Following Barry Kelly’s ‘performance’ on Sunday I got to thinking (again) about something which has crossed my mind a fair bit over the last few years …. That for a long time now the game of hurling has been poorly reffed.
I have watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) many games in recent years – but sometimes it seems like the ref has lost his whistle. I think a culture has developed in hurling where the ref will only blow for a foul if someone is almost killed (a bit like a Dublin footballer trying to get a free). It seems it has become disrespectful to the religion of hurling to stop the game for a free. The ref has become part of the machismo – ah get up you only lost a finger type thing – sometimes players even seem afraid to be awarded a free. It’s like soccer turned on its head. The likes of Brian Gavin (who didn’t even blow the whistle when he got split) seem to be challenging the players ‘jaysus do you expect a free for that?’ So this style of refereeing has been lauded – ah he’s great, keeps the game flowing etc – and now everyone is reffing that way.
I think Kilkenny were the first team that realised the boundaries could be pushed … and pushed , and pushed … and they pushed them. The aura of the Cats and a great deal of pressure exerted from the line too saw them assume a Ferguson like hold on officials. How dare you penalise our team kind of thing. Now I would say you could count 25+ fouls almost every game that are not given.
For a long time now hurling has been reffed with as much observation of the rules as a bare knuckle brawl in Rathkeale. As long as the game flows and nobody gets killed or badly injured then the rules are that there are no rules except to blow that whistle as little as possible.
Nobody wants a free every ten seconds but maybe things are gone too far the other way and a few whistle happy games might bring the rule book back into play. Or maybe the macho small ball aficionados like things just the way they are ….