GAA say Tipperary's ghost goal doesn't mean system is broken

‘At the end of the day mistakes happen. It was a bad mistake and there’s little doubt about that’

Waterford’s Noel Connors and goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe argue with the umpire after a goal was incorrectly awarded to Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Waterford’s Noel Connors and goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe argue with the umpire after a goal was incorrectly awarded to Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The GAA isn’t going to be stampeded over the controversy generated by the ghost goal awarded to Tipperary in Sunday’s Munster championship match against Waterford. According to one Croke Park source, the view is, ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’.

The goal was awarded when a Jason Forde free was caught in his own goalmouth by Waterford defender Austin Gleeson, who fumbled slightly but recaught the ball and with his left arm outstretched moved to the right of the goal, hitting off the goalpost as he did so.

Despite there being no evidence that he had stepped backwards into the goal, the umpire on the far post flagged for a goal.

“We’re definitely not saying that it’s acceptable,” was the reaction of a GAA official, who spoke to The Irish Times, “particularly give the profile of the game but we’ve had 14 [senior hurling] championship games this year and however many last year and the year before and I don’t have any recollection of similar controversies. The point I’m making is that there’s no need to generalise because of a specific mistake.

“At the end of the day mistakes happen. It was a bad mistake and there’s little doubt about that. You could argue that none of the footage or photographs show that the ball definitely wasn’t over the line but I don’t think that’s a conclusive argument. One mistake, however bad, doesn’t mean though that the system is broken.”

Umpires are not independently appointed by the committee of control but often have accompanied the referee throughout his career. Croke Park organises training programmes for them, which are apparently well attended by all of those officiating at inter-county level.

Hawk-Eye detection technology was introduced in 2013 but so far has been installed in only two venues and the GAA source believes that it demonstrates the robustness of umpiring in general.

“We have Hawk-Eye in Croke Park and Semple Stadium but we’ve used it less than once per game, which puts the original problem into some sort of context.

“How many fixtures have we had and how many questionable decisions? What other goal-line controversies have there been?”

Notorious goal

Hawk-Eye isn’t programmed to adjudicate on goal-line decisions but it is inarguable that there have been very few of them. The last high-profile case was Meath’s notorious goal to win the 2010 Leinster final against Louth when Joe Sheridan clearly carried the ball over the line. The umpires on that occasion wanted to disallow the score but they were overruled by referee Martin Sludden.

Eleven years previously, Kerry corner forward Gerry Murphy drove the ball off the outside of a stanchion, collected the rebound and slotted the ball into the Tipperary net. It all happened so fast that the umpires missed it – one was unsighted – and referee Michael Collins awarded the goal. Kerry went on to win by six points.

In neither case was there a refixture ordered – something that could only have taken place had Meath or Kerry offered to play their respective matches again and had that offer accepted by the provincial councils.

There is little likelihood of it happening in respect of the weekend’s action either. Munster Council hadn’t heard any representations official by yesterday afternoon and, even were Tipp to offer to play it again, there are a number of reasons militating against doing so.

Firstly, and unlike the other examples above, neither county has been eliminated from the championship on foot of the result.

Even Waterford might have second thoughts about a refixture in that they might lose the point they have and anyway, manager Derek McGrath was admirably focused in his reaction. “We just imparted a message straight away to move on and I think that’s what we’ll do.”

Secondly, the impact on the schedules would knock back Munster for a further week in what’s already a tightly packed calendar. Thirdly, the damage to Waterford won’t be evident until the round-robin is concluded and the loss of a point in the Gaelic Grounds can be evaluated.

There is also another effect of the novel format and that is the involvement of other counties, one of whom could conceivably be eliminated because of the point picked up by Tipperary.

Meanwhile, Waterford selector Dan Shanahan apologised on Monday on RTÉ for running on to the pitch to confront match officials after the controversially awarded goal in the 62nd minute. 

“We’re very disappointed. I overreacted and I apologise, he said. “When you’re so involved, motivated and you put so much time into the last eight months and into the last five years, to feel robbed by a decision like that, it hurts.”

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