Hurling 2020 ’two yellows substitution’ rule is a hard sell

Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy and Richie Hogan save a penalty from Tipp's Seamus Callanan in last year's All-Ireland SHC final.

Hurling 2020 committee chairman Liam Sheedy concedes their automatic substitution for two yellow cards proposal received a lukewarm response from counties and will be a difficult sell at next month’s Congress.

The 2010 All-Ireland-winning manager admits there were concerns that permitting a manager to replace a player who has picked up two yellow cards may contribute to more foul play.

At the launch yesterday, GAA president Liam O’Neill warned the committee to prepare for the possibility that not all of their recommendations will be supported.

Acknowledging it as the most debated of their 15 proposals, Sheedy said: “I think the referees have a call to make in terms of they still have a red card in their pocket, which they can issue at any stage if they feel the foul warrants it. The two yellow cards is probably the one that didn’t get the best traction from the counties when we went through it for that fact [more fouling] alone.

“Ultimately, rather than thinking of what mightn’t work, what we are trying to ask is would the game be better than it is today if that was the way, rather than looking at what might be wrong with it.

“Ultimately, as a minor, it is a big deal if you are sent off in Croke Park and your team is down to 14 men.

“At 16 [or] 17 years of age, when you are trying to come of age in Croke Park, and you are sent off for what could have been two borderlines — the bigger players can deal with it, but I feel for a minor.

“I think it is a big deal for his family and for his club to be sent off and I feel, definitely, that if it is borderline, then there is the option with two yellows of him being replaced.”

Dubious about cynicism being an issue in hurling, Sheedy is satisfied the group’s penalty and 20-metre frees proposals, as well as their call for the advantage rule to be introduced, are more than adequate measures to deal with the negative side of hurling. Towards the end of last year, the committee oversaw a penalty and 20m experiment in Thurles, where Joe Canning, Shane Dowling and Eoin Kelly took shots against keepers Colm Callanan, Patrick Kelly and Anthony Nash. The conversion rate for one-on-one was 62%, while it was 22% for one against three from a 20m free.

“Okay, if there is cynicism creeping into the game, it would be on the edge of the square and we feel the best way to address that is the one-on-one [penalty]. I think it was 62% in the trial; I can see that going to 80%.

“So, I believe we’ll flip it from 20%-80% [as it was in last year’s Championship] to 80%-20% with the change, and I think it gives the advantage back to the forward and it should help to deal with the cynical fouling.”

Backed by 88% of respondents in their survey, Sheedy and his colleagues put forward the recommendation for a separate hurling referees’ body at national level.

“I do think there’s merit in having one overall committee. There can be two people — chairman and secretary, one very much hurling-based, one very much football-based. I think there’s a lot of common themes that run through refereeing in terms of their fitness programmes and all the other things they need to do.

“But, when you actually get into the real knowledge of the game, and understanding of hurling, I think it’s a time when you split the room and the hurling people talk hurling and the football people talk football.”

Sheedy was also keen to emphasise the proposals made by his group regarding development of the game. He believes the appointment of a director of hurling, as well as a template being formed for developing counties, would see great progress.

“Do we need to look at some counties that have three clubs and say: ‘Should we have an inter-county team here? Would we not be far better off having a bottom-up approach and invest in the primary schools? Having clubs, and go from three clubs to 10 clubs?’ That, to me, is the way you serve the game best.”

He added: “The priority for this committee is growing the game — what we’re looking at in the rules side is tweaking and what we’re looking at in the growing side of the game is transformation.”


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