Sunday 8 December 2019

Refs may police helmets amid bending of rule

One of the approved helmets which all hurlers must now wear when playing
One of the approved helmets which all hurlers must now wear when playing
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA could be forced to task hurling referees with inspecting all helmets prior to matches because players are modifying them to suit their own needs, it has emerged.

Removing the middle bar of the faceguards attached to approved helmets, compulsory on all hurlers since the start of the year, has become commonplace to improve vision.

But if they are altered in this way, the faceguards and helmets will not meet the exacting safety standards that have been set. And this could lead to insurance difficulties in the event of injury.

Pat Daly, the GAA's head of games, said yesterday that it was noticeable from photographs and from TV footage of the first two rounds of the National League that a certain amount of "tampering" had taken place with faceguards.

He stopped short of suggesting that referees would have to inspect helmets beforehand, just as soccer referees inspect studs and shin-guards, because they were already burdened with enough to do.

However, if the practice of adapting helmets for individual needs made them less safe, inspection is something that might have to be looked at down the line, he warned.

"Players have a responsibility to ensure that their helmets are in line with the national safety authority of Ireland's IS 355 code," said Daly.

"When the Kilkenny motion to the 2008 Congress was brought in, the terms were compliance with this standard.

"The GAA does not set the safety standard. The national authority does that and we have no choice but to adhere to that. We are legally obliged to adhere to it."

At present, according to Daly, just three helmet brands meet that national authority standard; Mycro, Marc and Azzuri.

"There are a list of instructions with any product, a list of dos and don'ts and I'm pretty sure removing the bar from a helmet would feature on any list of don'ts," said Daly.

"In the short term, I couldn't envisage referees being asked to line up players to inspect helmets because they have enough to do, but if the problem persists some measures may have to be taken."

At last October's announcement of the mandatory introduction of faceguards and helmets at all levels of hurling, it was made clear that, under the rule, match officials would be obliged to stop play if any player was determined not to be wearing the proper standard of equipment.

The introduction of mandatory use of helmets has so far been seamless, with players willing to change their old habits and press on, recognising the safety issue that was central to the legislation being introduced in the first place.

Veteran goalkeepers Brendan Cummins and Donal Og Cusack, who never wore helmets up to January 1, have been among those to publicly say they have accepted the rule.

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