No matter what GAA games I attend these days, a common topic of discussion is refereeing, writes Nickey Brennan.
Everyone seems to have an opinion, and regretably a lot of the comments are not positive towards match officials.
If that is seen as a problem for referees then it is an even bigger one for GAA officials, players and supporters.
Who would want to be a referee? At national level every decision is dissected and analysed using slow-motion TV. It is rarely noted that referees have only split seconds in which to make a decision.
Technology for the most part is not used in club games. Nevertheless, that hardly lessens the post-match reaction to many decisions.
Match-goers readily comment on a referee’s performance. No, it is not always negative but too often lazy comments are made by people with minimal knowledge of the rules of the game.
There is huge pressure on inter-county referees, particularly those covering the top games in both codes. Refereeing analysis is now at a level where it is probably impacting the way many games are handled.
I know some people hold the view that referees receive detailed instructions on how to handle inter-county games. This is not the case. The only instruction referees ever get is to ensure the game is played within the rules.
One word that keeps cropping up regarding refereeing is consistency, or the lack of it. Inconsistent refereeing is at the core of why some inter-county managers vent their frustrations in the media.
At times those frustrations are justified.
Bringing consistency to refereeing continues to be a challenge for the GAA at all levels. This is despite the GAA committing significant resources to training and supporting match officials.
A major issue with inter-county hurling refereeing is the small number of whistlers on the senior panel. This means that some refs are covering the same counties on too regular a basis.
I would like to see six more referees added to the top panel in 2015. However, counties will have to realise that new referees need time and the experience of covering a number of big games to feel comfortable on the big stage.
No referee goes out to give a bad performance, but games do not always turn out as they would like.
No amount of training will fully eradicate poor refereeing. The reality is that it is a problem in every sport and not just Gaelic games.
Part of the problem with refereeing can be the temperament of match officials. Some are excellent at communicating decisions to players.
They strive hard not to be the centre of attention.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with all referees as some match officials bring unnecessary pressure on themselves and the players with an over zealous approach to officiating.
Part of training
The psychological temperament required for inter-county refereeing is covered as part of the referee training. Unfortunately, some referees seem to ignore what they are taught when they go on the pitch.
One big question is why can we not get more former players who have played at a top level to take up the whistle?
We need look no further than our own county to see how big a problem this is.
I accept that one does not have to be a former top notch player to become a referee, but it would surely give match officials a better appreciation of the psychology of the modern day GAA player.
People continue to complain about the rules of the game and the use of coloured cards. Some of those complaints may well be justified, but how many GAA clubs will take the time to sit down and submit motions to have rules deleted or changed?
We need the referees, and more of them. They deserve our support because if it is not forthcoming then we will struggle to attract more whistlers in the future.
Where will that leave us?