Photo: Breaking News
It’s the last minute of a cup final; you are standing over a free kick, you step up and score the winner for your team. That is the dream of every young soccer player the world over. In that game you only have one option, it’s either a goal, or it’s not a goal. There is no in-between.
Trust the Irish game to make it a bit more complicated.
You’re two points down. Do you stick it over? Do you have a go at goal?
That should easily be answered by bringing time into the decision making process. It is an easy question – do I have time to put it over, go one behind and try winning the kick out to get an equaliser?
The referee is, rightly or wrongly, the only source of time remaining for a player on a pitch. There is no one else to ask, they control the finishing time. We all knew that on Sunday Cormac Reilly had played 2:50 of a supposed two minutes of stoppage time when Colm O’Neill stepped up to take his free. Time is officially up.
Reminiscent of Cillian O’Connor’s effort last September, Colm has no way of knowing how long is left without asking the man in the middle. Players don’t have the luxury of fancy TV graphics. It doesn’t matter if time is actually up or how long has been played because the players don’t know. If a player was able to hear the PA in Croke Park or had time to keep an eye on the big screen in an All-Ireland quarter-final, then questions would have to be asked about their performance and focus.
If, and it is an if, Cillian O’Connor and Colm O’Neill were told they had time to take a point, then statistically speaking it is the right decision. Odds are better of winning a kick-out and getting an equaliser than shooting at a goal with at least ten men on the line. Players of their calibre don’t put it over if they know it is the last kick of the game.
We’re heard from Cork about it but unfortunately we will probably not hear from Cormac Reilly. That is another issue for another article.
Perhaps, like Sean Cavanagh suggests, we should follow the ladies’ model and use a buzzer. No questions can be asked and it is another pressure removed from what is an undoubtedly stressful job as an inter-county referee.
I do not for one minute believe the referee cost Cork on Sunday, nor do I believe the referee cost Mayo last September, but it sure would be nice, just once, for it not to be an issue.
Seamus Conwell is a financial journalist with CNBC in London and a GAA statistician in his spare time. He can be followed on Twitter @SeamusConwell.