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Sat, Jul 17, 2010, 01:00

Time for GAA to embrace Hawk-eye; Semenya’s gender testing grossly mishandled; Big Cat the man Mecir Jr calls pa; Latter-day Pickles needed for Gold Cup; St Andrews top British Open hosts on 27

Time for GAA to embrace Hawk-eye

FOR A spirit that is usually moving forward, momentum can occasionally stop in the GAA. In a letter to this paper on Tuesday it was reasonably pointed out that while the association are prepared to use video evidence in prosecuting cases against members for foul play, they have not been as robust in prosecuting cases of unfairness on the pitch in real time.

They will not use slow-motion replay to instantly revisit sequences of play despite television viewers seeing the incidents repeatedly. The result is viewers see the miscarriage of justice while incensed players are stoically forced to accept wrong decisions. The recent game between Louth and Meath is a case in point. A television match official (TMO) may have saved the referee an unsavoury passage to the lockerroom.

Specific reasons as to why the GAA are reluctant to go down the path of technology has not been made clear, as in other sports it has not only clarified decisions for players and served to defuse potentially controversial calls made by officials but is now seen as an added value.

Spectators enjoy the mini dramas of replays that take place in tennis, cricket, athletics and rugby and now see technology as not only a useful tool but an addition to the enjoyment of a game.

Sponsors have also taken to its usefulness as a point of focus for branding.

In tennis, Hawk-Eye was introduced in 2006 when the speed of the ball became so great that tight calls were almost impossible. In Serena Williams’s quarter-final loss to Jennifer Capriati at the 2004 US Open, she contested many calls and TV replays demonstrated some were erroneous.

In 2007, when it was brought to Wimbledon, statistics showed on four of the first 12 days play on Centre Court, the player challenge success rate reached 50 per cent or more. In other words, half or more of the human line calls on those four days were wrong.

Hawk-Eye is a computer system used to visually track the path of the ball and display its most statistically-likely path as a moving image. It’s a predictive tool but one players respect and in tennis it is now part of the adjudication process.

It is also used in to predict the path of a cricket ball and although it has not been sanctioned for use in Test cricket by the ICC, the technology has been used and the Third Umpire can look at a replay of the path of the ball, although not the predictive line.

In athletics and horse racing a photograph is regularly taken at the finish line to separate the leaders and in rugby referees are entitled to refer to the TMO in order to clarify whether a try has been scored.

Again the spectators have bought into this concept as being as fair and accurate, if not infallible. The replays have also grown into becoming a captivating element of the live game experience within the match itself.

The GAA have broken more of their own taboos than any other sport and have claimed hubris and made millions by doing so. The unravelling of the Leinster football final sparked off radical suggestions the match should be replayed and while not as globally embarrassing as the FAI whimpering over the Thierry Henry hand ball, it seemed equally absurd.

While Meath diplomacy forbids them to ridicule the “Replayistas” in the manner Fifa boss Sepp Blatter did with the FAI, be sure Meath players bridled at the suggestion.

John McEnroe once asked how to challenge Hawk-Eye. Even he knew simple technology could have resolved his former issues with lines, correctly and more gracefully. It could also serve better the GAA spirit of change.


Semenya's gender testing grossly mishandled

CASTER SEMENYA won her first race back, in Finland, last night, having been cleared to compete by the IAAF earlier this month. The teenage runner, whose muscular physique and startling improvements gave her the best winning time of 2009 in last year’s 800m world championships (1:55.45 seconds, about two seconds off the world record and 14 seconds slower than the men’s world record) prompted athletics officials to subject her to gender tests. Doubtlessly a sensitive issue but one so grossly mishandled that it was turned into a latter day Barnum’s freak show.

“She is a woman but maybe not 100 per cent,” observed one canny administrator. Chuckle, chuckle.

Raised in a little village in the Limpopo province, Semenya trained at a club that had no track or clubhouse and in a wider environment where she became used to arrogant superiority.

When she won her gold medals around the world, her physical appearance drew attention. with athletes and officials alike questioning her gender. Given the sordid history of athletics that was not surprising. Gender testing was introduced to athletics in 1966 and first used in the Mexico Olympics two years later.

One of the most famous cases saw female German athlete Dora Ratjen revealed as a man named Hermann following a high jump fourth place at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and 1938 European Championships gold. Hermann later claimed he had been forced to disguise himself as a female by the Nazi government.

The first athlete to be caught after the gender tests were introduced was Polish runner Ewa Klobukowska, who took gold in the women’s 4 x 100 metres relay and bronze in the 100 metres at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo. She was later unmasked after failing a chromosome test in 1967.

However, national officials lied to Semenya about the purpose of those tests, while what should have been a deeply private affair was leaked to the world media. The issue of her gender was subject to guesswork and speculation – “a hermaphrodite with no ovaries”, “three times the normal levels of testosterone” — and sold newspapers for almost a year in South Africa.

The IAAF says the details of the gender tests are not for public consumption.

Given the track record that seems laughable as the lowest common denominator is already the bench mark.

Semenya: Sanctioning Eggheads Make Everything Nasty?

Yes, Absolutely.

Big Cat the man Mecir Jr calls pa

CALUM BEST lived up to his father George’s reputation as a ladies man who could pull at will but sadly, the reality show celebrity couldn’t make the pig’s bladder sing. George ruled the roost in equal measure at Old Trafford and on the King’s Road despite Manchester being a monster spin in the E-Type jag. He was nothing if persistent.

Like Pa, Calum is no slouch and has thrived in the night club scene, dating the imploding Lindsay Lohan and launching his own fragrance.

Callum, like the offspring of many famous sports stars, has had his opportunities but so often those come with the curse of the old man. Kicky horse, kicky foal.

In that knowledge, sons of icons have often chosen to veer away from sports, altogether or decide on a different code.

Munster and Ireland scrumhalf Tomás O’Leary chose professional rugby over Gaelic football or hurling, although his father Seánie won four All-Ireland hurling titles with Cork.

Sergey Bubka decided life on the professional tennis circuit would serve him better than soaring through the air like senior in track and field.

The supreme pole-vaulter won six consecutive IAAF World titles between 1983 and 1997, Olympic gold in Seoul 1988 and broke the world record 35 times during his career. His son is ranked 290 in the ATP tennis rankings.

Liam Botham also abandoned manufacturing hits to the boundary for taking them chest high. His father Ian (and godfather Viv Richards), one of the biggest names in English cricket, supported his son’s switch to rugby as he understood the perils of trying to move out from under his shadow.

And so it falls to Miloslav Mecir this week in Dublin to up hold the family name. Bravely stepping in where many sons have feared to tread, Mecir jnr, son of the Czech Olympic gold medal winner and Grand Slam finalist, is in Fitzwilliam this week to play in the Irish Open, a professional Futures event for the lower rung, or starting point, of tour tennis. Mercir, ranked 393, is at the beginning of his career. We wait to see what aspects of his father “The Big Cat” will visit the son.

Latter-day Pickles needed for Gold Cup

SADLY, PICKLES, a black and white mongrel, died in 1967. Pickles was the feisty hero in the mystery of the stolen Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966. Despite an around the clock guard, the gold trophy was nicked during a rare public stamp exhibition in London just four months before the World Cup finals kicked off in England.

After a hoaxer tried to extort money from the FA for its safe return, the real bauble was found just seven days after the theft, wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge in Beulah Hill, south London. The redoubtable Pickles uncovered the cup while taking his daily walk with owner David Corbett.

When England won the trophy Pickles was invited to the celebration banquet and rewarded with being allowed to lick the plates clean, while his owner collected a £6,000 reward (now equivalent to around €240,000). The real thief was never caught. So what? Well, the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been stolen from an address in England. Won this year by Irish horse Imperial Commander, the racing industry are hoping for a latter day Pickles and Corbett duo.

Let’s hope the Cheltenham trophy affair ends better than Pickles. Choking on his own lead while chasing a cat was simply no way for the little mongrel to go.

St Andrews top British Open hosts on 27

THIS YEAR’S British Open at St Andrews will be the course’s 27th time hosting the event, more than any other golf course in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Prestwick comes in second to St Andrews, with 24 Opens played over the famous links.

Turnberry has hosted only four, including last year’s event, while the less well known Musselburgh has hosted six, the last one in 1889.

Royal Portrush has the distinction of being the only Irish course to have attracted golf’s finest, and hosted the event in 1951.

Until 2007 when Pádraig Harrington, right, won at Carnoustie, the 1947 champion at Hoylake, Fred Daly, was the only Irishman to have won the competition.

The Balmoral professional died in Belfast in 1990 leaving the Dubliner as the only extant Irish player to have lifted the Claret Jug.