Damien Fitzhenry believes Anthony Nash will be discriminated against if a new motion is brought in to ensure all close-range frees and penalties are struck before the 20m line.
The former Wexford goalkeeper was a penalty goalscorer in the 1996 Leinster final and again with a free against Tipperary in the 2007 All-Ireland quarter-final.
He acknowledges there is a safety issue associated with the Cork goalkeeper’s close-range shots.
However, he is alarmed the GAA are moving so quickly to cut out Nash’s dead-ball style so soon after he scored twice during September’s All-Ireland final and replay.
“He came up with a style that suited himself and gave himself every advantage when he went up to take penalties and frees. He did something that was within the rulebook and now it looks like they’re going to stop it altogether.
“They’re talking about having the penalty taken from the 20m line, but then he has to take more steps back than a usual penalty taker. He takes six whereas most take three or four. He might have to change his style. Either way, he would be at a disadvantage.”
The 1996 All-Ireland winner can’t remember any rule being changed as a reaction to one player’s success in scoring.
“It’s like banning sidelines from the hand in football after Maurice Fitzgerald kicked that one in Thurles. If you were to do that and change the rules for the sake of stopping one person, you’d be changing them all the time. The rulebook would be as big as The Book of Kells!”
But Fitzhenry understands the dangers presented by standing on the goal-line in front of a Nash close-range free or penalty.
“I would say the way Anthony hits the ball defenders would not be able to see it let alone try to save it. If it did hit you, you would be under pressure and possibly not be able to hurl again. But that’s through no fault of his.
“Probably for safety reasons more than anything, it should be struck from the 20m line.”
Pat McEnaney and Dónal Óg Cusack have spoken about reducing the numbers permitted on the line for penalties from three defenders to just the goalkeeper.
Fitzhenry believes it would be unfair on the defending team. “I couldn’t see it happening. They might as well raise the green flag and give the three points if that’s the case. One guy shooting against one guy? It’s a certain goal.”
The Duffry Rovers man doesn’t
recall any criticism of the amount of steps the likes of he and Davy Fitzgerald took in taking penalties.
However, he remembers the negative comments about them being permitted to use their oversized hurleys.
In the wake of Nash’s success, Galway club Clarinbridge put forward a motion calling for penalty and free-takers to be barred from using them, one which was successful at Galway convention and will be on the clár at next month’s Congress in Croke Park. But Fitzhenry insists the size of the bás on outfield players’ hurleys has also increased in recent years.
“You do have more chance of hitting the sweet spot with a goalkeeper’s hurley than an ordinary outfield one. Unless you’re a gobshite, you’ll hit the middle.
“But if you take a close look at outfield players nowadays the bás on their hurleys are as big as goalkeepers were 10 years ago.”
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