Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Kavanagh Kerfuffle

Just because the GAA is an amateur sport doesn’t mean they can’t deal with a professional foul…

I suppose as a rugby blogger I should be having a right old laugh at the GAA about the Sean Kavanagh tackle/Joe Brolly rant issue. 

Because that’s how team sports are on this island…there is intense competition for players & fans between GAA, soccer and rugby and this would be a perfect opportunity for me to highlight just how poorly Gaelic games handle the whole area of discipline.

The fact of the matter is, I personally enjoy all of the above sports; it’s just my background would have me leaning towards rugby.  Still though…it can be said that the egg-chasers do have a touch of moral high ground on this particular topic.

First, let’s be clear on what the subject matter is here.  It doesn’t matter what the sport is…soccer, rugby, Gaelic, basketball, hockey, whatever…when a championship is on the line, it MUST be at the back of a player’s mind that a deliberate foul is the right call under the “proper” circumstances.  Unless, of course, he or she knows that the rules don’t allow it.

Luis Suarez has been in the headlines a lot recently, mostly because he bit a guy, which is frowned upon even in the so-called “savagery” of soccer.  But it was an earlier controversial incident from World Cup 2010 which relates directly to what Kavanagh did last weekend.

With his nation’s progress in the tournament at stake he deliberately handled the ball on the goal line against Ghana.  He actually did the one thing an outfield player is absolutely not supposed to do…a rule which is the very essence of the sport itself.  You cannot use your hands.  He used his hands.  And in this case, it made perfect sense according to the laws.  And seeing as how the Uruguayans advanced in the end, his actions cannot be described as anything but heroic.

For me, it’s very simple.  If an illegal action is carried out to prevent something happening, then the punishment MUST involve that very thing happening.  And in rugby, we do just that.  It’s called the penalty try.  Sure…we don’t end up with  a highlight reel of the ball being touched down, but it certainly represents justice being done.

Not that the penalty try rule is without it’s drawbacks, of course…it plunges us into the extremely murky waters of “referee’s interpretation”.  But I for one would rather be debating the officials (let’s face it, we all do it anyway) than a player gaining an advantage from a deliberate foul.

I’ll admit that there is one thing that makes the penalty-score rule easier in rugby…we don’t have a goalkeeper. 

For example, if Kavanagh didn’t haul down the Monaghan player, we can’t be sure he would have scored.  But isn’t that what the penalty kick is for?  All you have to do is allow latitude beyond what is considered the “penalty area” and give the referee the scope to award a kick no matter where the foul once the circumstances are right.

But in the Suarez case, he wasn’t preventing a player from having a shot on goal, his hand actually stopped the ball going in.  Here, the referee needs to be able to award the goal. 

And in Gaelic Games, you could have a situation whereby a player is about to kick the ball into a net when another player dives on the ball and illegally scoops it up off the ground.  In fact, I understand this very thing happened in the Dublin v Cork match.  Again, award the goal ref and let’s move on!

I have heard suggestions that the solution to the Kavanagh incident would have been an automatic red card.  Really?  What if it was the 69th minute and not the 49th?  I’m not saying the sending off shouldn’t happen, of course it should.  But you’re still planting a seed in the player’s head that there is some benefit to what he is doing.

And seemingly the GAA are “dealing” with this issue already with the introduction of a “black card”?  I’ll believe that when I see it, or at least when I see it in operation for more than five minutes. 

I don’t have any statistical evidence to support my next statement, but I would suggest that of all the team sports on the planet let alone this island, theirs is the most fickle when it comes to the laws of their game.  There seems to be new laws, formats & structures every season…I’m all for change, but each one should be given at least a couple of years to get itself embedded into the culture of the sport.

But to come back from the general to the particular…in the Kavanagh case, I’d send him off and award a penalty kick to Monaghan.  With Suarez, send him off as well only here, award the goal to Ghana.  Problem solved IMO.

There are always going to be grey areas in the rules of any sport.  But this is one I believe can be made a whole lot simpler. JLP

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