Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Joe Kernan: GAA rules still do not tick the right boxes

We are living in what we can only regard as an era of instant communication - but this has still to filter down to one important area of the GAA.

The blitz of yellow and red cards in last weekend’s National League games has further convinced me to try and pursue further an idea that took root in my mind some time ago.

I have felt strongly that there is not sufficient liaison between managers, players and referees - indeed, even though the experimental disciplinary rules have been implemented, I am convinced that we are still confronted by major problems.

And one of these most definitely lies within the area of communication.

While I acknowledge that the GAA authorities have in the past conducted forums at which managers have had an opportunity to air their views on a variety of subjects, I still feel it is essential that managers’ representatives, players and referees should come together to strive for unity in the interpretation of the playing rules and in attempting to nurture mutual respect.

I have and will always be an advocate of flowing, open play with the emphasis on skill and flair. But although the experimental rules have been brought in to improve standards all round, the ‘ticking’ system is, in my view, flawed.

I would suggest that instead of a referee stopping play to issue a tick to a player, he would be far better to have a quiet word when passing that particular players during the course of a game.

When it has become clear that a player has been ticked - and particularly a player deemed to be key to his side - then the opposition can give free rein to ruses to have him incur a yellow card.

Referees like Pat McEnaney, who invariably employ common sense in applying the playing rules, would surely be able to fulfil their duties even better if they were permitted to have a quiet word of warning in the ear of a player thought to be living on the edge in terms of sportsmanship.

It’s now some three years ago since I first mooted a get-together of players, managers and referees and so far this has not taken place.The sooner it happens , the better - and perhaps this will lead to the flashing of fewer cards.

Indeed, the yellow and red sanctions were rather too commonplace at the weekend and the post-match events at Healy Park, Omagh, did not show the GAA in the best possible light.

Kerry laid down a marker that they are hungry for more glory but Tyrone, with big guns like Owen Mulligan, Sean Cavanagh and Colm McCullagh to the fore, will not be unduly worried about losing a match on the second Sunday in February.

The third Sunday in September holds rather more resonance for Mickey Harte's side but GAA president Nickey Brennan, who hands over the reins to Christy Cooney in April, will surely want to see no more of the vitriol that besmirched last Sunday’s Omagh contest.

Nickey has made the point on a number of occasions lately that the actual presentation of our games must be seen in the best possible light. But, sadly, the cancer of the obnoxious ‘verbals’ is still rampant, cynicism is far from dead and the win at all costs mentality still prevails.

It’s certainly time for talking by those parties who wield most influence on the actual field of play.

And on the subject of influence, Ulster is setting the pace in the National Football League.

It’s most heartening to see Derry at the top of Division One - and who’s to say that they might not even retain their title - and Monaghan hold top spot in Division Two.

Down have come out of the traps strongly and are in pole position in Division Three while unbeaten Antrim are in second place in Division Four with their sights obviously set on making it into Division Three in Liam Bradley’s first term as manager.

Obviously, no-one is going to get carried away after just two rounds of the National Football League but there are encouraging signs that Ulster sides could yet figure in the honours hunt.

Even though Tyrone lost to Kerry and Armagh were caught short by Laois at the Athletic Grounds, they are likely to become stronger.

We will have some very appetising matches over the course of the coming weeks and it will certainly be interesting to see just who can go the distance.

On a more sombre note, it’s disappointing to see Cavan rooted at the foot of Division Three.

Their new manager Tommy Carr is currently finding life difficult in the competition but patience is a virtue and I have no doubt that the former Dublin ace can turn things round.

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