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Joe Kernan: Long arm of the law must deal with dark art of fouling

Cynical fouling, the dark art of stopping opponents from proving their capabilities particularly in key areas of the park, is unfortunately alive and well. But then, when was it otherwise?

There has been a considerable focus on cynical fouling in the closing stages of the All Ireland football and hurling championships to date, particularly as defensive strategies are now very much in focus.

And there are even suggestions doing the rounds that this type of fouling is being coached into some teams.

Let me emphasise that cynical fouling has always been with us. When Armagh were enjoying a decent spell of success a few years ago, it was confirmed to me that referees were being shown videos of the games in which they were involved so that they could familiarise themselves more closely with cynical fouling.

I, nor indeed any other Armagh manager to my knowledge, have never employed cynical fouling as part of a game-plan, but I am well aware some counties who may be more renowned for their sparkle and flair have in the past been quite adept at deploying cynicism — it is not unknown for a star player in an opposing side to be targeted by as many as three different players from one side.

Certainly, there has been evidence of cynical fouling lately. Kildare certainly did not do themselves any favours in extra-time of their match against Donegal while Dublin committed almost three times as many fouls as Tyrone last Saturday.

The elasticity of the playing rules, it seems, is stretched to breaking point. And at times I wonder if some referees are naïve or just oblivious to some of the things that are going on.

On occasions, they do not seem to be tuned into tactics teams are using and this serves to detract from the quality of matches.

Let’s hope that the All Ireland football semi-finals and final see cynical fouling outlawed altogether — but then maybe that is too much to hope for.

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