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19th Aug 2019

Was Hawk-Eye wide of the mark in All-Ireland Final?

Rob O'Hanrahan

Brought to you by Centra #WeAreHurling

UPDATE: Hawk-Eye have responded to a query from SportsJOE and confirmed that “the Hawk-Eye system installed at Croke Park can determine if the ball crosses the line. The system only gives a point when the ball has crossed the plane of the goal and in between the goalposts.”

While VAR has landed into the world of soccer with all the grace of a club-footed bull, Hawk-Eye has seamlessly, and helpfully, weaved its way into GAA life over the past few years.

Hawk-Eye’s function in hurling and football has always been clear; it determines whether a ball has passed between the posts or gone wide of the upright when umpires are unable to come to a clear decision. It even sent the All-Ireland Hurling final to a replay in its maiden year.

However, a moment in Tipp’s dismantling of Kilkenny en route to their 28th All-Ireland title seems to suggest that the role of Hawk-Eye is not as unobtrusive as before.

In the 18th minute, Kilkenny man John Donnelly looked to have slotted over in front of the Hill, before Tipp shot-stopper Brian Hogan launched a hand over the bar and seemed to have kept the effort out. Play continued on for another 30 seconds before Hawk-Eye intervened and ruled the ball to have crossed the line.

Incredibly, it’s the second time in two Tipp rounds of the Championship this has happened, with an even more dramatic reversal seeing a four point swing in the Wexford-Tipperary semi-final.

But here’s the question: can Hawk-Eye actually tell us that the ball has crossed the line?

And, if it can, why hasn’t this been extended to cover goal-line technology?

The GAA’s own guidelines are definitive on the use of Hawk-Eye;

“A Referee or Umpire may seek and/or obtain clarification that a ball has gone between the posts for a point or outside the posts for a wide or 45/65m free, from the Hawk-Eye Score Detection System, operating for games played in Croke Park and at other venues approved by Central Council from time to time.”

That’s pretty clear. What isn’t is whether that ball actually crossed the line fully. We all recognise the bog-standard graphic that appears on our TV sets or the big screen in Croke Park or Semple Stadium, the trajectory of the ball and the accompanying ‘Tá’ or ‘Níl’. The one that appeared after Donnelly’s “point” seemed to be a hypothetical trajectory if Hogan hadn’t caught it, similar to Hawk-Eye’s use in cricket to determine LBWs.

Which begs the question; why can Hawk-Eye be used in this way for points and not for goals? We should also ask ourselves why Hawk-Eye is now interjecting without the question being raised by an official on the field? Neither of these are covered in the GAA’s own rules.

We should also be asking whether Hawk-Eye simply made a mistake in the showpiece game of the year.

Speaking on SportsJOE’s GAA Hour this week, Brian Carroll revealed from a chat he had with Ken Hogan (father of Brian and former Tipp net-minder in his own right) after the game and claimed that the current Tipp goalkeeper was absolutely convinced he had kept it out. The available camera angles would certainly back up Hogan’s claim. Hawk-Eye could be wrong because it’s not actually able to make those types of calls.

This isn’t to claim that our game is under threat from a computer system that has suddenly gained sentience and cannot be controlled by its owners. Neither of these incidents actually affected Tipp reclaiming Liam MacCarthy, and they’ll be forgotten for the moment. But they’ll certainly be remembered and recalled when another moment like them decides a crucial game for the wrong reasons.

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