it for the abuse they are getting from the sidelines.

At these age levels, it’s as likely to be from a parent as a coach, and often the former is the more guilty party. There have been incidents where a parent has come on to the pitch to verbally abuse these refs, who are generally in their early teens.

So why would you want to progress as a ref when you know that you are likely to face years of this abuse for a long as you are the person in the middle?

Over the last few years Rebel Óg has been dealing less and less with red card incidents, but sadly more and more with abuse of officials by mentors.

They take a hard line on it as they try to support refs as best they can. But often their hands are tied for a variety of reasons and a lot of the time the punishment doesn’t fit the crime and those involved get off lighter than they should.

CULTURE CHANGE

If we are to change the culture it has to start at underage level and work its way up and those on the big salaries at Croke Park need to seriously start looking at the rulebook and make changes to give refs far more support.

These changes need to come in first at Go Games and then work their way up through the age grades all the way to adult level.

Rugby players, from day one, are thought to respect referees and the same philosophy has to come into GAA, or the day will come when we won’t have enough for the number of games we play, especially here in Cork.

Mentors and parents all have to learn to respect officials as it’s from their example that the young players will learn.

It’s going to be a slow process and the sooner it starts the better. It will take a bit of time to filter up, but once it does it should see an end to some of the incidents we have all either heard about or seen in recent times.

Of course, there are some outstanding mentors who are trying to do the right thing and teach players to show that respect, but sadly they are fighting an uphill battle at the moment.

Here’s hoping the day will come when they are the ones in the majority and we will have learned from rugby that respecting officials helps to improve our games and as importantly ensure they continue.


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