These new disciplinary rules can’t last

Despite Nickey Brennan’s protestations to the contrary (which, I thought, had an air of The Lady’s Not for Turning about them), I can’t see how the new disciplinary rules can last in anything like their current form. Sure, the rules will probably remain in place until the end of the NFL – it wouldn’t be the first time they fucked up an entire league campaign with a laboratory experiment in this area – but there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that they’ll form part of the disciplinary code come championship time.

Think about it: there were 80 yellow cards issued at the weekend in 24 matches involving a starting total of 720 players.  That’s a strike rate of a bit over 11% in terms of dismissals, many of which – to take Peadar Gardiner’s shirt-tugging example – were for very trivial infractions.  I dunno about the rest of you but that kind of statistic for sendings-off strikes me as overkill on steroids and, on this basis, the league is going to be great crack entirely if these rules remain in place.

As an example of this, instead of using subs tactically (with the timing for the introduction of replacements now more the job of the ref than it is of the manager), the lads on the sideline have a clear incentive to match their least useful players against the strongest performers on the opposite side and give them orders to get into a yellow card tango with high-profile opponents.  What’s the best tactic for stopping Sean Cavanagh steaming at you? How do you prevent Gooch from scoring?  The man in black with his yellow card is the best option by far.

It’s difficult at this early point of the year to see what, if any, part of the new disciplinary rules will survive the vote in Congress in April.  But we know from previous years that crackdowns in this area, which start with cards being issued left, right and centre in the early weeks of the inter-county season, rarely persist into the summer.  This is a pity because persistent fouling is a problem and, as things currently stand, it’s one which – as Tyrone’s utterly cynical approach showed so clearly last year – can bring enormous rewards for counties who choose to play this way in the increasingly professional manner that they do.

There could, however, be an easier way to stop them. Derry’s Damien Cassidy makes the very valid point that the the new rules are only adding an unnecessary layer of complication to the task of imposing discipline and that the best way to stop serial offenders is to hit them with match bans.  I think he’s right.  Two or three yellows over the course of the league (or championship) should mean that you miss the next match, even if it’s the All-Ireland final.  Two yellows in a single match should also mean not just dismissal from the field but a one-match suspension as well.

Such an approach would come down like a ton of bricks on players and teams who rely excessively on brawn and it would do so without having the ridiculous side effect of decimating teams, which, in numerical terms, is exactly what happened last weekend. As a laboratory experiment, match bans have got to be worth a try and it would surely be much more worthwhile road-testing a regime like this between now and April instead of destroying another league campaign effectively re-running a set of disciplinary rules which we already know from 2005 won’t work and which the GAA quite obviously won’t have the stomach to implement for the championship.

5 thoughts on “These new disciplinary rules can’t last

  1. Agreed Willie Joe.Indeed its time to get those boys who hear no evil or see no evil to earn their corn as well i.e the umpires who just stand there while two opponents knock lumps out of each other. Linesmen and umpires have to be empowered to aid the ref and become more proactive to the real thuggery, not the micky mouse stuff where some misfortunate steps a centimetre over the square line with a puck out. Talking of same, how come a step out of the square with a puck out is punished with a 65 but when you get a line ball most, 90% are taken a good old fashioned yard inside the pitch. Also the free from the hands is a joke, its down to a fine art by some practicioners. A twenty one yard free out near the side line becomes almost a fourteen yard free when the cute taker has eaten up all the steps and even then some clowns still miss them…aaaghhh!

  2. Disciplinary action needs to be a balance between punishing the individual and also imposing a sanction on his team. If an individual player keeps committing fouls and his team suffers as a result, the discipline will come from within the squad too.

    This new yellow card rule is open to abuse. A cynical manager can start his team with a contingent of hard chaws, and he knows that if one or more get yellow cards, he still has a full compliment of players on the field. Similarly, it can lead to increased incidents of sledging, as one player will try to wind up a more skillful opponent with a view to goading him into lashing out and getting a yellow.

    The GAA should look at other codes to see how they approach this issue. It seems that every time they try to sort it out, they end up trying to re-invent the wheel.

  3. That’s true, TJ, and you get the feeling that they’re trying to re-invent the wheel just to show that they’re not following what happens in other codes …

  4. Good comment by ontheroad there, the umpires have a lot to answer for- I remember someone asking Paidi would he favour another ref being brough in and he (wisely) replied if six men and a ref can’t maintain order in a match then throw your hat at it.
    There is a culture of acceptance for cynical, dirty play, excusing and even lauding it as being pragmatic and cute, and changing this is a massive task- one for which there is only lukewarm enthusiasm in many quarters.

  5. I keep saying it but the Gaa could learn a lot from their rugby counterparts. The referring of rugby is excellent…there are effectively 3 refs on the pitch. Only the captain is permitted to question a decision which cuts out all the bull. But no, the GAA want to do things there own complicated way.

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