Third man into melee will see red, warns Barrett

Referees development chairman Willie Barrett

Ahead of what’s expected to be a tense Connacht quarter-final between Mayo and Galway on Sunday, a warning has been issued that footballers involved in melees in this year’s championship will be sent off.

Referees development chairman Willie Barrett let it be known at a media briefing yesterday that the third man in and so on will be punished, accordingly.

Often it is the case that match officials are unable to identify those players so as to penalise them, but at a recent pre-championship seminar, the 18 football referees for this summer’s matches have been told to crack down on Rule 7.2 (b), Category III (vi) offence, “contributing to a melee”.

Barrett said: “This is something we’ve certainly honed in on. We’ve seen a number of games where a melee has occurred and we’ve asked our referees to deal with it very strongly. Where there are two players involved, it’s fine, the referee can deal with it, but where more players come in and add to that… it then becomes a melee. What’s a melee? Making a bad situation worse. So, we feel that we need to deal with that and we’ve given clear instruction to referees that red cards must be issued in those situations where players are coming in and you’re eventually seeing five or six or seven players involved.

We would be particularly honing in on the first and second person into the melee, shall we say, after two players have been involved. We believe that’s causing other players to come in. Likewise in hurling, if it’s left to the two players and the referees and officials, there’s generally no difficulty.

Barrett accepts it is tricky for referees to single out who are the third and fourth men into an incident, “but there will be seven officials there on the day and they’ll have an opportunity to discuss. Obviously, I would believe, unless it’s near either goal-end, then it’ll be between a linesman and a referee.

“If it’s near a goal-line, obviously, the two umpires come into play as well. That’s not to say the two umpires can’t play a part in identifying someone who may have run 20 or 30 metres in and created havoc.”

Barrett said referees had also been instructed to be more vigilant about the mandatory wearing of mouthguards in football. In February’s Kildare-Donegal Division 1 game, David Gough sent off Eoin Doyle for a second yellow card offence for not wearing his gumshield.

Referees have also been instructed to be more vigilant about head-high tackles. As Barrett explained: “If they’re [tackles] on the shoulder or chest-high, then it’s a yellow card, but where they’re head-high, hit into the face, we believe it’s a red card. We have that scenario as well in hurling and we believe an elbow to the face or the head is a strike, is a red card.”

As reported in the Irish Examiner this week, players holding back opponents is an area referees have been asked to focus on in hurling, while they have also been reminded that tackles around the neck are dangerous and therefore constitute red card offences.

The advantage rule in hurling, Barrett acknowledged, is truly only beneficial when a goal chance is on.

Our belief would be, with the free-takers on view today, we’ve one on every team that can point the ball from 90 or up to 100 metres, in some cases. Where there’s not a clear advantage, if there’s a goal situation on, we believe, yes, the advantage can be allowed, but you must remember now that’s not 40 yards from the goal or 50 metres from the goal.

“In a situation where they’re in on goal, he has that five seconds to give that advantage, but we believe that the best course of action is to give the free and let the free-taker put it over the bar.”

While he doesn’t believe hurling needs the black card just yet, the Tipperary native feels it is settling in football.

“It took a while to bed down. There was teething problems. There is a greater acceptance of the black card by players, in particular, when it is issued. You don’t see as many asking questions as we used to. I think referees are getting it very right in the black card situation. That’s something we’re happy about.”

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