Head-high tackles will be punished by red, refs chief Barrett warns
Head-high tackles in football and hurling and contributions to a melee are two areas inter-county referees have been asked to step up vigilance on as the championship moves up a gear this weekend.
The National Referees Development Committee reviewed the Allianz Leagues and have concluded that these fouls are what they most need to get to grips with in both codes.
The wearing of mouthguards and an increase in "holding-type infractions" in hurling are also going to be monitored more closely.
Committee chairman Willie Barrett outlined in Croke Park yesterday that their intention is, naturally, to focus on all foul play but their review picked up on these issues more than others and that has set their focus for the months and weeks ahead accordingly.
"A strike to the head in hurling or football, we're saying in the interests of fair play, is definitely a red card," said Barrett.
"Whatever the sports are, there is a lot of physical head contact but we believe in our games it's not necessary," he added.
"You are always going to have players fighting for the ball and accidental hits and collisions. But where there is a deliberate (contact) going in to tackle a player at head-high level, above the chin, that's a no-go area for us," he warned.
"Where they're (shoulder challenges) head-high, hit into the face, we believe it's a red card. We have that scenario as well in hurling and we believe an elbow to the face or the head is a strike, it's a red-card."
The involvement of third, fourth and even fifth players into a melee is something else that Barrett and his committee have advised their referees to crack down on this summer after detecting a "marked" increase in both codes during the league.
"Where there are two players involved, it's fine, the referee can deal with it. But where more players come in and add to that, it then becomes a melee. What's a melee? Making a bad situation worse," said Barrett.
"So we feel that we need to deal with that and we've given clear instruction to referees that red cards must be issued in those situations where players are coming in and you're eventually seeing five or six or seven players involved.
"We would be particularly honing in on the first and second person into the melee after two players have been involved. We believe that's causing other players to come in.
"Likewise in hurling, if it's left to the two players and the referees and officials, there's generally no difficulty."
Barrett and his team feel the message is getting across to players, even at club level, about the gravity of the helmet pull, despite a couple of high-profile incidents in last year's hurling championship.
And he also feels there is a better understanding from players and referees about the black card.
"We'd be happy enough that the application of the black card is good," he said.
Barrett discussed the advantage rule in hurling and his committee felt that, unless there's a goal chance, the preference from officials should be to award the free.
"We believe that the best course of action is to give the free and let the free-taker put it over the bar because the free-taker is probably in a better position to put it over the bar with no one on him, rather than the fella that has the ball and is surrounded."
The review also found referees are having more difficulty adjudicating on the hand pass in hurling because of the speed of the players.