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'Why are we now in crisis?' - hurling in spotlight over frees and black card proposal

Davy Fitzgerald on the current state of hurling and the big rule changes at Congress this weekend.

Davy Fitzgerald with his Wexford players
Davy Fitzgerald with his Wexford players
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

DAVY FITZGERALD ENDED up in the winning dressing-room in Croke Park last Saturday night yet the result could not mask his sense of frustration over the game that unfolded.

Wexford and Dublin was a game punctuated by frees, a similar pattern on show the following day as Cork and Limerick faced off.

The rising free counts were a hot topic after the weekend’s hurling league ties. The lack of flow to the matches irritates Fitzgerald, who also revealed to Wexford will be appealing the red card shown to forward Conor McDonald.

While he has sympathy for referees, he believes the free counts are a wider issue that need to be tackled.

“Whether I won or lost on Saturday I promise you my demeanour and attitude would have been the exact same. Frustration is a big thing and I’m not going to put it towards Johnny Murphy as such because I think there was another game or two that was the exact same.

“And if you really look at it, like you could blow frees non stop, if you were really technical about the exact rule you could blow non stop. It was definitely as frustrating a night as I have had and I don’t think you can justify 50 frees in a game either.

johnny-murphy-shows-conor-mcdonald-a-red-card Referee Johnny Murphy shows Conor McDonald a red card in Croke Park last Saturday. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“If you think of one of the games of the championship it was us versus Kilkenny toe to toe down here and it was one of the best games. I’d say the free count was barely into double figures yet I don’t think Fergal got a game afterwards. But I think we have an amazing game that when it is flowing it is incredible.

“I felt that night on both sides he was balanced and that he tried to let the game go and to me I love that. The Munster championship two years ago and the Leinster championship last year, I think they were phenomenal so why are we now in crisis?

“I love watching hurling games, I love going to them. I just want to see players being able to play and if it’s on the edge, maybe give the benefit of the doubt to the players on the edge. But let’s not be blowing, like hurling is a manly game, good tackles and it’ll be bordering on the edge, that’s why we’ve the best game in the world.”

The sin bin/black card offence that is set to be debated this weekend is not one the 2013 Clare All-Ireland winning supremo is in favour of.

He feels the GAA need to give sideline officials more responsibility to help with disciplinary matters during games.

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chadwicks-wexford-park-official-launch Davy Fitzgerald at Chadwicks Wexford Park yesterday Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

“I don’t know. I’m not a fan, that’s just my own personal opinion. So they’re saying cynical fouling and stuff like that. My only thing on that is if there’s stuff happening, the sideline fella gets onto the referee, if it needs a yellow or second yellow, let’s deal with it, let’s not bring more cards into it. We have what we have and I’m happy enough with it. I’d like to see sideline officials get more power because it’s very hard for the referee to see every single thing that’s happening right.

I think the sideline guys have more to offer, if they’re focused then because any fella that’s refereeing the game has to be following the ball and there cold be more stuff outside of it. Let the guys that are there help you.

“They’re all referees and if they’re doing their job honestly and fairly, they just call it and that’s it. I think if a fella gets a yellow card, trust me, he won’t want to get a second one. He won’t be holding, he won’t be checking runs. I think we could take that out of it.”

Fitzgerald agrees with Limerick boss John Kiely, who hit out last weekend at the plans to get rid of the maor foirne role.

“Ah, it’s going to be some craic, isn’t it? Seoirse (Bulfin, Wexford maor foirne) might be happy if it’s gone because I know what his GPS covers in a game and it’s fair high but I know against Kilkenny we changed formation four to five times and we had to change different things that we needed.

“I had to get one or two messages in about our style of play that I wanted to change. How am I meant to get that exact message in? They are fairly vital because it changes the way you want to play.

“There is more than ye realise. We change things a lot of the time and Seoirse is vital to that. Even for the Dublin game the other night, there was three or four different things we did that we had to do and only for him I would not have been able to get that message communicated the way we want to.

“My lads are used to that because they know the styles of play and they can just pick it up and they don’t ask the questions.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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