I suppose it had to come. Tests for umpires, that is. After some of the embarrassing debacles of last year the GAA just had to be seen to be taking action.
Who will ever forget referee Martin Sludden’s howler in the Leinster final — the umpire should actually have refused to raise the green flag as he was only a couple of yards from where Meath’s Joe Sheridan clearly threw the ball into the Louth net!
Now the authorities have decided that umpires will be tested for their knowledge of the rules, sharpness and positional sense. It should not be forgotten that every time a gaelic football match is played there are three teams on duty — the protagonists and the officiating team of referee, two linesmen and four umpires.
And don’t forget in major matches there is a fourth official on duty bringing this complement up to half a playing team!
We have all watched umpires display marked hesitancy. Now they will have to make snappy, correct decisions and will be expected to wave the appropriate flag smartly rather than have an embarrassing interval ensue.
Given that the majority of our high-profile matches are screened live on television, mistakes by officials can be amplified by hungry pundits and this certainly does nothing for the image of the Association.
I know many people will say with some justification that umpires are serving in a voluntary capacity and should not be castigated but players put in massive effort for many months and can have their season turned on its head by a match official’s unnecessary faux pas.
Hopefully we will be spared any of these this year.