Call to make wearing of headgear compulsory

Fine Gael senator Kieran O’Donnell yesterday called on the IRFU to make the wearing of protective headgear compulsory for rugby players.

O’Donnell raised the issue in the Seanad after three teenage players were hospitalised with suspected concussion injuries in Wednesday’s Clayton Munster Schools Junior Cup tie between Presentation Brothers College, Cork, and St Munchin’s College Limerick.

After an hour-long delay, the match was restarted by referee Paudie Sheehan. However, St Munchin’s declined to continue. PBC led 5-0, and under rule, could have been awarded victory.

However, Munster Schools Rugby chiefs last night confirmed the tie has been re-fixed for next week given the “unprecedented circumstances” which occurred in Musgrave Park.

O’Donnell believes the IRFU must learn from incidents such as the happenings in Cork this week.

“What I really want is that the IRFU would make the wearing of head gear, particularly for Junior Cup players, compulsory and particularly for forward players,” said O’Donnell — a former pupil at St Munchin’s.

“The comparison I would make is with hurling in the GAA where they introduced the use of compulsory wearing of headgear first for underage players and it developed then for senior players.

“Even if you look at the senior level of rugby some of our players have got multiple concussions. It’s something we need to look at.

“The game has changed, backs are required to tackle and be defensive. We see the way Brian O’Driscoll’s game changed over the years.”

Munster Rugby chiefs praised the medical services who treated the three players and also noted that Sheehan had acted correctly in attempting to restart the match.

“The Age Grade Competitions Committee, chaired by Eugene Ryan, and the Munster Rugby Schools Committee, chaired by Declan English, have considered all the facts surrounding the unprecedented circumstances, and the decision has been made to replay the game.

“As a priority, player welfare and the health and safety off all players was taken into consideration when reviewing the circumstances at Musgrave Park.

“All parties are first and foremost pleased to hear the players in question are well, and are thankful to all the medical services on hand and the CUH in providing the best possible care to the players.

“Following the review both committees expressed their support for referee Paudie Sheehan and his team in overseeing a difficult and unprecedented situation, noting the referee made his decision to restart the game based on facts and was procedurally correct.

“The replay will now take place on Wednesday, February 15th, at Musgrave Park at 2.30pm.”

Pat Cross, assistant coach in St Munchin’s, confirmed PBC had agreed to a re-match and praised the Cork school for their decision.

“We got word that the Branch had re-fixed the match subject to approval by Pres, and I must say we are very pleased.

“This type of thing never happened before and I suppose nobody knew quite how to deal with it. To have such injuries and such delays was something totally new but there is nobody (medical people) going to move anyone out of position now because of a neck or head injury.

“So maybe sometime in the future, if there is a massive delay because of injury perhaps the match be abandoned. We will have learned from this. It never happened before and hopefully, it won’t happen again.”

A statement on the St Munchin’s website said that the three players are “all recovering well.” It added: “A sincere thanks to the players, coaches and supporters from PBC for your concern, help, support and best wishes.”


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