Top physiotherapist John Casey has called on the GAA to invoke a rule dismissing players who interfere with injured opponents.
During the first half of Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 final, Cork’s Noel O’Leary attempted to lift Mayo defender Donal Vaughan after he was tripped and his head and neck collided full force with Eoin Cadogan. Vaughan was flat out after the nasty impact but O’Leary seemingly believed he was feigning injury.
Current Tipperary hurling and former Munster rugby physio Casey said such actions could result in a serious injury if done to a prone player.
“It’s sneaking into the GAA more and more these past few years,” said the Kilruane McDonaghs man. “What were initially verbals to the player on the ground has turned into physical contact before the medical people can ever look at the injured player.
“A spinal injury could so easily have happened because the player’s (Vaughan) neck was hyper-extended when he ran into the opponent. The slightest unnecessary movement after that could have caused serious, serious injury. I know emotions are involved but it should be off limits to touch any player on the ground. It’s only a matter of time before something happens and we are faced with the consequences if action isn’t taken.”
Casey believes such incidents merit a red card. “Granted, a player might perceive another player to be feigning an injury but it’s not his position to make that call.
“The rule should err on the side of caution. For everybody involved, it’s the only way because the consequences could be grave.
“To interfere with an injured player should be a straight dismissal. It’s the only way to get the message out that the injured player can’t be touched.
“It can’t be left to the referees’ discretion. It should be so black and white that it can’t be open to interpretation.
“The referee can’t judge the severity of an injury and sometimes the medics can’t do it either.
“That’s why they take precautions with neck braces and spinal boards. If the player is moved there could be untold damage done.”
In the Division 2 final on Sunday, the game was held up as Tyrone’s Aidan McCrory was put in a neck brace and placed on a spinal board as a precaution. The procedure took several minutes and resulted in the delay of the Division 1 decider but the medics had to be tentative with such a potential injury.
Casey argues a red card would act as a warning to players about the consequences of such behaviour.
“When you get two incidents like that on the same day, it underlines just how serious an issue this is,” he insisted. Noel O’Leary mightn’t have seen the incident properly but I’d say he would be pretty remorseful if he watched the replay.
“Generally speaking, it’s not just about protecting the player on the ground but also the player that touches him. The repercussions could be massive.
“You would never be able to tell whether the initial contact or the interference afterwards caused the damage.”
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