Concussion scare leaves Seán Finn in no doubt about player safety

Limerick defender agrees red cards the only apt punishment for head-high challenges

Limerick hurler Seán Finn was in a downbeat dressingroom after the walloping endured by the All-Ireland champions against Cork. But he had to take their word for it, as he had been replaced with concussion just before half-time, the victim of a head-high challenge.

"I didn't know where I was really:" he told a media promotion for John West Féile on Thursday in Croke Park, "didn't know where my gear bag was in the dressingroom; couldn't remember the goals going in; couldn't remember the score and stuff like that and what way we were playing.

“So to be honest after a couple of hours I came around and I was fine but I’d be a hazard to myself if I was allowed back onto that field but it was good that I wasn’t in the position to make that decision. It was important that they used their initiative even though it might be the hard call to make.”

It hadn't happened to him before but he was aware of what a significant issue concussion has become in other sports, most notably rugby, which has seen high-profile controversies in the recent Six Nations championship.


Although a rarer phenomenon in hurling, only last year Clare’s Shane O’Donnell missed the whole championship with concussion and although the county remains hopeful of a return this season, the player didn’t line out in this year’s league, either.

Finn acknowledges that players in such circumstances often need to be protected from themselves.

“Yeah . . . I think it’s natural that you want to play. It’s just the competitive nature that the player has but I think it’s important that the medical team take their own initiative on it too. It was only maybe 10 minutes later where I really showed symptoms of real concussion so probably a delayed reaction. If I was out on the pitch 10 minutes later I was a hazard to myself.

“I had concussion symptoms for a number of hours. Yeah, my first one. I can see why you wouldn’t want a number of them. It’s quite serious.

“I was keen to come on the field at the time. I was trying to make up the answers to what they were asking me – I think I got them all wrong! They said the best thing was to just keep me off. I was just shook. I didn’t train for 10 or 12 days.”

The GAA protocols on concussion are clear that “if in doubt, sit them out” and the seriousness of the issue has been emphasised in recent matches in the AHL in which straight red cards have been shown for head-high challenges, including Shane Kingston’s in the incident that left Finn injured.

In the same Limerick-Cork match, Finn's colleague Séamus Flanagan also got the line and last weekend, Waterford's DJ Foran was sent off for a similar foul on Kilkenny's Mikey Butler.

Outstanding defenders

Finn, one of the game’s outstanding defenders and by consensus the best corner back in hurling with All Stars for the past four years, understands and agrees with the emphasis on player safety.

“Yeah I think they’re all straight reds. It can still be a really physical game without going into that danger zone. They were just maybe mistimed. I know my one – I came into it, it was mistimed.

“DJ Foran’s one was quite similar where your man was just getting up out of a tackle. Séamus’s was probably an outlier, it was probably just a loose tackle. Just be disciplined in the tackle.”

Thankfully he is happy with his recovery.

“It was my first concussion. Very much a mild concussion at the time. Just took precautionary measures for a couple of weeks. Perfectly fine now, to be honest.

“I would always have said, ‘oh yeah, concussion is a big deal’ but when it hasn’t really impacted you as such, you don’t really know the extent of it. It was only on reflection where I saw the reaction that it’s really serious and that was very much a mild concussion.

“I could see if you got a serious concussion how bad it would be . . . but, as I mentioned, I think it’s important that the medics do make the hard call and say, ‘Look, put the player first’.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times