It’s another couple of months before Sinéad McNulty commences her role as chief executive of the Camogie Association but what should be at the top of her inbox is obvious: the outdated rules that govern the game.
At Congress earlier this month, the pathway to making change became a little clearer when a motion to ease the introduction of experimental rules was passed. However optimism about those necessary alterations taking place seems in short supply despite a deluge of complaints from those at the coalface of the game about how it is officiated.
Last week, Galway’s Sarah Dervan summed up the frustration when she remarked: “Nobody wants to see a free-taking competition as a game. I find it (the rules) restricts players from showcasing their ability.”
The rule prohibiting players from shouldering each other is an archaic as the playing gear regulation that they must wear either a skirt or skorts. The non-contact element may have served camogie well for years but it is so dated now that it almost feels sexist.
The evolution of the game is in the hands of the players and managers.
And there is little doubt about the feelings on the ground.
Paudie MurrayCork manager
“We can all talk about the refereeing of camogie and does it need to be tidied up? Yes, it does. I’ve said that a number of times. I think the way the rules are at the moment makes it impossible for a referee to referee the game. (2018 All-Ireland final referee) Eamon Cassidy is probably one of the top two referees in the country but there is so much in relation to the contact area and what is a free, or isn’t a free, that it’s next to impossible (to judge). If a player charges with a shoulder, it’s just impossible.”
“They’re going to have to change (the rules). It’s not going to be an easy job but it has gotten more physical and faster and maybe the rules need to be tweaked and amended to reflect the standard.”
“If the rules change maybe the refs can change. It’s hard when you are able to look and see what referee you have and you know that they are going to blow for everything. It’s become way worse than it was.”
“The ladies football got 50,000 [attendance] last year in the All-Ireland final, camogie got less than half that… if things stay the way they are, we may not have any camogie in 20 years time, and that is a scary prospect.”
“Whoever has the best free-taker wins. It’s terrible — the majority of scores are from frees. I don’t blame the referees at all, they’re only doing their job. The rules are the problem. It’s so frustrating, especially as a forward, because you get the ball and you’re fouled every time.”
“The talk of the final this year (2018), the one day that people actually watch camogie, everybody’s just talking about the ref... ‘They can’t touch each other’.”
“The physicality is there anyway, there’s just a few tweaks to the rules that have to be made so the game can be opened up and, as players, we can express ourselves fully.”
“Girls want to be as strong and as powerful as they can be and the rules at the moment probably aren’t allowing for that. I definitely feel they should reassess the rules.”
“Obviously, we were delighted with the All-Ireland win and a free won us the All-Ireland so we can’t complain too much but it’s not really an enjoyable game to watch.”
When the referee has become the most important person on the field, it is time to sit up and take notice. However, if Camogie Association president Kathleen Woods’ stance on the matter is anything to go by, McNulty has a job on her hands.
In the wake of that awful All-Ireland final last year, Woods told the Irish Examiner that the organisation had no plan to address the glaring issue of the rules and if players felt so strongly about it, they should take matters into their own hands and propose a motion.
“The game is in the hands of Congress,” she remarked.
One of the major GAA success stories has been their disciplinary system. They have infused three of their committees with legal expertise.
Previously the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) secretary, Liam Keane followed that up by chairing the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) and the Central Hearings Committee (CHC). Last year, he replaced Frank Murphy as rules advisory committee chairman and is GAA president John Horan’s nominee on the management committee. The head of the CHC is Matt Shaw, who is so far following the same path as Keane, while the current DRA secretary is former Offaly hurler Rory Hanniffy.
Meath solicitor Brian Rennick is the CAC chairman, having been one of the DRA tribunal panellists that were presented with Diarmuid Connolly’s appeal against his sending-off in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final. Rennick disagreed with Hugh O’Flaherty and David Nohilly, who argued the Dublin footballer was not afforded “fair procedures” by the GAA. They stressed the GAA had to show a high standard in their disciplinary structure, when Connolly’s ban, which would rule him out of the replay, was so high-profile. Rennick countered that the club and elite county player had to be judged the same.
Last week, Rennick’s CAC upheld the appeals of Seamus Harnedy and Conor Delaney against their bans applying to the Championship. Cork and Kilkenny based the appeals on a question of law, opposing how the Central Competitions Control Committee deemed the players couldn’t serve their one-match suspensions in the counties’ Division 1 ‘relegation play-off’ as per rule, when no demotion was involved.
By sitting out that husk of a ‘relegation play-off’, Harnedy and Delaney satisfied the penalty.
It’s a month to the day since Kerry welcomed Mayo to Austin Stack Park, but the anger and frustration of season ticket-holders about their attendance records not being updated, despite them having been scanned, shows no signs of letting up.
One Kerry supporter and season ticket-holder contacted us over the weekend with a familiar story.
He explained how his niece had attended the game and, having had her season ticket scanned, assumed her account would reflect as much.
However, it never updated, and so won’t count towards her presence at Kerry league and championship games in 2019. No big deal, you may think?
It is, as fans must attend 60% of their county’s games to qualify to purchase an All-Ireland SFC final ticket, should the side reach the decider.
Following up on the error, the GAA gave the stock line, which they have given to other supporters as well as ourselves: the scanners were working.
As far as they are concerned, she was not at the game.
How the GAA can insist that there was no fault on their part, when several fans have contacted them, as well as the Irish Examiner and Radio Kerry, to express their disgruntlement, doesn’t reflect well on them.
Whatever happened to the customer being always right? When they are not just that, but loyal supporters, too, you can imagine how hollow the launch of the GAA’s ‘We All Belong’ manifesto rang last week.