Two refs makes sense in GAA, says retiring Hickey

Updated / Sunday, 28 Apr 2019 15:09

'If there was a referee in each half, it'd take the workload off the referee,' says Rory Hickey

Retired inter-county referee Rory Hickey has suggested introducing two referees into the GAA, saying that the rule change "makes sense" for the sport.

Hickey has opted to step away from officiating after missing out on a place in the national panel for 2019, following a 20-year career which included refereeing an All-Ireland minor football final and an All-Ireland club final.

Bringing in two referees into GAA games has been suggested in the past and the Clare native has added his voice to that school of thought.

"I was involved in a couple of the Compromised Rules Series as linesman, umpire and stuff," Hickey began when pitching this idea on RTÉ's Sunday Sport.

"The Australian lads would come over - one would be in one half of the field and the Irish guy would be in the other half. I thought it worked out great.

"If you look at inter-county hurling now, the Clare full-back David McInerney, if he catches the ball on the '21 and the referee is standing beside him, David McInerney has the potential to land the ball on the other 13 metre line.

"There's no way in the world the referee is going to make it up to the other end, but if there was a referee in each half, it'd take the workload off the referee. The other guy would be able to cut out a lot of the stuff that goes on off the ball when the play is down at the other end.

Clare's David McInerney 

"I attended a couple of championship matches last year and you wouldn't believe the stuff that goes on off the ball while the referee is at the other end of the field. Two refs makes sense.

"It's an easy move, why not?"

The constant scrutiny and criticism directed at referees also came up during the interview with the Eire Óg clubman.

He recounted one particular incident during the 2009 Munster football final between Cork and Limerick which resulted in him featuring in newspaper articles and receiving hate mail.

"I gave a penalty to Cork during that game. Whether I was right or wrong, I gave the penalty anyway and stood by my decision. I'll let your listeners decide [if I was right or wrong]," he jokes.

"Cork won the game [and] Limerick weren't too happy. I got a lot of attention after that. It was more the written word that time [in newspapers]. There was no Twitter or any of that craic.

"[It was] tough going. Limerick were on the brink of history and I gave what I thought was a penalty. When you look, yeah it was soft. The name Rory Hickey was up in lights in places where I didn't think it would be.

"The papers all had the same story that there was no way it was a penalty. I think one journalist described me as Robin Hood after 'robbing Limerick'.

"People were at that game and they just don't forget for a while."

Hickey in action during the 2009 Munster SFC final

Hickey went on to describe the vile letters which were sent to his original home address where he wasn't living at the time.

"One guy actually went out of his way to cut newspaper clippings and get words stuck onto the page. This guy was a real professional. My mother opened that and it's not nice for someone to be reading that."

Hickey also touched on the standard of fitness and physical conditioning that referees must meet in order to perform the role in the modern game.

Illustrating the difference between refereeing at club level and inter-county level, he explained that a match official can "tip away between the two '45s and you'll be fine" while taking charge of a club game.

"If you try that in an inter-county match, you'll be found out fairly quick. For me and my former colleagues, you'd want to be in nearly tip-top condition for inter-county football at the minute."