James O’Connor wants new rules to be given a chance to bed in
Clare legend and Sky Sports analyst expects things to settle down before championship
Jamesie O’Connor: “I think some of the kinks will be ironed out – or I’d like to think they will – ahead of the championship.” Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
James O’Connor has called for the new hurling rules to be given a chance.
The former Clare All-Ireland winner and Sky Sports analyst was speaking at Thursday’s launch of the broadcaster’s championship schedules.
Asked about the controversial rules on advantage and, less prominently, the penalties for cynical fouling, he pointed out that no-one, players of referees, had had any preparation given the pandemic-delayed start to the season.
“We’ve only had three rounds of games and it’s not like these guys have been coming in after a club campaign or a Fitzgibbon campaign or a Walsh Cup or whatever,“ said O’Connor.
“Even referees don’t have the benefit of refereeing club and schools and Fitzgibbon Cup matches. To be fair to everybody, I think it’s going to take time. There was also going to be those weeks where we start to question what we’re seeing.
“Some of those concerns, how far the ball is travelling and the number of frees in the game – I think we all agree it kills the flow of the game. If this is the future, if this trend persists it is certainly reducing it as a spectacle but I’m prepared to adopt the view that it is still early days and that some of these things will iron themselves out and that referees will adapt.
“If we’re talking about it, no doubt they’re talking about it. I think some of the kinks will be ironed out – or I’d like to think they will – ahead of the championship.”
From a Clare perspective, he is unhappy with the litany of off-field controversies but believes that there are genuine issues, such as the training facility in Caherlohan.
“We continued to make the headlines right throughout the winter for all the wrong reasons and listen, a lot of the issues that were raised are of concern I’d say to genuine hurling people in particular in the county.
“Caherlohan isn’t up to standard. The grass was cut there and I think there was a piece in one of the papers: ‘What’s wrong with it?’ You know, it might have looked great but there’s no pace off the pitch. It’s certainly no preparation to train there and then go out and what you get at Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Croke Park or Thurles.”
Nor does he believe that the controversies drive a siege mentality that ultimately benefits the players.
“Any external noise is not good. It affects you. I would say that even going back to ’98, Loughnane making the state of the nation address and that, it didn’t help. I don’t think it helped.
“It seemed to just sap a bit of nervous energy from you. The players have enough on their hands to get themselves ready for the challenge that they face on a week-to-week basis and trying to work and to prepare in the Covid environment as well hasn’t been easy.”