Shane Walsh calls for GAA to look at introducing a TMO

Galway footballer believes cynical fouling a growing issue in the game

Shane Walsh in action for Galway  against Mayo’s Oisín Mullin during the Connacht SFC Final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Shane Walsh in action for Galway against Mayo’s Oisín Mullin during the Connacht SFC Final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Shane Walsh is tiptoeing around the issue when he begins to just say it: cynical fouling is alive and well in Gaelic football, and he has the scars to prove it.

The Galway football captain isn’t hanging the case on his recent experience alone, although his clearly still rankles. It’s not yet three months since his Connacht final effectively ended before half-time when Walsh was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Mayo defender Pádraig O’Hora. Such was the hurt in his shoulder he required a pain-killing injection at half-time, and although he played on, his influence – which had included 1-1 in the first half – was obviously hindered.

“The news after it was that I cracked the bone in the shoulder, and torn ligaments, and there was a lot of bruising around the shoulder,” Walsh says. “So I missed the next eight weeks about. Missed our first club championship game, back for the last two. But my fitness wasn’t where I’d like it to be because I was in a sling for the guts of three or four weeks as well. Not too fond of it. It kind of happens in games too, but frustrating.

“I was trying to get anything to numb the pain in the shoulder to be honest. After the initial incident happened, I thought I was fine. I thought it might be just the bang after I was pulled to the ground. But I kicked a free just after that with my left foot and the shock from the nerves – it sent a trigger up to my right shoulder. Initially I was in agony. I said I’d get to half-time, I was trying then to do anything, said if I could numb it at all, I’ll deal with the repercussions afterwards. That’s the bullish notions you get when you’re in the middle of a game.”

In the end Galway saw their five-point advantage at half-time finish in a six-point defeat. For all the talk of championship structure , Walsh believes another pressing issue is to give more support for referees, whether that’s a Television Match Official (TMO) or Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

“I’d probably be one who would be in favour of a TMO coming into GAA because there is an awful lot of stuff like that going on. For me, it’s very frustrating. Your championship game is taken away from you in a couple of seconds. In fairness, if it happens on the ball, you’re unlucky and it happens. But it wasn’t on the ball.

“There is all this structure talk and rule changes but refs have to deal with all of that, keep the flow of the game and then watching what else is going on around them. It’s difficult for them. I think more help is needed. They just have two eyes.

“Generally speaking, you’re trying to cut out that cynical play in games, it’s happening all the time. On the ball it’s more obvious whereas off-the-ball stuff is hard to spot. But you need to cut that out as well because young kids, they see that now and they replicate everything. You see under-eights and -nines in my own club and they’d nearly be simulating diving because they see soccer players on TV at it, a case of two players going for a ball and rolling on the ground if they don’t win it, holding their face nearly. I’m shocked.”

Croke Park did review the incident with O’Hora, although there wasn’t enough evidence to make a case. Again, Walsh believes a TMO or VAR could have made all the difference: “Probably more so if you look at the rugby version of it, it’s basically citing for something that was missed by the referee in general areas, like probably a serious tackle or something like that.

“Generally you’re probably looking at anything that happens off the ball, you’re probably looking at black card, red card territory rather than just the yellow. I’m not going to cry over spilt milk, that’s not my job. My job is to represent Galway and I’m enjoying that and it’s just a case of the way that happened and the way the cameras were, I don’t know, like I’ve seen it back a couple of times, but I’d have a good recollection of what happened.

“For me, I’m one of those footballers that probably would be playing the game pretty clean in the sense that all you’re thinking of is getting the ball and trying to work it to your team-mates to kick a score and helping out at the back then to not concede a score.

“There’s definitely more of a cynical edge to the game now than there was when I first started off. Maybe that’s Galway’s flaw, I’m not sure, I don’t believe so, but football is there to be played. You can play it hard and fast, but there are certain elements to the game that don’t need to be there.

“I know like [referee] Conor Lane that day didn’t see what happened, that’s all he could say to me, he didn’t see what happened, it was missed. So it was a case I was left, obviously very frustrated, thinking of player welfare and all that. At the end of the say if you get away with something it’s not ideal, and that’s essentially what happened.”

On the possible championship restructure, Walsh is equally adamant the time is ripe: “It definitely is, you can hear the rumble amongst players, everyone wants probably the same thing, and that’s more games. That is why Proposal B probably will hopefully get approved for a trial period at least, go from there.”

– Shane Walsh was speaking at the launch of John West Féile 2021 at Croke Park, with 50th anniversary events taking place at Croke Park and Thurles over Halloween.

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