Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Tyrone referee Martin Sludden's return on back burner as he misses out on All Ireland qualifiers

Martin Sludden

Martin Sludden’s return to the big time has been put on hold.

The Tyrone referee, who made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the Meath and Louth Leinster football final earlier this month, will be idle this weekend when the four remaining All Ireland qualifiers go ahead.

The word on the grapevine was that the Dromore man would be chosen to referee the Down and Sligo match in Kingspan Breffni Park.

But that proved to be somewhat wide of the mark.

When I contacted Sludden yesterday, he was reluctant to comment on what the future might hold.

But there was no disguising his frustration and disappointment stemming from the Leinster final debacle when his decision to allow Meath’s injury time winning goal saw him inexcusably assaulted by Louth supporters at the finish.

And yet you sense his self-belief remains firmly intact and that his return to the big time has been merely deferred.

In fairness to him, he eventually held up his hands and admitted his mistake in allowing the Meath goal.

But the damage was self-inflicted, for there would never have been a problem had Sludden been big enough to have consulted his two umpires.

These two men were his regular umpires who had served him well in the past and yet when it came to the biggest decision he had to make all afternoon he chose to ignore them.

The fact that neither of the umpires had raised the green flag should have alerted Sludden to the fact something was wrong.

A photograph in a newspaper the following day clearly showed one umpire with his hand outstretched indicating there was a problem.

In such a scenario the referee should have consulted with both umpires before making a decision.

It’s all too easily forgotten by the vast majority of GAA supporters that the umpires’ main role is to signal wides and scores.

They can also report to the referee on an aggressive incident, leaving the referee to take the appropriate action.

But only the referee can adjudicate on a ‘square ball’.

Former All Ireland referee John Gough, now a respected assessor, is strongly opposed to having inter-county referees as umpires.

“We now have a referee and two referees running the line and as things stand the referee has four trustworthy guys who, if they don’t perform, he’s the real loser.

“He’s operating with those same guys all the time and they work as a unit,” he said.

Gough, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, was less than impressed with the standard of refereeing in the recent World Cup.

“If you watched the World Cup and registered the amount of mistakes recorded by professional referees who were doing the line as well as the professional referee in charge of games, we’re doing very well by comparison,” he said.

“I don’t care how the GAA does it or who they appoint, but at some stage there are going to be mistakes.

“Players, managers and officials all make mistakes and umpires too are only human.”

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