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Farcical Hurling Rule Will Lead To Cynical Play

Sean Cremin discusses the GAA’s new ruling which has outlawed the striking technique made famous by Cork’s Anthony Nash.

Only a matter of hours after publishing an article on the potential rule change regarding twenty-metre frees and penalties in hurling, , the G.A.A launched its press release which included a new ruling . The ‘Anthony Nash rule’ has now been altered.

The rule now states that a free must be struck from on or before the twenty metre line. The furthest the ball can be placed is seven metres back from the twenty metre line and all players must stay on the line and cannot move until the ball has been struck, not lifted. The main positive is the clarification of the rule, but a closer look shows that not everything is correct with this rule change.

As was previously stated, something had to be done. It was an accident waiting to happen and not just from the point of view of Anthony Nash. A trip to any club in Ireland will show young people with hurleys in their hands practising the ‘Nash technique’. The reality was that there was a major safety issue and it probably was only a matter of time before a serious injury of some sort was reported.

Many serious injuries can occur by total accident on a hurling pitch but the Nash scenario was more dangerous than most. He did nothing wrong within the rules of the game and perfected an extremely difficult skill that many others had tried before him. In certain ways, he was a victim of his own success as his incredible technique was too close to the borders of safety.

An example was most definitely made of him because he can strike the ball harder than most. No other player received as much scrutiny as Anthony Nash, despite numerous players trying to replicate his technique.

Players were now beginning to take the law into their own hands. Stephen O’Keefe and Patrick Kelly decided to rush out and charge down Anthony Nash. Clare put thirteen players on the line to try to limit the possibility of conceding. As Jimmy Barry-Murphy said the whole thing had become a ‘circus’, which was clearly evident in the replay between Cork and Waterford.

The shemozzle that occurred after the penalty was surely a sign of things to come and the whole thing had to be cleared up. The GAA have moved quickly to act, but no matter what anybody says, there is an awful lot wrong with this new rule.

The definition of a free or penalty is what needs to be taken into account here. Whatever about the rules on how a free or penalty is taken, what is a free or what is a penalty? Type penalty into Google and we see the following definitions;

“A punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule or contract”, and in sporting terms “a handicap imposed on a player or team for infringement of rules.”

The exact same can be said for defining a free. So a free or a penalty is a “punishment”. In the case of hurling, the defending team is being punished for fouling the attacking team and preventing them from scoring. The reward to the attacking team is a free shot at goal. Sounds simple, but this new rule does not cover this definition at all.

The new rule is a joke and there is no lesser word that can be used to describe it. Last summer, we saw football dominated by talk of cynical fouling. We all remember Joe Brolly’s scathing attack on Sean Cavanagh when he pulled Conor McManus to the floor to prevent him from scoring a goal.

The black card was brought in to try to help this and while it has been a success to an extent, it has not gone without controversy. Hurling had been relatively safe from that kind of talk until now. One would be absolutely shocked if this summer’s hurling fails to be dominated by talk of ‘cynical play’ and ‘cynical fouling’ and it will all be a result of this rule change.

Why will hurling become cynical? Because there is a lack of  “punishment” now in giving away a free or a penalty. Again, not trying to sound like a broken record, but a free is there to punish a foul and this new rule will actually be a reward to the defending team.

Anthony Nash may still score goals from frees due to his unbelievably powerful shot but the majority of other players will struggle to score from twenty metres with at least three people in the goal. Three players should have no problem saving a shot from twenty metres.

GAA goals are not that big, as was shown by moving football penalties in from fourteen metres to eleven metres and now the opposite has occurred in hurling. They have made scoring goals from frees harder all because of Anthony Nash. This is not right.

If any attacking player is in a goal scoring position, he will be fouled. That is what any good or clever defender would do under this new rule. If there is a player about to shoot from ten to twelve yards out, pull him down and let them have a free shot from twenty metres. They are being pushed further out and there will be at least three on the line. There is no way that three players should allow a shot to pass them from twenty metres, and anybody who has played as a goalkeeper before will testify to that.

The advantage is now with the defending team as opposed to the attacking team and the whole concept of a free or a penalty is not being followed.

The idea of the rule is fine, but allowing the surplus players to remain inside in the goal is just crazy. A penalty should be made easier for attackers if anything and not more difficult.

Yes, the previous bending of the rules was too dangerous, but the rule should have been altered in a far better way. Hurling defenders will now foul at almost every opportunity and it would not surprise this writer if we saw the introduction of the black card in hurling if the rule remains the same.

The game of hurling is fine. It is not far off another example of football referees influencing a game they have never played. This writer would honestly question the knowledge of anybody who expects a player to score from twenty metres having to get a sliotar past at least three players.

The suits who made the rule must not have stood anywhere near a hurling goal before in their lives; it is a complete joke.

Prepare for a big change hurling fans, and not a good one. Who will be the first man to commit a professional foul to prevent a clear goal and be attacked by a studio panellist? We may find out as soon as Saturday.

Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.