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Players' anger with top brass

WEEK three of the All-Ireland SFC and the issue still prompting most anger and comment amongst the playing fraternity is the controversial new handpass rule.

Yesterday, Kerry's double All-Ireland winning captain, Declan O'Sullivan, launched a fresh attack, describing the rule "farcical" and flat out rejecting the comments from sections of Croke Park that the issue will cease to draw derision in the coming weeks as players, managers and officials become more familiar with its nuances.

"The most worrying point of view from the players, is that we're hearing officials and referees' bosses coming out saying it isn't an issue or it hasn't been a problem in the games ... when everyone else can see it's been a problem and it's slowing down games and it's silly, it's cumbersome," blasted O'Sullivan.

"That's the most worrying aspect, the thing that they can't see themselves. But it can't continue, as far as the players would be concerned."

Speaking simultaneously at a separate media launch in Croke Park, GAA Director General, Páraic Duffy repeated his assertion that the controversy will evaporate once the players "master" the rule, though he did concede that consistent application amongst referees "will take a little bit of time".

"I think generally speaking the players have mastered the issue very quick," Duffy praised.

"I think the handpass will cease to be an issue very, very quickly. You want the players to master the new rule and that's happening.

"Secondly, we need consistency among referees and that will take a little bit of time as well. I think this will diminish as an issue. I will be surprised, even from next Sunday onwards, if it's an issue any more.

"I'm not going to comment on individual refereeing performances but clearly what we're looking for is consistency in the application of the rule by the players and consistency from referees. I think it was better last Sunday and I honestly think it'll not be an issue in a couple of weeks' time."

However, despite assurances from Croke Park that each county panel would be advised as to the ins and outs of the handpass by a top intercounty referee, Tyrone's Seán Cavanagh revealed that no such opportunity had been offered to his own squad ahead of last Sunday's Ulster SFC opener with Antrim.


"No, no, honestly, we had nobody in training, nobody before the match," he revealed. "It was just a matter of go with your instinct and hope for the best."

While Cavanagh heaped praise on the "common sense" refereeing of Pat McEnaney in that match, he admitted that he was "cringing" watching the highlights of the Leinster SFC opener between Meath and Offaly where Derek Fahy's interpretation of what constituted a legal handpass wildly contradicted that of McEnaney.

"If I was a referee, it would probably be the first thing in my mind before I refereed a game -- how this handpass thing was going to go," current Dublin captain, David Henry added.

"So they are going to try and pull a few people up and sometimes they are going to get that wrong. I think the safest thing to do is just keep the fist closed. Obviously you have to try and do that in training as much as you can," he concluded.