GAA Football

GAA doesn't have a proper rulebook, says former Derry midfielder PJ McCloskey

Former Derry midfielder PJ McCloskey suffered a horrific leg break in a club league hurling game last July. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

FORMER Derry midfielder PJ McCloskey has called for more stringent disciplinary procedures within the GAA after suffering a broken leg that could potentially end his playing days.

The Banagher man’s career has been riddled by injury but he is best remembered for his man of the match display against Down in an All-Ireland Qualifier in 2013 – which turned out to be his final game in the red and white after he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury towards the end.

Despite staying on the Oak Leaf panel while attempting a recovery over the 18 months that followed, he was only able to play a handful of club games before taking a year out of sport completely in 2016.

He re-joined his club’s senior hurling squad in 2017 but had his leg broken in more than 10 places in an incident during a league game against Ballinascreen on July 28 last year.

It left him in a full-leg cast for eight weeks, during which time he had to temporarily move back home from London to his parents’ house in Feeny, when he was only out of bed twice a day to eat and needed assistance getting out.

His right foot has only recently been removed from a protective boot and having initially opted against an operation in favour of hoping it would heal naturally, there is still the prospect that the leg will have to be broken again to reset if it has not.

The opponent responsible for his injury was cited in the report by the match referee and was initially given an eight-week ban, which was changed to eight games after an appeal.

He had been sent off during a prior meeting of the clubs 21 days previously and given a one-match ban.

While McCloskey says the best-case scenario is that his leg will heal sufficiently to allow him to play for the club again, the 32-year-old still remains in the dark as to how his quality of life will be affected once the bone has healed fully.

He feels that, in general terms of GAA cases involving on-field striking, the level of punishment is not in keeping with the crime.

“There’s no consequence for striking people. A one-game ban is almost encouraging people to strike out.

“That’s the type of culture we’re in and I think it’s because the administration isn’t right. There’s no consequences for your actions and there aren’t proper disciplinary procedures. You don’t have a proper rulebook.

“The downside is very little and the risks are very slight. That’d be one hard thing to take.

“I feel sorry for referees because even if they implement the rules, the only thing they can really do is give a red card.

“Who would want to try and do the job referees are trying to do? They don’t have justice in their hands – all they have is an out-of-date rulebook, a black card, a yellow card and a red card.

“None of those are that scary, and the consequence of the discipline that comes afterwards is very slight.

“You’re not scared of the referee or a red card and that’s because there are no consequences.

“It was me this year, it could be somebody else next year and a whole lot worse. Even a punch is a very dangerous thing. How long is it before somebody gets punched in the head and goes down for good?”

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