GAA Football

McManus backs new cynicism penalty - and use of pitch-side monitors

Neil McManus in action for Antrim against Offaly last year. Picture by Seamus Loughran

ANTRIM star Neil McManus has backed the proposed introduction of a penalty for denying a goalscoring opportunity – and believes the use of pitch-side monitors would greatly aid referees in properly applying any new rules.

The long-running debate over how hurling has dealt with cynical play in recent years finally threatened to overwhelm the game in 2020 after a series of high-profile incidents.

A motion will go before Annual Congress later this month as part of a dual-code effort to cleanse deliberate attempts to deny goalscoring opportunities.

The Standing Committee for Playing Rules is proposing that any aggressive or cynical fouls that deny a goalscoring opportunity be punished by a penalty, as well as a potential 10-minute sin-bin for the offender.

McManus is a fan of the introduction of a penalty but not as keen on the black card element, which he feels has failed in football.

“I am a fan of the penalty, I must say. I think the main thing in it is that punishment incurred must match the opportunity that was had.

“I think whenever the penalty will be a direct replacement for a goalscoring opportunity, that’s right.

“I don’t think the black card works at all, I’m glad football trialled that for us. I think a penalty is the right way to go.

“I’d be happy enough that the referee decides but I think it’s a huge responsibility to place on the referee, which is tough, especially at club level.”

The idea is set to be implemented, effectively in the form of a trial, for the 2021 championships, although the idea of pushing the debate back to a Special Congress in September, thereby delaying its implementation, has been mooted.

Soccer has gone down the road of Video Assistant Reviews (VAR) in order to help referees reach the correct decision as often as possible.

While it has been far from a smooth transition into the use of video technology, McManus feels that the GAA could look at introducing pitchside monitors that would allow referees to best analyse whether a clear goalscoring opportunity had been denied.

“Each one will have to be viewed on its merits. Say we play Clare this year in the National League, and if Tony Kelly has broken the 50’, you might be inclined to pull him down whereas if it’s somebody else, you might be happy enough to follow alongside them and take a chance you’ll get the ball off them.

“I think a pitchside monitor would be a good idea. Is that something that could be rolled out to clubs? Maybe not.

“The penalty must fit the crime, so they’ve got that bit right. You’re replacing a goalscoring opportunity with another goalscoring opportunity, so they’ve got that bang on.

“The second bit is the criteria on which a penalty would be awarded and how you assess whether it was a goalscoring opportunity. They need to get that right and give the referees really good guidance. Sometimes it is hard to know.

“The monitor is a good idea. Given a chance to review something for a second time on a monitor, referees will get it right. That should maybe be the one case where they do go to the monitor, only to review possibly goalscoring opportunities.”

The Cushendall man is in no doubt that some type of remedy is needed, having seen the rise of cynical incidents during the 2020 championship.

Pointing to the example of Adrian Tuohy’s late drag-down on Seamus Callanan that denied Tipperary a late chance in their narrow loss to Galway this year, McManus feels outlawing such tackles will bring more drama to the sport.

“Watching the inter-county championship, there were more cynical fouls in it than we’ve seen for quite a few years because people have caught on that there’s not much punishment there if you pull somebody down 30 yards out.

“The one I remember very clearly was the Galway-Tipp match and Seamus Callanan getting pulled down approaching the 20’. I’m sure the Galway defender’s thinking ‘sure why not?’ It’s one of the best forwards in Ireland going through.

“That’s one that springs to mind but there were numerous different occasions where that had happened.

“I think it is a good idea. I think it’ll improve the game and lead to more free-flowing hurling and a bit more drama, which is no bad thing in a sport.

“People will adapt very quickly. They might decide that it has to be inside the 45’, or they might just leave it to the discretion of the referee.

“I think that would be the way to do it – to say that they’re going to use the screen only to decide whether it was a goalscoring opportunity or not. If they decided it is, then it’s a penalty.”

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GAA Football