Henry Shefflin backs crackdown on cynical play and puts his hands up

Kilkenny legend admits he encouraged it while coaching Ballyhale to All-Ireland win

 Henry Shefflin  at the launch of the new Gaelic Games player pathway which is a new united approach to coaching and player development by the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association. Photograph:   Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Henry Shefflin at the launch of the new Gaelic Games player pathway which is a new united approach to coaching and player development by the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

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Henry Shefflin has welcomed the GAA crackdown on cynical fouling and admitted that as a manager, he encouraged it. Congress in February accepted on a trial basis awarding a penalty for infractions that deprive opponents of goal-scoring opportunities within the 20-metre line or its arc and sin binning the offending player.

The most decorated hurler in history, who also managed his club Ballyhale to All-Ireland success was speaking at the launch of an historic joint pathway for player development by the GAA, Cumann Peil na mBan and Cumann Camógaíochta.

“I think the great thing about it is it’s happened so quickly,” he said. “Before in the GAA, it took a long time to get things to happen but it has happened very quickly and I think it will benefit the game this year.

“There will be incidents where we will be giving out, both yourselves and ourselves on the Sunday Game, but I think that’s part of it and it is the right way to go because teams were starting to become – and it was part of the coaching that they were being told, ‘Look, take him down’.

“I’ve done it myself. I’ve talked about the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil where Evan Shefflin left the wing forward, I think it was Brendan Rogers, get in behind him at a critical stage in the game and I said to him after the match, ‘Why didn’t you stop him? You had a chance to stop him 40 yards out? You let him in, they scored a goal’.

“So look, that’s what we all do and that was becoming part of the game and I think these new rules will definitely benefit the forwards and the more offensive play, which is only right.”

Shefflin had been critical of calculated fouling in his role as pundit on the Sunday Game and he reiterated that criticism of his own county’s Huw Lawlor for a foul on Galway’s Niall Burke in last November’s Leinster final.

“It was completely cynical play in that he just yanked the hurl from him and what I didn’t realise until after the event and even from the discussions since, is that that doesn’t even warrant a yellow card so I think that rule needs to be definitely changed.

“It’s happened in a few incidents close to goal where a defender just knows he has to stop his player, come hell or high water. I’m sure the rules [committee] and CCCC will look at it later on this year because you might see an incident or two like that again and you’d imagine there’ll be a lot of noise about it.”

Shefflin said that he didn’t wish at the moment to get involved with intercounty management and was content to develop his skills with the Thomastown club, “where I don’t know many of the players or many of the people around the club et cetera. I don’t know the culture in there so it’s a learning experience.”

Asked whether he felt his Kilkenny teams would have been able to compete with current All-Ireland champions Limerick, he said he believed they’d “fare fairly well, to be honest.

“The one thing we were very good at back then was scoring goals. Limerick seem to be good at not conceding goals so that would be an element. But it’s very hard to say.”

He didn’t, however, believe that Limerick would go on to monopolise All-Ireland hurling in the manner that their Dublin counterparts have done in football.

“No I don’t see the gap as that big. I don’t think they’ll dominate like Dublin. There’s a lot of very good teams around there in the hurling and it’s very competitive.”

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