Wednesday 13 December 2017

GAA just making things even harder on referees -- Donaghy

C Foley

HE WAS surely still on a high after starring in his first full championship match for 20 months but one of the GAA's biggest superstars, Kieran Donaghy, admitted yesterday to being deeply frustrated by the new handpass rule.

Even though a referee came to a Kerry training session last week and also visited their dressing room before Sunday's throw-in against Tipperary, the Austin Stacks star foresaw problems and had actually warned his team-mates beforehand to just stick with a fisted pass.

"In the little box game we had (warming up) before the match I could see about seven or eight frees for handpasses and before we went out again I was saying "lads try and get a fist on it" because you can fist it from any angle," Donaghy revealed.

Despite that one of his own early handpasses was still ruled illegal and resulted in a Bryan Sheehan goal being disallowed.

"I actually thought I had fisted that (pass), it happens so quick but this is exactly why it (the new rule) is going to be hard on refs," the towering Kerry powerhouse said.

"I feel like it's been brought in out of nowhere and very late and, to be honest, I think they should have stuck with the (fist pass only) rule that they had in the league, even though I wasn't a great advocate of it at the time," he admitted.

"We had got used to the fist. Then for the last six weeks we've been trying to get used to the open handpass. We had lost touch with it because it was like a rule -- 'lads, everything is fist now' -- in training, and now we've had to go back to the drawing board again."

Donaghy reckons that the GAA should either have stuck with fist pass only or gone back to the previous status quo "that everybody can flick it around as long as there's a bit of contact and if you throw it it's a foul. That was pretty basic.

"Look, there's a big ball kicked into me, the ref is 40 yards away, I catch it and fist it or whatever I do and it's very hard (for him) to see it," the former Footballer of the Year acknowledged.

"Then there's going to be analysts on The Sunday Game saying 'look there's 10 handpasses here that were wrong!' and there's going to be even more stress on referees which is already such a tough job. The GAA should be trying to make it easier on them."

Sunday's show-stopping return was Donaghy's first full championship game since the 2008 All-Ireland final because of injuries last summer.

"Last year was frustrating but I don't want to make too much of a deal of it because a lot of fellas go through injury years and don't get anything," he stressed. "I came on for 20 minutes and got an All-Ireland medal for it!

"We've got a good quality game against Tipperary but we know that if that was Cork in the first half they would probably have put two or three goals past us, with the speed they have in the forwards," he noted.

"I made a few silly mistakes, dropping it here and there. If you do that against Cork it's gone, down the field and over the bar. They punish everything, we saw that against Mayo, and we know now that we need to up it in training for the next three weeks to get ready for them."

But Donaghy is clearly relishing the upcoming Munster semi-final.

"Cork in Killarney is just a special day out, you have to go to one of them to realise what it's like.

"I would always take the back road coming over the mountain into it," he revealed. "Seeing the cars parked, the people out in the Kerry and Cork jerseys and the banter going down, it's a great occasion and I'm really looking forward to it."

Irish Independent

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