GAA president O’Neill backs use of black card in hurling

Disciplinary sanction will come into effect in football games from next month

GAA president Liam O’Neill has strongly endorsed the black card sanction, which comes into effect in football next month, as equally applicable to hurling

GAA president Liam O’Neill has strongly endorsed the black card sanction, which comes into effect in football next month, as equally applicable to hurling


GAA president Liam O’Neill has strongly endorsed the black card sanction, which comes into effect in football next month, as equally applicable to hurling.

Speaking to media at the end of this year’s trip to Shanghai by the GAA-GPA All Stars, sponsored by Opel, the president said, however, that he didn’t see the initiative as being acceptable yet to the hurling counties.

“I’d love to see it come into hurling, yeah, and I don’t fear it coming into hurling. I don’t see why we should allow people to deliberately pull down in hurling either or deliberately body collide or deliberately trip, so I would see them coming in for all.

“I’m not quite sure of the pace of it,” he replied, when asked about when this might happen.

“I wish counties and clubs would see the benefit of it themselves but I don’t mind that a committee we picked for football gets it done because they couldn’t get it done the last time because hurling said ‘no’.”

Narrow defeat
This was a reference to a bundle of rule changes similar to those adopted at this year’s congress in Derry – except that they applied to both football and hurling – which were narrowly defeated at the Cork congress of 2009 because of the reservations of hurling counties.

This experience convinced O’Neill, who had been chairman of the task force that had drawn up the 2009 proposals, to appoint the football review committee, which successfully piloted disciplinary reforms exclusively for football. That, according to the president, was just the start.

Getting started
“The previous time when the vote came, hurling said ‘no’. The stronger hurling counties came together and it was beaten in 2009, so I was happy to go the football route on it with a view to getting it started.

“Change is a process. A person said to me that sometimes you can only be an agent for change and that’s what someone like a president there for three years can be.

“You can be an agent for change but you can’t expect that everything you think you are going to do at the start you will finish; but if you start the process that brings it about, then you have been some use. I see our role as presidents in that we start a process.

“There was a very definite move in Nickey Brennan’s time to move the yellow card experiment, but it was beaten in his time at congress and when Christy Cooney took over, there was a three-year period where he said he didn’t want it revisited again.

“We were asked to stay quiet about it (O’Neill’s task force was requested to stop issuing bulletins of foul play statistics during the 2009 championship) and that was his three years, but immediately I got in I saw a need to review it and set up a football review to do it and we have done that.”

Asked about the high-profile rugby tackle by Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh on Conor McManus during the All-Ireland quarter-final with Monaghan, the president rejected the idea that the foul had been the biggest showcase for the new black card.

Unfair focus
“I think that there was a lot of focus on Cavanagh and I think it was unfair: there were a lot of other pull-downs during the year that were equally as bad. Unfortunately, his seemed to get focus and that happens sometimes. I was sorry for him; he is one of the greatest Gaelic footballers we have ever had.”

On the issue of governance, O’Neill echoed the call nearly 14 years ago of the strategic review committee to reform Central Council by having it composed of county chairs rather than separately elected delegates.

Speaking about the controversy that attended Central Council’s decision to re-open for discussion the structure of the national hurling league, which the council had itself finalised a year ago, he said: “Sometimes decisions are taken too quickly. If the first one was debated for longer you might get a better answer. It might be a better system if county chairmen were Central Council delegates. That’s not going to be easy to do.”

Reviewing the All Stars tour, the president said that the visit to Shanghai University of Sport to promote hurling and the announcement that a programme enabling students to come to Dublin and train as hurling coaches for the university had been the most significant event for the future.

“Apart from the game, apart from the All Star trip, the most important thing we have done here was the visit to the university of sport.

Non-mainstream sports
“They are looking all the time for sports other than their mainstream sports. They are looking to compete in sports that might develop elsewhere in the world.

“Through Pat Daly we are going to take interns from there. We will bring them over, let them learn to speak English and become aware of our coaching methods so they can bring them back here. Vice-versa we will send fellas over here to improve their Chinese and to learn from their methodologies.

“We think now that the third-level system might be the best way to spread the gospel around the world.”

In reply to criticism that there were counties in Ireland where the games weren’t fully developed, such as football in Kilkenny and hurling in Cavan, he answered: “What we did at the university the other day has no impact whatsoever on Cavan, so you can’t stop development just because you haven’t got a perfect system at home.”

He went on to say that weaker hurling counties were beginning to question the value of maintaining senior teams for anything other than the graded Rackard and Meagher cups.

“There was an interesting chairpersons’ and secretaries’ meeting to discuss the [national] hurling plan, where there were a number of counties who expressed a wish that they probably should not be playing intercounty hurling.

Clubs as county teams
“We need to open up a debate about whether we’d be better off in the counties where they haven’t got a county team to say – as we did a century ago – play the clubs as the county team and play club hurling rather than county hurling.

“That’s an honest debate and we have to have it at some stage.”

He also announced that a report looking into the future of Féile, the under-14 football and hurling festival, and which he criticised in his address to congress last March, would be released publicly shortly.