Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has urged that a forum embracing representatives from the National Referees’ Committee, Croke Park administrators, county team bosses and senior county players be established as soon as possible.
This would be to facilitate what Harte describes as “the urgent necessity to bring about consistency in application of the playing rules in gaelic football.”
Harte’s strident call has already been backed by many within the Association including several Ulster managers, among them Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney and Derry’s Damian Cassidy.
A vociferous critic of the experimental rules, Harte believes now that only two core elements of these have survived — the 11-metre penalty and the 13-metre kick-out — it is an appropriate time for the GAA to address what he refers to as “a major problem” within the sport.
“There is nothing to be achieved by tinkering with the rules but there is much to be gained from bringing people together who are actively involved in football on a week-to-week basis and allowing them the opportunity to exchange views so that the product we cherish can be further enhanced,” states Harte.
And he believes that had a more extensive consultative process been undertaken some time ago, motions pertaining to the experimental rules might not have got as far as Congress.
“We now know that for the next five years the rules will remain unchanged but it is incumbent on us all, and particularly administrators and referees, to try and ensure that the playing rules are applied uniformly and consistently. This has not been the case of late and it is a major cause of concern,” adds Harte.
His view has been enthusiastically endorsed by Monaghan manager McEnaney who has vented his frustration with the experimental rules and what he sees as inconsistent refereeing on more than one occasion in the recent past.
“The most important thing to emerge from Congress was the statement by president Christy Cooney that there will be no more tampering for the next five years and that everyone should do their best to help our sport develop under its existing rules. Let’s now get back to basics where managers can get on with managing and players can get on with playing. We want to see the rules as they are applied fairly and consistently,” maintains McEnaney.
It will now be interesting to see just how the GAA hierarchy reacts to Harte’s call for a forum — something that could well be established prior to the Championship even though the time frame is now very limited. But such is the importance attached to this issue that it is understood many people are prepared to make sacrifices to be involved in such a forum.
Derry boss Cassidy adds: “Now that we are on the cusp of the Championship there is a desire to see uniformity in refereeing.
“I don’t believe that this is an impossible target,” says Cassidy, currently preparing his side for their Ulster Championship opener against Armagh on May 16.