Former Limerick coach Donach O’Donnell believes Brian Cody and Eddie Keher’s proposal to abolish red and yellow cards in hurling is designed to pressure referees into giving fewer frees.
Kilkenny manager Cody reiterated comments from six-time All-Ireland-winner Keher suggesting the cards had contributed to a decrease in physicality in hurling. GAA President Liam O’Neill has subsequently indicated there will be a wide-ranging rules discussion.
O’Donnell, who coached Limerick to last year’s Munster SHC title, believes there is a concerted attempt to undermine referees so that the rules are not strictly applied.
“Every year, Brian Cody drives out the same stuff about letting the game flow, but if he doesn’t say it, it’s someone like Eddie Keher or Nickey Brennan saying it,” he said.
“They have such reputations that people are afraid to say they’re wrong. There is a lot of pressure on referees then to let play flow, but their job is to call a free if there is one. I think the approach is to consistently foul, and then to complain to the referee about it, you often see Brian Cody shouting at referees at half-time.
“It’s being coached, obviously. The foul where the hurley comes down over the shoulder from behind, that’s being done permanently, under the face-mask is another one, you end up losing the ball because you can’t see.
“It’s being done so much that, if the referee does pull one instance, he’s going to have to give five or six frees in a row, which he’s not going to do.”
Much of the debate regarding the application of rules in hurling centres on three red cards in last year’s championship – to Cork’s Patrick Horgan, Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin and Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer – being viewed as having been harshly dished out. O’Donnell feels there were other instances where over-leniency was the problem.
“There were three high-profile red cards rescinded last year, but none have gone the other way,” he said. “Look at Joe Canning last weekend, he pulled straight across a player and there was no red card, he even admitted he did it but there’s no sign of anything being done retrospectively.”
Former Wexford manager Liam Griffin also believes the red and yellow cards play an important role and should be retained. “I was privileged to play on the same interpro team as Eddie Keher and I respect his opinion greatly,” he said, “but I don’t agree with him on the red and yellow cards.
“I would agree with him and Brian Cody there is no need for a black card, but the yellow and red have helped the game greatly. I can remember when a corner-back could choke you all day and nothing was done about it, the umpires and linesmen played no part in the game, you could be half-killed and nobody would give a damn.
“Discipline has improved as a result, but I think you have to have referees who can referee hurling as a separate game. The problem arising is that there are referees in dual counties refereeing both games but not refereeing them as different games. Someone who hasn’t played hurling might misjudge.
“What might be a solution is to have a sin-bin instead of a red card for some offences, 10 minutes off might be a better solution.”
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