Eddie Brennan says the GAA’s failure to implement their own rules around helmet interference could lead to serious injuries, writes Stephen Barry.
Brennan believes that video evidence definitively showed Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson breaking the rule in Waterford’s semi-final victory, which would’ve seen him miss the All-Ireland final.
However, referee James Owens told the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) that he was satisfied with how he refereed the game, meaning the disciplinary body couldn’t review the incident and impose a suspension.
Galway corner-back Adrian Tuohy also escaped a potential ban for a similar incident last week when Barry Kelly made the same decision as Owens.
Brennan says his comments weren’t personal and he’s glad to see Gleeson cleared for the final, but believes the ruling is flawed.
“It's quite obviously flawed. You look at the use of the English language to dodge a bullet in some ways,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“I love in rugby matches when the referee asks the TMO a specific question: ‘Try or no Try?’ ‘Can you check the grounding?’ It's a specific question that gets a definitive answer and the right call, ultimately.
“What happened was the CCCC sought clarification off James Owens and Barry Kelly the previous week. If they don't ask a specific question, it is the referee's prerogative, and rightly so, to dodge answering a direct question.
“If they ask a direct question, ultimately if James Owens or Barry Kelly the previous week says ‘I didn't see that incident’, you're now in a situation where they are the bad ones because people know that the consequences of what is going to happen.
“If you are going to have a disciplinary system, rules and regulations, and you’re not going to implement them, there's no point in having them.
“Do we have to wait for another incident where, like Declan Fanning (who had to get 25 stitches to his ear after his helmet was violently removed) a few years ago, someone has their ear ripped off?
“99% of our games are played at club level and if young lads of 14 and 15 get grabbed by the helmet and yanked left or right, they are going to get seriously hurt.
“That's the big issue, not someone missing out on an All-Ireland. We're talking about someone getting injured here.”
Congress rejected a motion to remove referees from retrospective disciplinary decisions in 2010.
That motion was brought by retired referee John Bannon, who, in his final act as an inter-county whistler, chose to avoid banning Cork’s John Miskella for the 2009 All-Ireland final.
He believed it unfair to be asked to review his on-field decisions and refused to do so, as a point of principle.