Too much room for confusion in blood sub rule

It escaped the attention of the press box in Killarney at the time but Michael Conroy was indeed a temporary replacement (ie, a blood substitute) for Evan Regan on Sunday, writes John Fogarty.

Too much room for confusion in blood sub rule

Noel Connelly confirmed it afterwards. Kerry PRO John O’Leary also corroborated that he had announced the exchange as such over the stadium’s PA.

Mayo’s Evan Regan is attended to by team doctor Dr Sean Moffatt at Fitzgerald Stadium. Picture: Brendan Moran.

As you know by now, Regan crashed to the ground as he battled for mid-air possession with Johnny Buckley. Landing on his neck, he broke his collarbone and suffered concussion. Requiring several minutes of medical attention, he was then stretchered off the field yet because he had bitten his lip and broken skin in the process (photographs showing him wearing no gumshield) Mayo saw fit, as per rule, to deem him a blood sub. There was as much hope of this writer appearing on the field togged out as there was of Regan returning to the action.

Via Mayo GAA’s official Twitter handle, the board praised the medical personnel at the venue as well as the Kerry General Hospital in Tralee.

Yet Regan was considered to be leaving the field temporarily. As he wasn’t counted a full replacement, Mayo were permitted to make another six substitutes including Mikey Sweeney for Regan’s “stand-in” Conroy who helped himself to four points. It meant almost half their starting team were off the field by the end of play.

Again, Mayo didn’t technically do anything wrong. The temporary substitution rule is such a naive and vague piece of legislation that it’s wide open to interpretation. But did they act in the spirit of the rule? They should ask themselves that question.

Have they form in abusing the rule? Most definitely. In 2012, the late Dublin chairman Andy Kettle called for an amendment to the rule after two substitutions involving Kevin McLoughlin in the counties’ All-Ireland semi-final. McLoughlin was replaced by Colm Boyle as a blood sub but returned to the game in the place of Jason Doherty. It helped in allowing Mayo make eight switches at the time when the maximum was five. In the same game, Lee Keegan was sent to hospital but his substitute Richie Feeney, who played on for another 40 or minutes before he made way for Jason Gibbons, was categorised as a temporary one.

Kettle called for a time limit on blood subs. “I understand the version given from Croke Park is once you come on as a temporary substitute you can be a substitute for the whole game but I don’t believe in that. If you interpret it that way, in my mind it wouldn’t be in the spirit of the rule.”

This very month last year, Mayo exposed the loophole in the rule again when they fielded seven substitutes against Kildare, one of which was a black card. Tom Parsons suffered a cut early in the game and was hospitalised. His temporary replacement Gibbons played on until full-time.

In last year’s All-Ireland final replay in Limerick, Mayo made a total of seven substitutes in normal time after Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea clashed heads at the end of the first half. O’Shea was concussed but came back on midway through the second half after O’Connor reappeared for Alan Freeman at half-time. Mayo have hardly gone out of their way to make fools of us all. In each occasion, somebody has lost blood but that doesn’t mean they are innocent parties when they have shown time and time again that they will turn misfortune into opportunity.

Three years ago, Dublin elected not to contest their defeat to Mayo on the basis of a Disputes Resolution Authority ruling in favour of Offaly in 2006. Kildare had appealed Offaly’s use of six substitutes in the Leinster SFC quarter-final when Pascal Kelleghan, who’d been blood subbed in the first half, returned in the second half but not for his direct temporary replacement.

It appears Croke Park are satisfied there is no need to address what is as much a galling oversight as seeing a team who have had a player or players sent off in normal time return to their full complement in extra-time.

But just how long before one of these temporary substitutes goes and does something extraordinary in a game? What chance it will be a Mayo man!

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Time for clarity on rulebook issue

In his Waterford Crystal Cup acceptance speech in Mallow on Saturday evening, Limerick captain Donal O’Grady paid a special thanks to referee Johnny Ryan for letting the game flow.

O’Grady told the crowd he felt both sides benefitted from Ryan’s loose interpretation of the rulebook. When Cork were denied a clear-cut penalty in the second half and the ball was quickly transferred up the field for a Limerick point, he might have been taking liberties in speaking on the behalf of the defeated hosts.

Of course, O’Grady was just as appreciative last August when James McGrath chose not to send him off after his cynical foul on Richie Power having already been yellow carded.

Limerick were full value for their victory on Saturday but O’Grady’s comments hit on exactly what is wrong with hurling.

If players and managers are so keen to see the current rulebook abandoned then they should go about proposing amendments to change it.

Otherwise, allow referees to apply it as it stands and stop damning them with faint praise when they don’t.

Concussion protocol process must be followed

In the last three weeks, two of the Gaelic football’s leading lights in Aidan O’Shea and Sean Cavanagh have either admitted to or played on with concussion. But how many more have done so without being called ashore?

If Cavanagh was as honest with medics as Mickey Harte was in his post-match interview, how he was allowed to continue on is alarming, just as O’Shea’s revelations last month were. For all the good of the GAA’s concussion protocol, it’s worth little when the necessary process is ignored.

Like a pummelled boxer who contests a referee ending a fight by technical knockout, the player’s opinion shouldn’t come into it. And neither should the assessment of anybody in his corner.

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