All-Ireland finals change to spark talk

During the recent Kilkenny and Galway Leinster game a couple of incidents highlighted how difficult it can be for referees to get calls correct.

During the recent Kilkenny and Galway Leinster game a couple of incidents highlighted how difficult it can be for referees to get calls correct.

While there were no 21 metre frees, Galway was correctly awarded a free a short distance outside the Kilkenny 21 metre line during the second half.

The Galway forwards were entitled to stand in front of the ball once they were the requisite distance from the free taker. As it turned out the shot from Joe Canning went harmlessly wide.

Now take a scenario where a 21 metre free is awarded and the player striking the ball may bring it back a couple of metres as per the recent ruling by the GAA. In that instance are the players obliged to stay level with the ball or do they line up on the ‘21’ as happened on Sunday in Croke Park?

Ultimately that is a scenario which referees must address. However, it would seem logical that the forwards cannot be ahead of wherever the ball is placed.

Readers will be aware that an advantage rule exists in Gaelic football. It appears to be working well. No such rule exists in hurling. However, referee James Owens gave a Galway player an advantage in Tullamore in the second half.

The decision had no bearing on the game. The player had possession in the shadow of the stand. He was fouled and he managed to get away with the ball. However, he was immediately dispossessed (legitimately) by another Kilkenny defender and then was awarded a free.

The decision drew the wrath of Kilkenny supporters. On another occasion such a call could have a bearing on the result. The Wexford referee gave a fine performance and controlled proceedings very well, particularly in the early stages when things were a little fraught.

The decision, though, begs the question as to whether hurling would benefit from a defined advantage rule. I think it would. I suspect any move to introduce one would be favourably received.

Thankfully hurling does not have to worry about Black Cards. I knew it would not take long for counties to start appealing the issuing of Black Cards. One can expect it to become a common occurrence over the remainder of the football championship as an accumulation of such cards could result in a player missing a key game.

Away from the playing fields, the decision of the GAA Central Council to support the concluding of the club championships in the calendar year is a major talking point. The proposal came from the Football Review Committee. It has to be clarified if the change would apply to club hurling championships also.

A consequence of such a change would be the bringing forward of the All-Ireland finals by a minimum of two weeks to mid-August.

As with most proposals it has positives and negatives. In an ideal world completing all competitions in the calendar year is desirable.

I know some counties can be badly discommoded during the National League by the absence of key players who are committed to their club’s championship campaign.

To achieve an end of year deadline will necessitate changes in the scheduling of club competitions. For a start it would be impossible to complete a games programme with the current 13 day rule in operation.

That rule is intended to give inter-county players time to prepare for upcoming championship games. That leeway will not be possible if a tightening of the club fixtures schedule has to be achieved.

Inter-county team managers, it would appear, may have to be satisfied with a six day rule. The obvious advantage for clubs is getting county championships played off more quickly. That, though, would cause other problems.

Players heading away for the Summer to the US on J1 or other visas are usually back in time for the championships. If the new ruling was implemented it might necessitate Kilkenny having to play first round championship games in advance of an All-Ireland final date.

The proposal, if adopted, would see many players finished with competitions earlier thus shortening the playing season. That is hardly ideal.