Thursday 22 February 2018

COMMENT - Maliciously targeting Conor Murray again would be a new low

Conor Murray was lucky to escape serious injury against Glasgow earlier this month
Conor Murray was lucky to escape serious injury against Glasgow earlier this month
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

I once had a GAA coach who tried to teach us how to give an opponent a dead leg. 'You may have to decide that taking a player out is the only way to win,' these were his words. I played a game of indoor soccer against him years later and I'm convinced he tried to break my ankle. I took it as a compliment.

When the phrase 'puke football' was coined and more recently when the blanket was unfurled at Croke Park, Tyrone and Donegal altered the parameters of a game to their advantage. They warped it into a battle they could win. A battle played out on their terms.

It was roundly criticised and those responsible for devising it were vilified, but there was honour to it. Endeavour too.

Using ingenuity to thrive within the rules and to gain an advantage should not be frowned upon.

Only through this creative thinking does sport evolve.

When Les Kiss formulated the 'choke tackle' in 2011 as Ireland's defence coach, he altered a game that is 150 years old.

Ireland perfected it first and gained an advantage and now all defences do it.

In 2007, Italy used uncontested lineouts as a means of maul defence throughout the Six Nations and it meant that their pack didn't have to engage with the opposition and a single tackler could go after the ball.

Joe Schmidt hijacked the tactic in the victory over South Africa's gargantuan pack in the autumn internationals three years ago to great effect.

These tactics are very effective but are viewed as being not in the spirit of the game. The people who created the rules may not have envisaged them but they are legal.

If a manager or coach sends out a team to take on another knowing that they are going to be dominated in a facet of the game and does nothing to counteract it, he is failing his players.

When he sends out his team deliberately trying to hurt an opposing player, he is hurting his sport.

Sport has been infected and undermined by doping scandals as weak-minded sportspeople seek enhancements to make them competitive or winners.

Deliberately setting out to injure opposing players to gain an advantage is just as abhorrent.

During their recent Champions Cup clash in Scotstoun, Glasgow singled out Conor Murray and targeted his standing leg any time he kicked the ball.

Being tackled is perfectly fine but hitting a standing leg is precisely what leads to serious, career-threatening knee injuries.

Murray was livid.

“I’m not blaming the players. I don’t know who told them to do it but it’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous and thankfully I didn’t get injured but if I had have been injured I would have been going on more of a rant.”

The scrumhalf will meet a lot of those Glasgow players at Murrayfield this weekend.

If there is a repeat of what happened in Scotstoun, the consequences could be dire for Murray and for the game itself.

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