Eamonn Fitzmaurice responds to Mayo critics, proposes rule change to cut out head injury cynicism

Eamonn Fitzmaurice responds to Mayo critics, proposes rule change to cut out head injury cynicism
Former Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice

Former Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has clarified his comments about abuse of the head injury rule, remarks that produced a furious response among Mayo supporters.

Speaking on Irish Examiner GAA Championship podcast, Fitzmaurice said:

“I mentioned about the head injury rule being exploited at times. That went down well!

The way I wrote it, it wasn’t that clear what I meant. And when we talk about rule changes, maybe that’s something that can be dealt with.

In his Irish Examiner column ahead of Mayo’s All-Ireland qualifier meeting with Armagh, Fitzmaurice wrote about Mayo’s ‘gamesmanship’.

“The checking off the ball, their game management late in games, the claustrophobic marking of key opposition players, the tactical use of the Maor Fóirne and the cynical exploitation of the head injury rule when ahead in games were further indicators of this gamesmanship, as they pushed everyone and everything in their desperation to get to the promised land.”

After that game, which Mayo won by a point, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney complained that not enough time was added on by the referee despite "ten or eleven head injuries."

But former Mayo player David Brady was among those who reacted furiously to Fitzmaurice’s column.

"The whole thing about the 'streetsmart'... I think it was disgraceful from Eamonn Fitzmaurice to go down that line," said Brady.

Now, in a conversation with Mike Quirke, Patrick Kelly and John Divilly, which explored ways to cut out cynical play late in games, Fitzmaurice has explained what he meant.

When you’re at the top level, you push everything, everyone to get over the line. And you don’t apologise for it. Was I the same in charge of Kerry, of course I was. And I wouldn’t try to pretend I was whiter than white.

“But I think with the head injury rule, where it came from originally… teams were excellent late in games… how do you stop the clock, you fake an injury, any injury. You could have a sore big toe and the game had to be stopped for it.

“The next progression then was that only a head injury can stop the game. So teams exploit that now. Of course the head injury rule is very important and it’s there to protect players if there is a collision.

But when a team is ahead and every two minutes a different player is getting a head injury but never leaving the field, that’s a different thing.

“To refer to that specific thing, since I opened that can of worms myself, I would say if you get a head injury and you need to be assessed, you’re assessed off the pitch. And the game goes on and you can only go back on when the game stops. Straight away, that cuts it out because you’re not going to leave your team short.”

Mike Quirke's Football Show: Tactical Mayo but never boring. How Cork changed tack. Tyrone always learning. Fixing the fouling carnage

Listen to the The Irish Examiner GAA Championship Podcast every Monday, in association with Renault Ireland, official GAA car partner, on iTunes, SoundCloud and irishexaminer.com/podcast.

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