Eddie Keher has explained part of his reasoning against yellow and red cards is the “pompous” manner in which referees brandish them to hurlers.
The Kilkenny legend revealed in this newspaper last month details of his document to rid hurling of the cards system, which he has presented to GAA president Liam O’Neill.
On foot of it and Brian Cody’s support for Keher, O’Neill has promised a forum on hurling, the details of which will be decided on at Friday’s Central Council meeting.
Speaking on Today With Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One yesterday, Keher revealed how much he felt players were being wronged by yellow and red cards.
“I abhor the whole ritual of showing cards to our hurlers. It is a sort of pompous and sometimes triumphalist exercise causing humiliation to our great players in front of their families, friend, supporters and hurling people.
“We must realise we have a wonderful organisation but the greatest asset we have are our players, and there seems to be an attitude to get at those players. I don’t think that’s a way to treat our hurlers.”
Even as a forward of great repute, Keher believes too much is now stacked in the attacking player’s favour. “We always admired players who went for the 50-50 ball or even the 40-60 ball. They were lauded and admired but now if you commit a technical foul a player is consigned to being nearly a passenger for the rest of the game. He can’t tackle, he can’t do anything.
“Dirty play is another thing and people have sort of misread what I had to say about that. I don’t advocate anything like returning to the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ type of hurling. I’m talking about good, physical challenges.”
In response to those suggesting a more physical style of hurling suits Cody’s Kilkenny, the former highlighted injuries picked up by the likes of Michael Rice and TJ Reid, which saw no players punished by dismissals.
“There’s a lot of talk about Kilkenny physicality,” he acknowledged before claiming, “No opposing player that has played against Kilkenny in Brian Cody’s reign has had to leave the field injured, whereas six Kilkenny players were felled with serious injuries during that period which went unpunished.”
Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland winning manager Liam Griffin is a supporter of the cards system, but feels more former inter-county hurlers should become referees. “I don’t want to be elitist about the game of hurling but I think you have to play our game to understand the game of hurling. I think there are too few ex-hurlers refereeing and I think that would help.”
While welcoming the debate stirred by Keher’s document, Griffin fears a game without cards would disenfranchise smaller players.
“I came in at the very end of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and I played corner forward and I can tell you I used to tell my mother to make sure she’d upped the insurance policy going in there!”
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