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Joe Kernan: Dialogue holds key to GAA’s disciplinary woes

The Disciplinary Task Force has certainly been working overtime lately and the fruits of their labours were seen at the Special Congress last weekend.

Their focus has been on attempting to draw up measures that will not only help to eradicate much of the cynicism that tends to blight football at all levels but will also contribute to enhanced presentation of our games — something that current GAA president Nickey Brennan feels strongly about.

Indeed, Nickey has been at pains over the past couple of years to pinpoint areas in which he feels that the GAA perhaps falls short in terms of games presentation and many would concur with his sentiments.

But while I acknowledge the trojan efforts of the Disciplinary Task Force, I must admit to harbouring reservations surrounding the actual implementation of some of the measures in matches which are perhaps not accorded quite the same profile as inter-county games.

A situation whereby a player who has been yellow-carded can be replaced by a substitute may not, in the long run, benefit our games and indeed could be construed as being open to abuse.

I have no doubt that the Disciplinary Task Force has done its homework in relation to the new measures but their application at grassroots level will impose added pressures on referees, players and managers.

I know that there is concern about the uniform interpretation of the playing rules by referees and that players appear to be showing less respect for the men in the middle, even at the highest level.

This most certainly cannot be condoned and in my opinion there should be increased dialogue between referees and players.

I see no reason why a seminar - or indeed seminars - embracing referees, players and managers, the very people who are involved in the cutting edge action on the field of play, should not be held.

What would be wrong with having such a get-together even before the start of the National League?

I would have thought that this might help to get people more on the one wavelength and could ultimately lead to better discipline and much more appealing matches — that’s the theory anyway!

Referees invariably seem to figure in issues that are raised from time to time and with the International Rules series now about to re-commence, you can be sure that the spotlight will be on the whistlers.

Obviously the Rules trip Down Under is a bonus for the players and they certainly deserve it.

I earnestly hope that the Test games prove spectacular affairs with the emphasis on skill, commitment and national pride.

But should the resumption of the series not go to plan — and should violence again infiltrate the competition — then I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the GAA should pursue a certain course of action.

And that is to plough money into the coaching of teams and clubs in Europe and the US to not only foster our own sport of gaelic football but to bring such teams up to a standard that they would then be able to host top-class squads from this country, thus ensuring an international dimension is retained.

I, like many others, am aware that the International Rules concept offers players a wonderful opportunity to represent their country and bring their talents onto the international stage.

But I am mindful that the preservation of gaelic football must be paramount and we certainly don’t want to see our own code, which we all love, eroded to any extent whatsoever.

We have a lot of very talented coaches in this country and, if resources permit, I think they should be deployed in some European countries and in the United States.

They would have a vital role to fulfil there and I have no doubt that they would help to sow the seeds for a better future.

Nearer to home, the inter-provincial football championship is approaching and with the International Rules squad due to be announced, this will allow us to take stock of our resources for Ulster’s bid to land the title.

We have a difficult assignment against Munster at Dungarvan on Saturday fortnight and the more experience we have at our disposal, the better.

I would hope that we will still have a number of options open to us, although a combination of the Rules series and county championship matches in various areas could impact on the availability of certain players.

Whatever happens, you can feel sure that the Ulster team will be making a strong attempt to land the title.

That won’t be easy because Munster will have a plethora of Cork and Kerry players at their disposal.

Connacht and Leinster will be meeting in the other semi-final the same day and I am sure that both teams will be keen to get their hands on the trophy.

I know that a lot of people would be of the opinion that the Railway Cup should be abandoned but you can take it from me that the players are all very keen to be involved.

They see it as an honour to represent their province and they are prepared to make sacrifices to ensure their participation in the tournament.

Maybe it’s not the most suitable time of the year but with the fixture list the way it is, it’s as good as it gets.

The competitive element will be very much in vogue from every perspective.

Belfast Telegraph

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