GAA see red on illegal pulls
THE GAA have warned that the practice of hurlers tugging an opponent's faceguard will soon become a red-card offence.
Players can currently receive a yellow card if they are caught tugging a player's faceguard or helmet, but Croke Park officials are extremely concerned at the rapid increase of such incidents.
"You can go back to the Declan Fanning/Stephen Banville incident in the Tipp-Wexford qualifier but in the Cork-Kilkenny NHL fixture there were about four such incidents," says the GAA's head of games, Pat Daly.
"The introduction of helmets has seen a serious drop in facial and head injuries, but there has been a rash of faceguard pulling in recent times and certainly we would spell it out that if such incidents occur they could be classed as dangerous play. And dangerous play will warrant a red card. At the moment, players can be shown a yellow card for grabbing an opponent's faceguard, but we need to make it clear that we'll be monitoring this closely. It will not be acceptable for players to do what they're doing.
"It will take a motion to Annual Congress to upgrade the offence but that will happen. Let players be under no illusion that the practice of mauling someone else's faceguard will have serious ramifications. Referees can currently class it as dangerous play. It looks desperate and there's no place for it in the game."
At the start of this season, former Cork hurler Tomás Mulcahy outlined his fears that "helmet gouging" would find its way into the game once it became compulsory for players to wear helmets.
"That stuff will go on even more now," he said. "But referees should be instructed to issue a straight red card for any such offences. Look what happens when you are caught using your fingers illegally in rugby. You get a lengthy suspension for gouging and this offence in hurling should be in the same category. The side affects will be unsightly."
Mulcahy has been proven right. At the first sign of a confrontation, players are gripping their opponent's helmets and pulling them to one side. And ,as evidenced by the Fanning/Banville clash in the All-Ireland qualifier three weeks ago, it's dangerous too.
"I don't think we're over-reacting at all," said Mulcahy last week. "I'm seeing more and more instances of helmets and faceguards being grabbed and it's going to seep down to underage level. That will be sickening to see. It would frighten you.
"If you look at the NFL, the practice of grabbing an opponent's helmet is outlawed and so it should be. We'll need it to be a red-card offence and we're going to have to try and experiment with it in the pre-season competitions or National Leagues."