The League can be very much silly season in the GAA. When the stakes are that little bit less, the quality that little bit off, and the weather that little bit dismal, fans, pundits and commentators will, by nature, sweat the small stuff. Very often the complaints of the league will have leveled off by the Championship. Every so often though, the hysteria can create a narrative that sticks. Hurling pundits and ex players have been up in arms for a few weeks now because of the harsh and picky refereeing of the game this year, and it certainly feels as though the frustration is ready to spill over.
The day after Annual Congress overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a black card for hurling, today it was the same old story in the reaction to the recent clamp down on the rules that are already there. Already in the League we've seen a huge number of red cards, without any particularly memorable bad challenges.
On last week's League Sunday, Anthony Daly took the lead criticising the pickiness of referees in last week's games in the face of what he suggested was a directive from the GAA to apply rules to hurling in the same way as football. Watching Tipperary and Waterford today, and it's hard not to see where Daly is coming from.
By half time in Thurles, Waterford were down to 13 men, with Tipperary also a man down. Three of the game's marquee players didn't even make half time. And for what? There were no strokes that would even be talked about in terraces if the referee or their umpires hadn't made them an issue.
Austin Gleason was the first to go for two yellow cards, and that was followed by his Waterford teammate Kevin Moran, who received a straight red for possibly as soft a blow as you can imagine.
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) March 1, 2020
Just a couple of minutes later, Cathal Barrett was given the line with an umpire reporting him for a blow.
Mad that an umpire 100 metres away spots a red card offence. #GAA
— John Fogarty (@JohnFogartyIrl) March 1, 2020
I’d be sent off on the bus before the Match the way the game is going , joke 👎👎👎
— Ken McGrath (@kenmcgrath78) March 1, 2020
Ah it’s scandalous the way it is now. It’s getting more and more like soccer.players know there’s a fair chance a lad will be sent off and starting to make the most of things👎👎
— Eoin Larkin (@11larky) March 1, 2020
Bit of a tap of the hurley from Kevin Moran = red. Shoulder in the head on Noel McGrath = yellow. Go figure.
— Paddy Stapleton (@pasaint) March 1, 2020
3 red cards in the Tipp v Waterford game 🙄 Kevin Moran can feel most aggreived & Cathal Barrett red very harsh. must frustrate the players no end, come the summer likely to be so different #AllianzLeague #Tipperary #Waterford
— Nigel O Brien (@DavinStand) March 1, 2020
Neither Kevin Moran or barretts were reds . Shocking decisions #tipwat
— brian hickey (@bhickey156) March 1, 2020
— David Kent (@KentoCCFC) March 1, 2020
Referee is on a right power trip in Thurles today, 3 red cards in the 1st half! In fairness to Jason Forde, he got back up fairly quick after being shot by Kevin Moran! #TipvWat #Tipperary #Waterford #AllianzLeagues #Hurling #Shooting
— Darragh Kelly (@DarraghKelly89) March 1, 2020
Hurling officiating in the spot light again.
Neither Cathal Barrett nor Kevin Moran should be on the line.
Both players should be allowed to resume their place on the pitch in the second half @GAA_BEO
— Hurler on the ditch (@HurlerD) March 1, 2020
Straight red for Kevin Moran on 33 minutes. Little dig into Forde but seemed very, very harsh
— Shane Stapleton (@ShaneSaint) March 1, 2020
It's clearly a fine line between was is seen as part of the game and what is unacceptable. That is difficult for a referee. But for anyone who has played the game, there appears to be a clear distinction between what is acceptable and what isn't.
Football is far from immune from this issue. On coverage of last night's win for Tyrone over Dublin, Colm O'Rourke bemoaned the black card leading to diving in the game. There is an incentive to go to ground. And now, that incentive exists in hurling too. In the past, Kevin Moran's harmless push would have been met with the same in return. A hurler wouldn't have dreamed of ceding the ground of the matchup by hitting the ground. Did that make the game worse?
We absolutely have to wipe violence out of the game, and safety should be paramount. But that can get stupid if it's not applied with common sense. Is a a physical competitive edge to a game really such a bad thing? Isn't it what almost all hurlers and hurling fans want? If so, who is the sanctification of the game for? Helen Lovejoy types on Twitter?