GAA Central Council to reconsider options on free-taking/penalty debate

Issue may be referred to hurling forum proposed by president Liam O’Neill

Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash: his styleof penalty- and 20-metre free-taking has sparked a national debate. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash: his styleof penalty- and 20-metre free-taking has sparked a national debate. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho


It hasn’t gone away, you know. The so-called “Anthony Nash” proposal to restrict the taking of frees or penalties to being struck from the 20-metre line in hurling will be aired in some shape or form at Saturday’s Central Council meeting in Croke Park, although they won’t be in a position to impose any rule change.

A month ago the GAA’s initial attempt to deal with the matter fell short, when Motion 58 was withdrawn from the Clár on the eve of annual Congress in Croke Park. Afterwards, director general Páraic Duffy conceded part of the thinking behind the decision to withdraw the motion was concerned with the perceived prospects – or lack thereof – of success.

The motion, drafted by the GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules, which includes current Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody and former Cork All-Ireland hurling winning goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack, was looking to prohibit all hurlers from deliberately advancing the ball from the place at which a free, penalty or sideline puck “is to be struck from” - thereby eliminating the possibility of stealing an extra few metres as the ball is lifted and then advanced before striking.

Inevitably linked
The timing of the motion was inevitably linked with the display of Nash, the Cork hurling goalkeeper, during the course of the 2013 championship. Nash ended up taking almost all of Cork’s close-range frees, especially the 20-metre free or penalty, where he would toss the ball several metres in front of him before striking. This created an immediate anomaly, as the opposing goalkeeper and defenders were, also under rule, meant to be 20 metres from the player striking the ball.

Cork, not surprisingly, were the main opponents to the motion, with chairman Bob Ryan leading the campaign to have the it withdrawn from Congress, and claiming afterwards “the show of support we got from all around the hurling world was phenomenal... People were just outraged at moving this from the game.”

Central Council can’t approve the sort of rule change that was being proposed in Motion 58: that was looking to prohibit any movement beyond the place from which the ball is to be struck from (even though this has gone on for years with longer-range frees), and if the player was judged to have moved past the point where the ball was to be struck from, then the free would be cancelled, and the ball will be thrown up.

However, Central Council can demand an interpretation of the existing rule demanding referees take greater heed of any player that seeks to move past the point where the ball was to be struck from.

What has also been suggested, including from the likes of the Cork chairman, is that the matter be passed off again to the proposed hurling forum that was flagged last month by GAA president Liam O’Neill. That is also set to be aired in some shape or form by Central Council on Saturday.

Cynical fouling
O’Neill stopped short of calling that a Hurling Review Committee – along the lines of the Football Review Committee, which introduced the black card to deal with cynical fouling – although he was intent on opening hurling to a wider debate so that “all hurling people can give their views” and articulate “where they see it going in the future”.

This idea was at least partly prompted by comments from Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, and his misgivings about the enforcement of discipline in hurling, and also a recent proposal by Kilkenny hurling icon Eddie Keher, who advocated the abolition of yellow and red cards.

“We’re not going to be prescriptive about it,” O’Neill explained at the time. “And I’m not sure how it will work out. We’ll discuss it at Central Council . . . because I’m not quite sure how people will want to do it.”

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