Kieran Donaghy fears club football refs are in an impossible position 

Former Kerry star believes new rules are difficult to implement
Kieran Donaghy fears club football refs are in an impossible position 
Kieran Donaghy

Kieran Donaghy says club referees are finding it difficult to implement the new rules in Gaelic football.

As well as the 10-minute sin bin for cynical fouls, the return of a maximum of five substitutes and the advanced mark, there is also a ban on the pass back to the goalkeeper after receiving the ball.

The advanced mark has also been updated so that a player making one inside the 20m line can be challenged immediately.

Donaghy, who lines out with Austin Stacks against Kilcummin in the Kerry senior club championship on Saturday, feels the new rules are too elaborate and need simplifying, particularly the sin bin rule. “To be honest, I don’t know how much input the match officials had with these rules. Of course, when you’re changing rules, officials should be absolutely co-ordinated. They’re the men in the middle, they’re the men that are reffing club games and in high-pressure situations. I just don’t know how much discussion took place, to get their thoughts on it, before they landed them with all these rules.

“There’s a high profile enough ref down here now who is reffing a challenge game with us two weeks ago and I was peppering him with questions, and even he was kind of saying ‘Jeez, there’s so many of them Kieran, it’s hard.’ He admitted that it was hard, and in my eyes, he’s probably the best down here, so if he’s the best down here..... I pity the fella that’s below in a South Kerry final in December and there’s mayhem between Dromid and St. Mary’s.

“I won’t harp on about it but for cynical play the only punishment is the Aussie Rules 50-metre mark. It’s so easy for everybody, it punishes the scoreboard, it cuts out all the bullshit and I can’t understand how they bring in complicated rules like the marks from the Aussie rules but they won’t bring in a simple rule that if you backchat to the referee or kick the ball away when someone is trying to take a free, that the ref just blows the whistle, and moves the free up 50 metres.

“It’s a scorable free, you punish the scoreboard and now you have coaches and team-mates telling players not to foul and not to be cynical. Whereas now with 10 minutes to go in a game you are still told to be cynical.

“My overriding complaint about the whole thing is that it’s just going to be extremely hard for the officials that already have an extremely hard job. When we bring in rules they always talk about bringing them in for all codes and all levels of football, and I don’t know how much thought was put into all levels of football with this.” 

The advanced mark would appear to be right up Donaghy’s street but he reckons that it is over-complicated as well. “I like the rule, but I think the fact that the kick must be outside the ‘45’ and it must be over 20 metres is a hard one for the officials, I won’t lie. It happened a few times in the game last week (Stacks v Dingle), and I felt sorry for the ref because even I was going for the ball and not knowing if it was kicked outside the ‘45’, or was it just inside.

“I think linesmen will really have to be on the ball and watch where guys are kicking from for it to be successful. Even the rule around the catching of the mark and four steps and do I put my hand up or do I play on? I think that, in an All-Ireland final with 10 minutes to go – I think there’ll have to be something where the game will be paused and the ref will be able to say, ‘Okay, what happened there? Was it outside the ‘45’? Is the mark good? Because it’ll be if a few of those high-profile ones go wrong, and I can see it being binned very quickly.” 

EBS ambassador and Tralee Warriors basketball star Kieran Donaghy was speaking at the launch of the 2020 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards supported by EBS.

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