A number of inter-county hurling referees have questioned why pulling an opponent’s hurley has not been included as a cynical foul under the experimental rule passed at Annual Congress last weekend.
The rule which will be trialled during the 2021 inter-county season lists as cynical fouls the pulling down of an opponent, to use the hurley in a careless manner, and to trip an opponent with hands, arm, leg, foot, or hurley.
The pulling of an opponent’s hurley is not covered under the pulling down of an opponent and so to deny a goal scoring opportunity by pulling an opponent’s hurley inside the 20-metre line or semi-circle arc will not result in a penalty puck and the sin binning of the offending player. Pulling an opponent’s hurley will instead remain a technical foul that is punished with a free but not a yellow card.
An obvious — and recent — example of an opponent’s hurley being cynically pulled to deny a goal chance was during last year’s Leinster SHC final when Galway’s Niall Burke, after catching a Joe Canning delivery over the head of Huw Lawlor, had his hurley pulled by the Kilkenny full-back, completely halting his momentum.
Burke still succeeded in getting the sliotar away to team-mate Brian Concannon but referee Fergal Horgan had blown for a free before Concannon put the ball in the net.
During RTÉ’s half-time analysis of the Leinster final, Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin noted: “If Huw Lawlor knew there was a sin bin there, he wouldn’t have pulled back Niall Burke.”
Added Donal Óg Cusack: “There’s such a gap between the yellow card and red card that it’s proving a sanctuary for cynical players, and cynical play. In reality, the problem is with the rules. Call it a sin bin, call it whatever you need to, it needs to be dealt with by the Association.”
But any repeat of Lawlor’s foul in 2021 will not lead to a player being sin binned or the awarding of a penalty, with referees somewhat surprised this particular foul wasn’t included among the cynical fouls set out in the new rule.
The outgoing chairman of the GAA’s National Referees Development committee, Willie Barrett, said the pulling of an opponent’s hurley did not feature in discussions when the rule was being drawn up.
“I just don’t know how you can tally pulling a fella’s hurl with pulling down a player, careless or dangerous use of the hurl, or tripping a fella, so I don’t see it as one of them [cynical fouls], to be honest with you,” he remarked.