JOHN FOGARTY: Rules in the spotlight again

Colm Callanan

It’s almost that time of year again when clubs put forward motions to county conventions, but 2014 is slightly different.

As 2015 is a playing rules year, clubs will be entitled to devise proposals to alter football and hurling.

If you remember earlier this year Clarinbridge had their recommendation to ban the use of oversized hurleys in scoring pulled. Outside 2010, 2015, 2020 and so on, only the standing playing rules committee and specially commissioned groups such as the Football Review Committee and the Hurling 2020 committee can draft motions to Congress on the laws that dictate Gaelic games.

But it can be safely expected the Galway club will come back to the table again this year having seen their call for hurleys no bigger than 13 centimetres at their widest be used in scoring goals and points passed at county convention.

Last January, Galway hurling chairman Joe Byrne singled out Anthony Nash in explaining Clarinbridge’s point of view: “Anthony Nash has mastered free-taking with the big bás hurley, which is very forgiving to use compared to the normal size bás hurley, which can be difficult to use when taking a free.”

Never mind that Galway’s own goalkeeper Colm Callanan in the same month had scored a long range point with an oversized hurley in a Walsh Cup game, Nash was the reason given for the motion.

Along with the Hurling 2020 committee’s forthcoming one-on-one proposal for penalties, the Cork goalkeeper can again expect to see his name feature in the media in the build-up to Congress.

But are we missing the point when it comes to the size of hurleys? If there is to be vigilance of goalkeepers then the same must be extended to outfield players, some of whom are clearly using hurleys which are beyond the regulation size. But just how practical would it be to police that? Wouldn’t it be easier to marshal the ball instead? If there is such a concern about the vast distances hurlers are now capable of scoring from then making the sliotar slightly heavier would seem a more obvious answer.

It’s difficult to imagine that Brian Cody would be as confident of John O’Dwyer converting a 97 metre free in his own playing days when the ridges of the ball were larger and the ball undoubtedly weightier.

But that is exactly where we are now. Minors are capable of sending over placed balls from beyond the 65m line. A free from your own half is almost worth as much as a 20m free, hell, even a penalty.

It has long been the contention of Babs Keating that the weight of the sliotar should be increased. He argues the ball would be in play longer were it heavier and contribute to more midfield play.

“You have juveniles pointing 65s quite easily nowadays,” he said four years ago. “There was a time when the strongest of hurlers could hit the ball no further than 80 or 85 yards.”

His view is shared by several of his generation but a slighter younger group feel it’s unnecessary. Earlier this year, new Dublin manager Ger Cunningham said: “Hurling is better now because the ball is good. The touch is better and the ball has helped that and they won’t change.”

It is of course within the remit of the Hurling 2020 committee to recommend changes to the hurley, sliotar or both although the indications would be that they won’t touch either.

Hurling is hardly in trouble but it faces a similar situation to golf in the sense technology has made the game easier. At the same time, technology has also contributed to some of the most remarkable feats seen on the hurling field. Is that sufficient proof to leave well enough alone or does the game hurling need a reminder of what it is?

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Tipp manager decision offers players stability

Life after Eamon O’Shea. The idea would abhor as humble a manager as O’Shea but clearly he has been thinking of what Tipperary will look like after his tenure finishes up.

As well as looking for a warm weather training camp and Declan Fanning as a selector, O’Shea was keen to see that he handed over the baton to the right person.

Michael Ryan, who will be a selector for a sixth season next year, is a safe pair of hands. Knowing he will take the helm from 2016 will provide stability and comfort to the players. Interestingly, prior to the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, O’Shea sat alongside Michael Ryan as the pair took turns to answer questions at the pre-game media event. Were they trying to tell us something? Back in May, O’Shea indicated he wanted to ensure Tipp’s future was placed in good store beyond him. “I believe that this is simply handing on — it’s all the time about trying to push the thing on and giving it back. Because you don’t own it. The manager doesn’t own it and the players don’t own it. It’s part of a culture. That culture has been in for a long, long time here. What you try to do is make sure you don’t lose it but make sure it’s sustained. That’s why it is important, and players appreciate that. They know about it and we talk about it.”

It may be unusual that Tipperary are about to appoint their 2016 manager but it was well known this year if not confirmed that Paul Grimley was going to make way for Kieran McGeeney in 2015. Nobody can say either county isn’t forward thinking.

Officials mistaken shunning black card option

Sunday’s Kerry final may have been officiated by rules but they weren’t the ones that currently make up the GAA rule book.

After the game, it was joked Eddie Walsh didn’t bring his black card. Of course, there is no black card: a brandishing of the black notebook is all that’s required to signal the automatic substitution of a player for one of three cynical fouls. But while Walsh never lost control of the game, he seemed almost determined not to show players — and there were at least five of them — black cards for what were genuine offences.

The greatest irony came in the 54th minute, when Austin Stacks’ Pat McCarthy pulled down Mid Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan, who should have made way himself in the eighth minute when he tripped Wayne Guthrie.

As the club scene transforms into provincial fare over the coming weeks, we’ll see more inter-county referees take charge of games.

But when black cards appear to have taken a hiatus at the highest level of football, is there any guarantee matches will be refereed as they should be?


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