GAA Football

New rules don't make life easy for referees says Monaghan defender Karl O'Connell

The new rules in Gaelic Football don't make life easy for referees says Monaghan defender Karl O'Connell. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

WITH free-kicks, advantage calls, injuries, black cards, yellow cards, red cards, advanced marks, defensive marks, kick-outs, added-time and more to officiate on, Gaelic Football referees have a lot on their plates’ these days.

So much in fact that even some players are beginning to feel sorry for them.

Monaghan supporters were up in arms on Saturday night because they felt referee Ciaran Branagan had allowed Dublin time to salvage a draw by playing over nine minutes of extra-time at Croke Park.

Throughout that nail-biting period, Karl O’Connell was furiously trying to repel wave after wave of Dublin attacks which eventually saw the All-Ireland champions recover from 10 points behind to claim a share of the spoils. Afterwards he felt some sympathy for the Down whistler.

“In fairness to Ciaran, there were a few significant injuries in extra-time,” said O’Connell.

“Ryan McAnespie went down, Niall Kearns was injured so you understand that he had to add on a wee bit more. Did he add on too much? I’m not too sure.”

But time-keeping wasn’t the only factor…

“What played a big part was that there was an advantage that could have been played but we got a free instead,” O’Connell explained.

“The ball had been played into Mansy (Conor McManus) who was closer to the goals but we got a difficult free and Rory (Beggan) missed it.”

He added: “With the sin bin now, players are just going to slow the whole thing down. They will do everything to get that player back on the field and we are seeing a lot more time added on because of the sin bin.

“So it is tough for the referees at the moment. There are a lot of rules in – they are managing time, frees, cards… It’s very difficult for them to know what they should focus on, they have a lot of decisions to make and these new rules are not really helping them.”

With increasing pressure on referees, there is growing support for bringing the stadium clock that is used in ladies’ football into the men’s game. However, O’Connell says 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,” he said.

“As soon as player went down it would have to be stopped. Seconds can be vital in games.”

Monaghan’s hard-earned draw lifted them to fifth in an ultra-tight Division One table in which seven teams are divided by just one point. Only Meath, pointless after three defeats, have been cut adrift.

“It is a serious dogfight,” said O’Connell.

“Galway had an impressive win (against Donegal), Tyrone had a big win over Kerry and Meath were unlucky to concede a goal at the end against Mayo. It’s a learning curve for them in terms of Division One because it’s just so tight, you have to play right to the end.

“The next round of fixtures will show who’s going to advance forward. We have Mayo next and it’s a big one.”

League leaders Dublin remain unbeaten and top the table with four points. Their manager Dessie Farrell will view Saturday night’s result as a point gained for his side, O’Connell sees it as one that got away for Monaghan.

“It’s probably a point lost because of the margin of the lead,” he said.

“We were a good bit ahead but, looking back, we just invited the pressure on and in fairness a good team like Dublin just needs a bit of luck and they got it with the goal.

“Defensively it was very poor from us but it was a good finish. Dublin are a great team and that’s what they do.

“We were doing alright, we were matching them but the big one was the goal – that’s what great teams live on, wee scraps like that and they make the most of them.

“It’s very hard to sustain that amount of pressure from a team like that, eventually they will break you down.”

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