DUBLIN'S long-serving wing-back Michael Carton has called for a level of discretion to be employed by referees, rather than just following the rules to the letter of the law.
Speaking at the launch of the 2014 Allianz leagues in Belfast yesterday, the 29-year-old fireman from the O'Toole's club reflected on last summer's red cards. "I thought in last year's Championship there were probably three high-profile sending-offs," he said. "And I don't think there really was a dirty stroke pulled.
"I think refs should be given more leniency, because I don't think there was a dirty stroke pulled and it had a huge influence on three games in the Championship last year."
He was referring to Cork's Pat Horgan's dismissal in the Munster final against Limerick, Henry Shefflin's two yellow cards against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final and, of course, Ryan O'Dwyer's two yellows against the Rebels in the All-Ireland semi-final which directly affected him.
"It was a big, big moment in the game and I don't think it was anything near a red card, the same with Pa Cronin, he had his eyes on the ball," he recalls. "I think with that sort of thing, refs should be given a bit of leniency. Of course they are following their rule book that says a strike is a strike but ... "
The whole area of awarding cards in hurling is brought into sharp focus with Eddie Keher's suggestion that hurling does not need either red or yellow cards.
Brian Cody has added further momentum to the argument by publicly supporting Keher in a typically frank assessment.
"I think there is absolutely an over-emphasis on cards, without a shadow of a doubt," said Cody during the week. "I don't want to start getting into a whole rigmarole again, but it can't be allowed to become a non-contact sport and there's an absolute emphasis on heading in that direction."
On such a radical departure of discipline guidelines, Carton was unsure, but offered an alternative of his own. "I don't know how it is going to work, but I do think refs should be given a bit more leniency, they should use their initiative instead of a rulebook sometimes in a game, because it can have a huge outcome for lads training all year."
Carton – named the 'Friends of Dublin Hurling' player of the year as the Dubs swept to the Leinster title last year – does not feel there is as concerted an effort to make the game non-contact as Cody claims, but feels there is a self-regulation to the type of contact hurlers are willing to inflict upon each other.
"It's extremely physical, but there is a really high discipline level there as well," he observed. "It can be a physical game, but nobody is going out to purposefully hurt someone. Especially with a strike.
"Hurlers accept they are going to get a belt in a game, that's just the nature of the game."
Dublin meet Galway in their league opener in Pearse Stadium on Sunday and despite the Portumna contingent being missing, Carton does not feel it is a good time to be playing them.
"If you think that way they will annihilate you. They will have a great crowd down there and it is a real tough place to go and get a win. We will have to bring our 'A' game if we want to get two points on the board."