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'Very frustrated and annoyed' and 'move forward with the rules' - calls for change in ladies football

Dublin boss Mick Bohan and Donegal manager Maxi Curran are among those who have been particularly vocal.

Dublin ladies football manager Mick Bohan.
Dublin ladies football manager Mick Bohan.
Image: John McVitty/INPHO

A WEEKEND WHICH confirmed the TG4 All-Ireland senior championship semi-final pairings, but one which threw up bigger talking points across the ladies football landscape.

Frustration was the main feeling after Dublin’s quarter-final win over Donegal yesterday, managers Mick Bohan and Maxi Curran both giving strong post-match interviews to TG4.

Refereeing inconsistency and the need for rule changes have been topical over the past few weeks.

All-Ireland four-in-a-row winning boss Bohan was vocal on the latter, in particular, after the Sky Blues’ Division 1 league final victory over Cork in June.

“My opinion on it, and I’d say most people are the same now, is the rules aren’t fit for purpose,” he told TG4 at the time.

“The intensity of the women’s game has changed beyond recognition. Now you’ve got a faster, stronger, more mobile athlete, and it’s a massively competitive arena. I genuinely feel that they need to look at that. I don’t think it will change the spectacle.

“I certainly feel the tackle is still ambiguous at best, and that’s right across the board. That’s not a go at referees, ultimately they’re the rules. We did it in other sports; in rugby the rules had to be adjusted with the game changing and I think we need to do it in the women’s game.”

Speaking to reporters that same night in Croke Park, he added: “I’m finding it difficult at the moment. The game has moved on, it has become a more physical contest because the girls are better conditioned and it’s played at a higher intensity.

“I’m probably a bit frustrated because we’re genuinely going after really good work in the tackle and I don’t know… we seem to be getting pulled for it at the minute. We just have to go and look at it all over again.”

Before yesterday’s quarter-final, that discussion continued on TG4 with serial Cork All-Ireland winners Rena Buckley and Rhona Ni Bhuachalla airing their thoughts.

Buckley welcomed Bohan’s opinion and spoke about the remarkable work Dublin have done in terms of strength and conditioning. “At the same time, I have to say that the rules are there for every team and I like the game we have in ladies football,” she added.

“The emphasis is on the speed and skill. In men’s football maybe more emphasis is on physicality. Our game is an excellent one.”

Hesitant to delve into major rule changes, the legendary dual star suggested that the wording “minimal contact”, like that brought in by the Camogie Association recently, may work.

Ni Bhuachalla wholeheartedly agreed, though was particularly frustrated by refereeing inconsistencies; the “charging” rule one appearing to be particularly subjective of late.

maxi-curran Maxi Curran (left) on the line yesterday. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

After the game, which Dublin won on a scoreline of 2-12 to 2-7, Donegal boss Curran’s frustration shone through.

“We’re bitterly disappointed but we’re also very frustrated and very annoyed by the way the game is being reffed at the minute,” he told presenter Máire Ní Bhraonáin.

“It’s impossible for us to build up the field because we’re just fouled time after time after time. The amount of fouls that were committed, advantage given, and players not ticked… the free count out there is outrageously against us and that’s very disappointing.

“We were beaten by a better team on the day but that doesn’t help matters and it’s something the LGFA have got to get a handle on because it’s just getting ridiculous at this stage.”

He continued: “Look, I’m not blaming the referee by any stretch of the imagination. Dublin are a brilliant team and they were better than us today, but it’s just ridiculous.

“Every day it’s so different. Referees are all reffing it [differently]. Last week there were five closed-fist challenges that weren’t given frees for, this week there’s fouls for everything. The inconsistency is really frustrating, it makes it very hard for the game to be coached in a consistent manner.

“But that’s not taking anything away from Dublin, they’re a brilliant team, they fully deserved the victory, and we just have to hold our hands up and admit that.”

Curran, who has been in charge of Donegal since 2018, added that “today just proved that it’s profitable to foul”, given Dublin had just one player sin-binned for persistent fouling in Martha Byrne towards the end.

Bohan, meanwhile, echoed his previous sentiments on the need for change after sharing his disappointment in Dublin’s “very sloppy” overall performance.

“I’m the same as everybody else, you come to a game and you want entertainment,” the Clontarf clubman said. “If the game is getting constantly blown up for contact, it definitely takes from the competition.

“The reality is I think we have to move forward with the rules. You look at the two teams today, they’re extremely well conditioned, they’re definitely made for a lot more contact than they were — and that’s no disrespect to anybody — but you can’t ask them to do the amount of training that they’re doing between gym and field and then not allow them to have any contact.

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“It’s nearly got to a stage where if there’s contact, it’s blown up one way or the other. It’s a very difficult job for officials because they don’t know which way to blow it. You’re on the sideline wondering which way is it going to go on any particular occasion.

“And it does take from the game. It’s a fabulous sport, fabulous for viewers at home when the game is let run and we all want to see it run. Sometimes that falls for you and sometimes it falls against.”

A tweet posted by this writer afterwards led to more discussion between those involved in the game, from current and former players to managers, fans and journalists.

Ex-Waterford star Michelle Ryan agreed with Bohan, adding: “The idea of ‘non-contact’ has to be outdated at this stage and it’s resulting in frustrating pernickety decisions that have a big impact on the flow of play.”

“Totally agree with the frustration,” Limerick manager Donal Ryan wrote.

“At our last game, the ref informed me before the game that every foul was a ticking including when he gave advantage, ‘take it that I will record her number’. When did the rules change and why wasn’t I informed of such rule changes?”

And former Mayo boss Peter Leahy replied: “The problem with rule changes is they don’t come from coaches or managers of people involved in the game, they come from people who don’t know the coaching of a tackle or the coaching of anything.

“So don’t hold your breath that you can have practical change.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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