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Putting goal-line technology in the spotlight



Date Published: {J}

One of Ireland’s leading experts on goal-line technology believes sporting organisations investigating the possible use of Hawk-Eye and other systems must clarify, first, if they are using these systems as “decision-aiding” or “decision-making” tools while also warning that technology alone will not solve every problem that presents itself in competitive games.

Tuam man Liam Kilmartin, a lecturer with the School of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, will give a free public talk entitled ‘A score or not a score – that is the question!’ in room ENG 3035 in the new state-of-the-art Engineering Building in NUI Galway next Tuesday (6pm).

Kilmartin is an authority on the subject, having been one of the first, along with his NUIG colleague Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, to investigate the possibility of using goal line technology in field sports in Ireland in the late 1990s.

The project, which ran from 1998 to 2002, was co-funded by the GAA and Enterprise Ireland [formerly Forbairt] and it focused on the development of technology to facilitate automated score detection, particularly in hurling.

“When we finished up, we had developed a prototype system for tracking the sliotars and we proposed to the GAA how we would scale it up,” says Kilmartin, who outlines the initiative was driven by GAA’s Director of Games Pat Daly, while the prototype itself was not unlike the well-known Hawk-Eye system.

“I suppose, at the time, they felt the kind of money we were indicating would be required to take the system forward was quite a lot and there were also concerns of having a two-tier system, where maybe a system like this would be deployed in Croke Park but what would you have in, say down in Pearse Stadium in Galway, or down at club level? So, they didn’t really want to go with a system at the time that would, firstly, require a lot of cash but, secondly, you would only have it in one or two places.”

In any event, the findings of Kilmartin and Ó Brádaigh – the latter of whom also worked on testing standards for sliotars – were parked to one side, although, since then, the GAA has continued to explore opportunities in this area. These have included proposals ranging from a radar related technology mooted by Cork IT to a net catcher system, whereby nets are attached to the backs of the posts.

The GAA eventually announced, only last Autumn, that Hawk-Eye technology would be used on a two-year pilot basis for all championship and hurling games played in Croke Park from 2012. A full review will be conducted at the end of the term.

Hawk-Eye is now identified as the market leader in score detection, having enjoyed considerable success, especially in tennis and cricket. It is also a technology bidding to become the official system to be used by FIFA, which finally consented to exploring the possibility of using goal line technology following a plethora of controversial calls made in both the FA Premier League and the 2010 World Cup.

Kilmartin explains that FIFA has kept pretty tight-lipped about the process of assessing the nine potential candidates who have declared an interest, but adds: “There is a laboratory over in Switzerland that is currently doing evaluations of these technologies. One of them is, allegedly, Hawkeye and the other is Goalminder.

“Hawkeye is very interesting. It is very sophisticated technology. You have got six cameras that are all focused in on the goal area and what each of the cameras is doing is taking a photograph 500 times a second. They claim that if there is only 25% of the ball showing, they can still pick it out.”

However, he notes the system, first developed by Dr Paul Hawkins in 1999 and based on the principle of triangulation using visual images and timing data, has been “shrouded in secrecy”. He says this, in itself, has raised questions – valid or not – over its reliability but adds “it appears to be quite accurate”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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