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“Club players are generally frustrated with the standard of refereeing in Mayo.”  

 By a Mayo Club Footballer

THE second series of club league games took place all over the county last weekend with some notable wins for both Ballina and Shrule/Glencorrib.
Down in Foxford this was another good result for the South Mayo men who were without their two main scoring threats of Conor Mortimer and Mark Ronaldson. With another round of league games due next Saturday evening – and championship commencing in a fortnight – the club scene is really going to take off this month.
However, one area of the game that does need addressing, and was also touched on by Jimmy Lyons last week, is a topic that infuriates players, team mentors and spectators alike. Yes, you’ve guessed it: match officials, and this includes linesmen and umpires, not just the man in the middle.
Now, before Club Spy goes any further, I do understand that the County Board are finding it harder every year to recruit new referees and officials. But we do feel that this is an issue that needs the attention of the ‘top brass’ sooner rather than later as there is a knock-on effect for everyone involved in the game.
So what is the issue? Well, from our experience, club players are generally frustrated with the standard of refereeing in Mayo. They are frustrated by the lack of consistency from official to official. Forwards are frustrated by the lack of protection from some officials and there is a feeling that the level of preparation and commitment that players are putting into the game is not being properly valued.
Everyone is in agreement that ‘referees are only human and they can’t get every decision right. This point is widely acknowledged by players but it’s the consistent level of poor refereeing that’s frustrating. This writer spoke to a number of players and spectators that attended various club league matches last weekend and the majority of people felt that the refereeing was poor at their game.
But why? Well my belief is that (i) the fitness levels of some referees is nowhere near where it should be; (ii) there is a certain level of indifference from some referees to players; (iii) often there is a personal interpretation of the rule book which leads to inconsistency from one week to the next.
Now, Club Spy is aware that referees do some fitness training but it seems that there isn’t any minimum standard of fitness required. The speed of the game has increased dramatically in the last 10 years and with that fitness levels for everyone involved on match day should increased in line with that. It can’t be just a case of being able to fit into the gear, blow your whistle and away you go!
With Munster and Leinster battling it out last week in the European Cup on the TV, I was intrigued by the relationship that the referee had with the players. He was quick to stamp out any nonsense going on and was always talking to the players, identifying to them where they were committing fouls and telling them to stop doing it.
He also never had any incident where players surrounded him, abusing him or questioning a decision from him. Why is this the case?
Well, I feel, unlike some referees in the GAA world, he wanted to go unnoticed. There is at least one official in Mayo that if you ask him to tell you what you are doing wrong (on the basis that he may have awarded a number of frees against you), he will just respond by bringing the ball forward by ten yards for questioning him. Honest.
And this is where the issue of indifference or arrogance comes in. In our opinion, referees should be tested three or four times a year. A basic standard of fitness should be set down and adhered to, so that everyone involved can be at their best – players and officials included.
A players and referee’s forum should be established (with one player from each club attending) where players and referees both can air their issues with each other and set about improving the situation.
Club Spy also acknowledges that players have a role in improving the standard of refereeing and also that more respect should be given to our officials. The abuse that some referees receive is unacceptable and should not happen . Players – and some managers – also have to recognise that our officials are volunteers and that young kids do take notice of the actions of their heroes.
It is also worth noting that some referees in Mayo do a great job, week in, week out, but, unfortunately at the moment, they are in the minority in this county.

BEFORE signing off this week, Club Spy wants to wish Pat Holmes, Noel Connelly, Michéal Collins and company all the best in the All Ireland U-21 final next Sunday in Ennis. This game represents another great opportunity for the county to break our championship hoodoo at national level.
This team has plenty of very good footballers but the most important thing this bunch seems to have is heart, battling qualities and team spirit. We go for the ‘Green and Red’ to do the business.

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