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king's speech Cynical foul rule missed a trick – it doesn’t go far enough, insists Shefflin

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Former Kilkenny star 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 and which puts the club as the core. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Former Kilkenny star 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 and which puts the club as the core. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Former Kilkenny star 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 and which puts the club as the core. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Hurling has been on quite the journey. At Congress last year, 82pc of delegates voted against introducing a black card into the game. Just 12 months on, and after a groundswell of opinion from respected hurling figures, much sterner sanctions for cynical play made it through.

And now Kilkenny great Henry Shefflin has taken another step and suggested that the new sanction doesn’t go far enough. In effect, he feels the rule-makers have missed a trick.

The rule, which will be trialled during the 2021 season, lists as cynical fouls the pulling down of an opponent, using the hurl in a careless manner, and to trip an opponent with either hands, arm, leg, foot, or hurl. Any such foul inside the 20-metre line or semi-circle arc will result in a penalty and the sin-binning of the offending player.

However, referencing Huw Lawlor’s pull on Niall Burke’s hurl last year, Shefflin pointed out that not all cynical fouls are covered under the new regulations.

“I’m all for it,” he said, as a player pathway initiative across the Gaelic Football, Hurling, Ladies Football and Camogie was launched yesterday.

“Did it go far enough? Probably not. If you think back to the Huw Lawlor incident last year in the Leinster final where he ripped the hurl off (Niall Burke), I think it was, and I think with Danny Sutcliffe (when he tripped Laois’ Paddy Purcell) last year, there’s a couple of incidents that are always going to come up like that but I think it’ll be interesting to see.”

Cynical play had become the norm. Shefflin admitted that in his time in charge of Ballyhale he expected his players to make tackles that would prevent goals.

“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, who got 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. I think these new rules will definitely benefit the forwards and the more offensive play which is only right.”

Shefflin insisted he has no interest in inter-county management at this stage as he prepares to take charge of Kilkenny intermediate side Thomastown whenever they get the green light to return. Given his standing and achievements, it’s inevitable that he will be linked to the Kilkenny job when it next becomes available. However, he believes that it was vital that Brian Cody remained in charge of Kilkenny despite speculation about whether he’d continue for a 23rd season in 2021.

“I think it’s more a testament of the character of Brian that that kind of conversation has happened and yet in the midst of a pandemic where it must be very, very difficult for inter-county managers and inter-county teams that Brian hasn’t said, ‘Look, I’ve done so much, I can’t do any more.’ I think it’s a testament to the character of the man that he hasn’t done that ... no matter what happens for any inter-county team to think of a manager steps away in this current climate, it’s going to leave it in a very vulnerable position for a new manager coming in and I think Brian would never do that because everything he does is always about Kilkenny hurling so I’m absolutely delighted he’s still there.

“When we think back, obviously there was major disappointment after the Waterford match but we were still, what was it, eight or nine points up just before half-time in an All-Ireland semi-final and if we’d have managed that second half a bit better we’d have been in an All-Ireland final.

“We were in the All-Ireland final the previous year so they’ve been very, very close to it so I think on those two fronts I’m delighted that Brian is still staying and hopefully that bit of improvement will come on.”

Shefflin agrees that Limerick are the best team around just now but doesn’t think there’s a huge gap between them and the chasing pack and disagrees with Ciarán Carey’s assertion that they can dominate the hurling landscape like Dublin 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.

“Any of the matches they’ve played in, the Clare match they won well at the start of the championship but the rest of the matches were somewhat competitive and all it needs is an
off-day. We seen it the year previously with Kilkenny turning them over in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“So I don’t see that level of dominance. Do I see them picking up another couple of All-Irelands over the next few years? Absolutely. But I do not see them dominating.”

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