JOHN FOGARTY: Keher and McEnaney have ‘yellow’ issues

IN THE SHADOWS: Eight members of the committee show off their skills at Croke Park yesterday for the launch of the Hurling 2020 report. Picture: Paul Mohan.

Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher and referees chief Pat McEnaney have taken issue with the Hurling 2020 committee’s proposal to make a second yellow card an automatic substitution offence — but for different reasons.

Both are largely supportive of the report released yesterday but Keher believes the measure falls short in not eradicating cards completely from the game. He fears a referee will find it easier to send off a player for two yellow card offences as he will be replaced by a colleague.

McEnaney, who also takes exception to the group’s call for a separate national hurling refereeing body, emphatically opposes the idea of teams being allowed to replace a player who has picked up two yellow cards.

“Hurling is a highly skilful game but it needs to be protected by the people who run it, and watering down the rules would not be my idea and I wouldn’t support it. What they’re saying is you can commit two fouls under careless use of the hurl and be replaced. I would find that astonishing. As of last year we have a rule in the game where if you grab a player’s helmet it’s a red card offence. There’s a massive disproportion between a red card for that and then turning around and saying a player can twice use a hurl in a careless manner and be replaced.

“So a player would be able to pull down an opponent twice and then be replaced? He’d be allowed to trip an opponent twice and then be replaced? In Gaelic football, you’re sent to the line and replaced for doing it once.

“I would see this as a major backward step. We can’t be going narrow alleyways just because one or two fellas got sent off in the wrong. You’ve got to take a helicopter view here.”

It was Keher’s own document which formed part of GAA president Liam O’Neill’s thinking in commissioning the Liam Sheedy-chaired group to review the game. He said: “I would have to be disappointed that they didn’t go the whole way in eliminating cards. I think they tried to fix something that was wrong initially. I don’t think cards are suitable to hurling. Fair aggression is all part of our game and the majority of fouls in hurling are technical fouls. They are punished by frees which can be scored and I think that is sufficient. If you’re Brian Cody and I’m on your team and have given away five or six frees it’s up to you as Brian Cody to take me off the field. The punishment of being sent off for inherent qualities of the game is wrong. With the two yellow cards, it’ll make it easier for referees to send off players. The common sense referees will probably be forced to send off players easier than they have done because they’re being replaced. I know it keeps 15 against 15 but that doesn’t mean it’s correct either.”

Keher is encouraged by the proposal to form a national committee charged with the administration of hurling referees. However, McEnaney doesn’t see any reason why such a division should be made.

“On my eight-man committee sits Willie Barrett and Dickie Murphy who have refereed several All-Ireland hurling finals. Kevin Walsh is a strong hurling man from Clare, Jim O’Rourke is a hurling referee in Monaghan as well. Gerry Kinneavy from Galway knows both games. The committee has a strong hurling ethos. Just because I’m chairman and I’m from Monaghan, people might have an outlook that doesn’t portray the full image. Put it this way: there’s a lot more All-Ireland hurling referee medals on my committee than there are football ones. There is absolutely no need for two committees.”

McEnaney and Keher believe the one-on-one penalty recommendation could adequately addresses the health and safety and imbalance concerns while they also support 20 metre frees being defended by three defenders.

Keher paid tribute to Sheedy and his group for not taking a scalpel to the game when it wasn’t needed. “I’m very impressed by the methodology and the professionalism of the committee the way they attacked it. They showed a deep understanding of the game as hurling people and that’s no reflection on football. Their research with the survey and the penalty trial... they didn’t just sit around the table and come up with ideas. I felt one of the many good things was that there weren’t any wholesale changes recommended.”

McEnaney added he would have liked to see the committee propose the square ball rule as it now stands in Gaelic football.

nThe Hurling 2020 committee comprises Liam Sheedy (chairman, Tipperary); Ed Donnelly (secretary, Tipperary); Pat Henderson (Kilkenny); Des Cullinane (Cork); Terence “Sambo” McNaughton (Antrim); Ollie Moran (Limerick); Veronica Curtin (Galway); Ollie Canning (Galway); Frank Lohan (Clare) and Paul Flynn (Waterford).

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