Saturday 21 April 2018

Stepping out of line and getting out of hand

Kilkenny's Ger Aylward and Daithi Burke of Galway in action at last Sunday's Leinster GAA Senior Final
Kilkenny's Ger Aylward and Daithi Burke of Galway in action at last Sunday's Leinster GAA Senior Final
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's a hurling rule that comes in two parts, each as ignored as the other.

Section A stipulates that the ball can only be carried in the hand for a maximum of four steps, while Section B states that it can be "released and struck with a definite striking action of the hand".

It's straightforward, or so you would think. However, for some reason, both sections seem to come under the 'optional' heading.

Violations of the passing rule have literally got out of hand. The latest example came in the Galway-Kilkenny Leinster final last Sunday when both sides happily threw the ball on several occasions. A definite striking action? No chance. Players expected to get away with throws and their optimism was well-founded. But then, everyone else gets away with it too.

The same goes for taking more than four steps. It's quite often up to six or seven - and sometimes even more - yet a free is rarely awarded.

When it is, the guilty party becomes very frustrated, which is understandable, since many other similar instances will go unpunished.

With players so fit nowadays, leading to space being closed down, it can be difficult to get in a pass or a strike after four steps. Maybe it's time to examine whether an increase to five steps is merited, but for as long as the current rules applies, it should be implemented.

As for handpassing, it's throw-ball much of the time. Again, there will be the occasional intervention by the referee, prompting the question: why then, but not previously or subsequently?

Check out next weekend's three big hurling games, all of which are live on TV, and see how many unpunished four-step and illegal handpassing breaches you can spot. It will run into double figures per game.

Irish Independent

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