PERSISTENCE proved to be the key for Clarecastle’s motion to establish a committee to review the enforcement of the rules, in particular in relation to ‘striking with hurley, either with force or causing injury’ and the gravity of the offence in relation to suspensions.
Clarecastle delegate John Callinan outlined his club’s concern about the implementation of the rules in relation to suspensions which opened up a 40 minute debate from the ﬂoor, the longest of the night.
“We are not criticising the Disciplinary Committee in any way, we are merely requesting that a review be put in place on the enforcement of the rules that exist, particularly relating to Category III infractions and arising from that, a review and clear guidelines could be established.
“Our particular concern is the offence of striking with the hurley either with force or causing injury. The minimum suspension is eight weeks and you may be also aware of the gravity clause which says that ‘where a minimum suspension is prescribed in relation to an Infraction, the Coun- cil or Committee-in-Charge shall have due regard for the gravity of the Infraction in each case and where appropriate should impose a longer term of suspension.’
“If you go to the back of the AGM booklet, there is a section on offences and suspensions. I think there are 21 suspensions relating to striking with the hurley using minimum force. All received the minimum four weeks. There are ﬁve suspensions under striking with the hurley using force or causing injury and all ﬁve received the minimum suspension of eight weeks.
“We are not saying that the committee has acted in any unfair, impartial or unjust way. Having regard for the gravity provision, it is strange, is all we can say, that each of the ﬁve situations merited the exact same suspension in each particular case. The minimum.
“Does one size ﬁt all?”
Initially, Chairman Michael O’Neill requested that the motion be put forward to congress for a change of rule but after repeated clariﬁcation from Clarecastle delegate Callinan that the club were not looking for a rule change, the debate was opened up to the ﬂoor.
County Secretary Pat Fitzgerald considered it a matter for the referees to indicate the severity of the offence in their reports; Ger Hoey, Referee Administrator Coiste an Chlair told the meeting that referees are instructed from national level to report per rulebook, full stop. ‘You don’t go any further, you don’t go any less.’
Fellow referee and Ruan delegate Ger Lyons suggested it needed a change of protocol from Croke Park while Sixmilebridge delegate PJ Fitzpatrick backed Clarecastle’s proposal.
“I think what John [Callinan] is saying is that the minimum suspension has automatically become the maximum suspension and that there is a huge difference.
“We have a duty to our games. There is no justice whereby you see a player who sustains an injury from a deliberate blow from a hurley who is out of the game twice as long as the suspension issued to the person who administered the injury.”
The debate raged on with Chairman O’Neill sticking to his guns on the matter. “We can put the committee is place but I don’t know if there is a whole lot we can do about it unless we bring it to Croke Park, that’s my assertion of it.
“In principal the motion will be carried but in this case, the motion means nothing. The rule is the rule.”
However, the intervention of Coroﬁn delegate and referee Ambrose Heagney proved crucial in the debate. “I’m a bit bafﬂed at this. Maybe I’m a very fortunate in that I never refereed a game with an incident like this. But if I came across an incident where some hurler was struck intentionally, by God, in my report it would be seriously underlined. I just wouldn’t quote the rule, I would go a long way more than quoting the rule.
“This is very serious that if a guy can strike down another guy, that he would get the minimum suspension. I think that the referee has to put in his report that this was a bloody serious offence and put in a few words along with it. It doesn’t take a lot and I don’t think you will leave yourself wide open by doing so.”
Further additions from Clarecastle delegate Neville O’Halloran that the term ‘this is a serious strike’ was used in one referee’s report this year and the offender still got the minimum suspension added more fuel to the ﬁre while PJ Fitzpatrick rounded off the discourse with a ﬁnal plea.
“You can see from the discussion that it has opened up options and what Ambrose [Heagney] has said there has given some clarity to the situation as well.
“If a committee was set up to discuss something that is a cause of grave concern, surely it must do some good and it might be a system of clarifying issues for referees, the disciplinary committee, club managers or club ofﬁcers.”
With no opposition, Chairman O’Neill ﬁnally granted the motion.
“Just to ﬁnalise it, I would be prepared to put a committee in place.
“This was a merited discussion because if our games are getting nasty and getting dirty, the message should go out there that we will be stringent with the rules but we can only be stringent with the rules as they stand. So a three person committee in conjunction with myself and possibly a representative of the referees will sit down and see if we can work around this obstacle that is there at the moment.”