Hurling to be spared major revision of playing rules

GAA president Liam O’Neill says message from hurling managers is ‘leave the game alone’


Hurling won’t be subjected to any debate on changes to playing or disciplinary rules similar to those now agreed for football, according to GAA president Liam O’Neill – for fear it ends up being a talking shop.

In his first response to some of the negative reaction to football’s new black card agreed at GAA Congress last month, O’Neill has also said that it “does amaze me”, and actually predicts a cleaner, less cynical championship this summer, even before the black card comes into effect from the start of next year.

With the Football Review Committee (FRC) now preparing for the second phase of its original brief, this time looking at football competition structures, the prospects of hurling undergoing a similar review in the near future appear to be slim, simply because the appetite for any change does not seem to be there.

“Well I’d be delighted to talk about hurling, any time,” says O’Neill. “But there’s no point in talking, if we’re not going to do anything. And I don’t know if that is desired.

“Because there was a very definite message given to us from hurling managers over the last 12 months, and that message was to leave the game alone.”

O’Neill qualified that comment by adding that “managers aren’t always the best people to listen to” and ultimately the appetite for any changes in hurling would have to come from the full broad base, and be implemented on that basis too.

Only system
“Because we deal with counties. That’s the only system we can deal with. If people want to discuss hurling then I would be delighted to facilitate that. But I would also want to know the level of buy in, if that request ever comes. And you can’t talk about it in isolation either. I would love the top teams to talk about hurling as an entity, and how we play it across the 32 counties, and including London, New York, and so on. Because you have to consider how it would affect everybody else.”

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has stated his willingness to engage in any debate on the state of hurling, although O’Neill concedes there isn’t anything like the concern about cynical fouling which prompted the FRC to propose football’s black card in the first place: “I also think a huge effort has been made to improve the standard of refereeing, what constitutes fouls, and I think last year’s championship proved that.”

What is certain is any further rule changes in either football or hurling will always be made across the board, despite some recent claims – including from former Dublin footballer Ciaran Whelan – that the GAA has come to the stage where it needs to look at having a different set of rules for the county game and the club game, such are the complexities of some of the changes made by the FRC.

“Absolutely not,” he says. “The day we make a separate set of rules for the county and club is not a day I would like to see. Because the club has always been our strongest focus, always will be, so what is played at club level must always be what is played at county level. I would feel very strongly about that.”

Black card
He also dismissed the fears or concerns that the black card won’t be as easily implemented in football as the FRC claimed, nor indeed serve its purpose.

“Well that does amaze me. Now, if all this was happening tomorrow I would understand the worry. But we have a full eight months before any of this comes into effect. So players will have had plenty of advance notice on all this, and what exactly will result in a black card, such as deliberately throwing a player to the ground. And I would see those fouls easing out during the year anyway, that this will start to play on people’s minds already.”

O’Neill was speaking at the announcement of the GAA’s five nominated charities for 2013 – each of whom received a cheque for €20,000 (in the past the GAA only selected two charities, and presented them with €50,000 each): “We think this is still a very a reasonable shot in the arm for any organisation,” says O’Neill. “It’s not a question of throwing out money either.”

The five selected charities are Fighting Blindness (an Irish charity that funds world-leading research into treatments and cures for blindness), the Edmund Rice Beyond 250 Appeal (which brings the international Edmund Rice community from Ireland to India, Africa to Australia, in order to raise funds to empower the poor and give a voice to the vulnerable), Our Lady’s Children Hospital Crumlin (the Orthopaedic Unit), the Laois Hospice (to provide a palliative care service for cancer patients), and Liam’s Lodge (a special fund to help combat the extremely rare and fatal Batten Disease).