ON the evidence of the Tyrone and Cork All Ireland football semi-final, refereeing still remains a major problem for the GAA.
John Bannon is regarded as one of the top referees in the sport, but last Sunday in the white heat of a major match he appeared totally out of his depth.
His decision to send off Cork midfielder Alan O’Connor minutes before half time was at best debatable.
But having dismissed one Cork player there seemed no chance of a second seeing red.
Both centre half back Graham Canty and half back John Miskella were fortunate to last the 70 minutes.
Miskella was seen to strike out at Brian McGuigan and yet escaped with a yellow card.
Nobody disputes Cork’s right to be in an All Ireland final.
But the game was tarnished by the sight of players squaring up to each other.
Others showed a total disregard for the referee, indulging in head high tackles and punching with closed fists.
And yet referee Bannon, four umpires and two linesmen remained oblivious to all this.
You have to seriously ask what kind of message is this sending out.
Can big match players now take the law into their own hands without fear of being disciplined.?
Both managers, Mickey Harte and Conor Counihan, had every right to be annoyed with Bannon’s refereeing.
Many of his decisions were both confounding and confusing. It doesn’t justify, but perhaps it gives a hint as to why there was so much, mouthing off and dissent.
Modern day players are training like professionals and put in so much time and effort to get to to this level and then what happens — they come up against a referee like Bannon.
Referees co ordinator Pearce Freaney was too quick off the mark last week when suggesting this was the best year yet for referees.
In making such a statement he was at best misguided while at the same time tempting fate.
The standard of refereeing will always remain a major issue within the sport.
Much work has been done in improving standards, but there’s still some way to go.