Tuesday 24 October 2017

No sense to hurling missing out on advantage rule

Shane O'Donnell, main, is lifted shoulder-high by his team-mates after Clare's All-Ireland final victory
Shane O'Donnell, main, is lifted shoulder-high by his team-mates after Clare's All-Ireland final victory

Comment Martin Breheny

From January 1 next, the term 'advantage' will have two meanings in the GAA, one for football, the other for hurling.

The football version will be far more beneficial to the players than its hurling equivalent, which, more often than not, carries no gain whatsoever since it requires the referee to make an instant judgment on whether a fouled player gets an advantage by allowing play to continue.

It's pure guesswork, but once the decision is made the referee cannot reverse it, even if becomes blindingly obvious that the offender, not the victim, gained the advantage.

The Football Review Committee (FRC), chaired by Eugene McGee, targeted that idiotic rule and included a sensible amendment as part of measures designed to improve Gaelic football. The new advantage rule includes a five-second delay before the referee makes his call. By then, it will be clear if the fouled player has gained or lost from the incident.

The proposal was passed on a 93-7 percentage vote at Congress last March and will apply in football from January 1. Meanwhile, hurling will continue under the daft old rule because the FRC proposals related to football only.

If 93pc of Congress delegates reckoned it was a good idea to use common sense in football, why not in hurling too? Enter bureaucracy. The FRC had no mandate to make recommendations for hurling, so the proposals they brought to Congress – and the subsequent rule changes – apply to football only next year.

The same goes for the 'black card' rule which will result in a player sent off (and replaced) for deliberately fouling. Granted, it is more common in football than hurling, but it does occur in small-ball land too.

So, too, does "remonstrating in an aggressive manner with a match official," yet there will be a difference in how it's treated next year. An errant footballer will be dismissed while a hurler will be warned.

Still, anything to do with fouling is within the remit of players, so if they don't do the crime, they won't face any time. It's different with the advantage rule where there is now a clear and significant difference between the two codes.

It shouldn't be so. And we shouldn't have, for example, a situation like the 2012 replayed All-Ireland hurling final, when Galway's Cyril Donnellan scored a goal within a few seconds of being fouled early in the second half at a time when his side were trailing by five points.

Having blown his whistle, referee James McGrath had no choice but to cancel the goal and award Donnellan a free which Joe Canning pointed. Kilkenny gained two points by fouling under a rule which had no basis whatsoever in logic or fairness.

Congress acknowledged that last March, but since they were dealing with football proposals only, there could be no change for hurling next year, although it's likely that the necessary adjustment will be made for 2015. Surely a rule which has the same impact on hurling and football is precisely what could have been dealt with on a general basis by Congress.

Instead, the reality is that major games in football and hurling next year could be decided on different interpretations of the advantage rule. Football wins, hurling loses. Common sense suffers a bad defeat too.

Irish Independent

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