Former County Board chairperson and outgoing national GAA Trustee John Costigan backed the cynical play motion at Congress. Photo: Eamonn McGee

Cynical fouling to be penalised severely

Cynical play in both hurling and football will be harshly penalised in this year’s inter-county league and championship after GAA Congress voted to introduce a one-year trial to try and stamp out the growing blight on the games.

By Shane Brophy

61% of delegates to Saturday’s online Congress voted to introduce a penalty shot for deliberate fouls both inside the semi-circle and the 21-yard line, along with a yellow card which will see the offender sent to ten minutes in the sin-bin. The same perametres will also apply to football where the black card will lead to ten minutes in the bin as has been the case.

The motion was passed despite a number of hurling counties, including Tipperary, voting against it, as they looked to defer the motion to Special Congress to tease it out further.

“We felt that it would put an awful lot of pressure on referees to decide what was a genuine goal-scoring opportunity,” revealed Tipperary chairperson Joe Kennedy.

“Secondly, you could be out by the sideline and inside the 21-yard line and they would have been our major concerns. Some people thought it was a double penalty, to give a penalty and a sin-bin.”

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) along with Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny and Westmeath were against the motion, while Cork, Wexford, Waterford, Offaly and Kildare spoke in favour bringing in stiffer measures to deal with cynical play, as did former Tipperary Bounty Board chairperson John Costigan, in his role as GAA trustee.

“If the level of cynicism that we saw creeping into the game of hurling over the past championship was to continue for another twelve months, I shudder to think what the situation will be if it was not addressed,” he said.

“We are the custodians of the greatest field game of them all, hurling, and it is incumbent on us to preserve the integrity of our game which comprises of excellent score-getting and excellent defending. We are all taken aback when we see a great score but to me the art of defending properly is as important as scoring.”

Proposing the motion, former inter-county referee Willie Barrett, a member of the GAA’s standing committee on playing rules, highlighted a number of cases of deliberate fouling in the 2020 championship, which “had a direct impact on the result,” which were put together in a video package, including the deliberate pull down of Seamus Callanan by a Galway defender in the dying minutes of the All-Ireland quarter final.

The definition of a goal-scoring opportunity is now described as:

- Location and number of defenders: not more than one defender in a straight line between the foul and the goal, not counting the defender who committed the foul.

- Distance between the offence and the goal: Between the 20m line and the semi-circle arc, the closer the offence is to the goal the more likely it is to be a goal-scoring opportunity.

- Likelihood of gaining control of the ball: The attacker must have been close enough to the ball and the time of the foul to continue playing the ball

- General direction of play: The attacker must be moving towards the ball at the time the foul is committed.

“This experiment aims to ensure that skill and fair play,” Willie Barrett added.

“A penalty kick or penalty puck is a necessary aspect of the proposal as if someone is denied by cynical play, a sin-bin alone would not be sufficient in our view to prevent such instances of cynical fouling, particularly late in games.

“I am confident referees will apply the definition of this rule consistently in hurling and football in 2021."

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