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COMMENT What has been lost in the recent controversy is that the new rule will eventually rid hurling of cynical fouling

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Referee James Owens speaks to Aidan McCarthy of Clare before issuing him with a yellow card and subsequently awarding a penalty to Tipperary during the Munster SHC semi-final last Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Referee James Owens speaks to Aidan McCarthy of Clare before issuing him with a yellow card and subsequently awarding a penalty to Tipperary during the Munster SHC semi-final last Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Clare manager Brian Lohan hasn't had much luck this year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Clare manager Brian Lohan hasn't had much luck this year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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Referee James Owens speaks to Aidan McCarthy of Clare before issuing him with a yellow card and subsequently awarding a penalty to Tipperary during the Munster SHC semi-final last Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Brian Lohan would be forgiven for wondering what he has do to catch a break these days.

For much of the spring the internal bickering within the Clare County GAA Board was repeatedly laid bare in public. It is never a positive sign for any organisation to witness its dirty linen being aired publicly.

Meanwhile, on the field the Clare boss had to cope with a shock defeat by Antrim, though the Ulster’s side subsequent performances in the league cast that loss in a different light.

Come championship time his team was written off. But they held their nerve and pulled off the first shock of Championship 2021, when they dumped last year’s beaten finalists Waterford out of the Munster championship.

In the first half last Sunday they were more than able for Tipperary and the game was turning into a cracker. But it all fell apart when Wexford referee James Owens decided that Aidan McCarthy’s trip on Jake Morris – which happened inside the 20-metre line, but close to the touchline on the stand side of Limerick’s Gaelic Ground – had deprived Tipperary of a goal chance.

So, McCarthy was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes and Tipperary was awarded a penalty, which Jason Forde duly netted. The decision, effectively, sealed Clare’s fate. Once again, they have to salvage their summer through the qualifiers.

Lohan was actually quite restrained in his comments afterwards. The same could not be said about the reaction of some commentators. And we won’t even mention some of what was aired on social media.

The most charitable explanation is that it was an error of judgment by the referee. Listen, we all made mistakes. What about the penalty awarded to England in the semi-final of the Euros against Denmark? So much for VAR.

Whereas I have the utmost sympathy for Lohan and the Clare team, the hurling family have to shoulder much of the blame for how this sin-bin rule saga has played out.

Despite the over whelming empirical evidence Hurling Man refused to accept there was an issue with cynical fouling in hurling.

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Clare manager Brian Lohan hasn't had much luck this year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Clare manager Brian Lohan hasn't had much luck this year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Clare manager Brian Lohan hasn't had much luck this year. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

This reached farcical levels at the 2019 GAA Congress, when delegates debated whether to introduce a black card in hurling.

Antrim GAA Chairman Ciaran McCavana quipped: ‘This motion would be as welcome in Antrim as Joe Brolly on the Sunday Game’.

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The GPA’s Seamus Hickey stated that 89 per cent of county players were against the motion, while former President Sean Kelly referenced the opposition of Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Cody to its introduction.

“We should be slow to introduce something to hurling that isn’t 100 per cent satisfactory in football at the minute. We should take into account the view of the players,” suggested Kelly.

And the delegates certainly did, with a whopping 82 per cent of them voting against the introduction of a black card and/or a sin bin in hurling.

Of course, the problem didn’t disappear just because the delegates pressed ‘No’ on their hand-held devices.

Two high-profile cynical fouls in last year’s All-Ireland final by Limerick’s Declan Hannon and Willian O’Donoghue, which deprived Waterford of goalscoring opportunities, reignited the debate.

The Playing Rules Committee sensed the mood change and proposed a slightly different motion. The sin bin would be retained but the hated black cards would be banished. Instead, players would be shown a yellow card.

Lo and behold the hurling fraternity suddenly embraced what one commentator described as a ‘revivalist fervour about the need to be born again on the subject of calculated fouling’.

In a remarkable volte-face at this year’s remote GAA Congress they voted narrowly to accept the new cynical-foul rule.

Limerick GAA Chairman John Cregan warned his fellow delegates that the decision could have serious consequences down the road. He pointed out the rule was coming into force without first being experimented with, which would have enabled any unexpected flaws to be ironed out.

But he didn’t catch the mood of Congress – and as the old proverb goes ‘you reap what you sow’.

Still, it would be a bigger shame if, as a result of one poor decision, the rule was dropped.

Although it is a much abused term referees need to apply a bit more common sense to how they apply it.

It will eventually rid hurling of cynical fouling. Amid all the recriminations this point has been forgotten.

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