Penalty and 20m free guidelines to be clarified

The GAA have moved to clear up the confusion surrounding hurling penalties and 20 metre frees ahead of this weekend’s Championship games.

Penalty and 20m free guidelines to be clarified

In a statement last evening, it was confirmed that, arising from concerns, management committee would put forward recommendations to Central Council on the interpretation of the close range deadball strikes.

On Sunday, referee Johnny Ryan permitted Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe to advance on Anthony Nash before he struck a penalty in the Munster quarter-final replay.

While no meeting of the Central Council is expected, the guidelines on the rules governing penalties and 20m frees are set to be clarified for Saturday’s Dublin-Wexford Leinster semi-final and Sunday’s Clare-Cork Munster semi-final.

The news comes as GAA national match officials manager Pat Doherty has openly admitted the penalty rule is “unimplementable”.

Doherty said the rulebook didn’t discriminate against O’Keeffe’s outlandishly successful attempt to block Nash’s penalty — the same as it couldn’t penalise Cork goalkeeper’s advancing of the ball past the 20m line.

He confirmed referee Ryan was correct not to order a retake despite the Waterford man’s sprint towards Nash after he jabbed the ball in front of him before striking.

It is the GAA’s current interpretation of the rule that a jab or a lift is deemed a striking action and therefore the opposing players can move towards the free or penalty taker as soon as it is happens.

“The rule is unimplementable as it stands,” said Doherty. “Whether Anthony Nash or Stephen O’Keeffe took five yards or 10 doesn’t matter. As soon as the ball was touched, it was in O’Keeffe’s right to move. Nothing has changed for referees and nothing will until there is a rule change.”

As for whether frees from longer distances could be charged down by defending players, Doherty suggested it was not feasible because of the smaller distance it takes freetakers to strike the ball.

Speaking on RTÉ yesterday, GAA president Liam O’Neill said the organisation’s hands were tied on the matter until the end of the Championship.

“The fact of the matter is you can’t address it until Congress, really. You can’t stop a Championship halfway through and change the rules. We did try to address this at Congress. The rule we tried to bring in would have affected all frees, we wanted it for 21 yards frees.

“Cork vehemently opposed it. We knew they were going to take it all the way. They said that quite openly, but I want to make the point this is not about Anthony Nash, and it is called the Nash Rule, which is personalised.

“This is about a much more serious issue, and it’s not even about senior hurling, this…to me this is about the possibility of a goalie in a juvenile game faced by a much bigger opponent, you can have a variance of size at juvenile level and I’m worried that injuries may happen.

“Unfortunately, we were stymied in our efforts to deal with this. What we want to do here is we want the ball to be placed somewhere outside the 21, ideally in the ‘D’ somewhere and struck before the 20m line, and we will address that next Congress.

“We didn’t want to start anything now but it wasn’t about Anthony Nash. We knew this was going to be a difficulty and the fact of the matter is the goalie yesterday was well within his rights to do what he did.”

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