On a recent interview with OTB's Nathan Murphy, Anthony Cunningham said he didn't think that the GAA were putting enough into training the referees and coaching them.
"I don't think the GAA are putting enough into training the referees and coaching the referees", Cunningham said. He compared the referees to those in the world cup and called their ability to use VAR “a selling point of the world cup.”
He was opposed to the idea of using two referees as he felt the quick fix was more of a hindrance as it slows the game down and allows the referees to be more reliant on each other. "I cant see why they don't use it a bit more", Cunningham said.
The other side of the argument is that VAR would be worse for the flow of the game. This is a feeling that is held by the outgoing GAA director-general Páraic Duffy. Duffy, in last years Congress, made a strong case against VAR saying that sports like hurling and Gaelic football are more attractive when played quickly.
The idea of having a second referee observing from alternative angles is usually considered a great solution, as he can have access to different angles and halt play or bring it back where necessary without unnecessarily halting the game.
While the idea behind it appears to be the perfect solution it has to be considered that it could just cause the same drawback as the normal VAR. If anything the idea of pulling the game back by the time the mistake is observed could cause more delay and frustration despite the likely improvement in accuracy.
So is VAR what’s best for the GAA? There’s no doubt that a major part of the attraction of hurling and Gaelic football is the pace of the game but is worth the heartache of a poor call at a pivotal moment? Looking at the other options out there, it seems like the accuracy of calls and the flow of the game are always going to be in direct conflict. You can’t have perfect knowledge of what’s happening and the ability to keep the game flowing freely.
No matter what the decision is, the need for the referee’s to be trained properly is the top priority. The mistake has to be observed and known about before the decision would ever go to VAR. So while the VAR is part of the solution to Cunningham's problem his point on training is probably what should emphasize the most.
By Hugh Farrell