Limerick selector Donal O’Grady admits hurling needs a black card

DONAL O’GRADY SAYS the time is right to introduce the black card into hurling, following a host of recent examples of cynical play.

The former Limerick star was involved in one such incident back in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final when he hauled down Kilkenny’s Richie Power with the goal at the forward’s mercy.

O’Grady didn’t even receive a booking for the incident.

“The match would have been over,” he recalls. “It was actually a miracle he didn’t meet the ball head on anyway… whenever I got back. I actually ran around the goals, [referee] James McGrath came in to the umpire and I ran around the goals and tried to hide from him.

“Because I knew I was gone because I had the yellow just got about five minutes before it or whatever.”

Players such as Huw Lawlor and Danny Sutcliffe pulled off high-profile cynical fouls in the 2020 championship, the Limerick selector says a harsher punishment is needed.

“The black card is a funny one. I’ve seen some real cynical fouling this year. It’s been mixed, one standing out for me would be Huw Lawlor’s one [when he held Galway forward Niall Burke’s hurley in the Leinster final].

“There’s been a lot. Like the black card, I think it would affect a hurling team more than a football team, if that makes sense. Taking a full-back out of a hurling team is a real, real hole to leave.

“It’s a tough place to play as it is, whether it’s 10 minutes in a sin bin or something I’d possibly be leaning towards but something will have to be done.

“I think something will have to be done because it’s too easy, in a one-on-one situation you can bring someone down now and the reward for the attacker is a point whereas there was probably a 90 or 95% chance of a goal.

“I definitely would see going forward something would have to come in to stop that cynical fouling because there’s no advantage to a forward taking on his man if he’s going to be brought down and there’s going to be a point out of it.”

When Limerick were last in the All-Ireland final two years ago O’Grady found himself doing co-commentary on local radio. This time he’ll be involved after joining John Kiely’s backroom team this season.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me coming into this set-up,” he admits.

“They’re probably into year four of their development. Just to see their physique and the speed they move at and whole set-up at training and everything, it took me a couple of weeks to get used to it.

“I played with a few of them and they’re the exact same guys personally as in they’re very driven and they want to do the best and this young group that has come in with them are complementing them.

“As a group, you can’t question what they’re trying to do, just keep getting to All-Ireland semi-finals and finals as much as we can and thank God we’re there on Sunday week.”

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O’Grady leads out Limerick in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

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The ex-Limerick skipper retired in 2016 with a Munster title to his name and just two years later the Treaty were All-Ireland champions for the first time since 1973.

Does he ever wish his career started a few years later so he’d be part of this all-conquering group?

“Oh sure I wished I was part of it, there’s no doubt, yeah,” he says.

But O’Grady wasn’t “one bit” jealous of seeing the players climbing up the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2018.

“You’re totally engrossed and wanted them to win. In my career, what we went through, for every two or three bad performances we gave a bit of hope with a good one but then we couldn’t just have that consistency early on.

“As we went on maybe 2012, ‘13, ‘14 we did manage to win that Munster title and get back to a bit of consistency there and then John took it on to a new level. Yeah, you’d give anything to be below winning an All-Ireland medal.

“They’re hard things to come by but at the end of the day, the group of players are a serious bunch of players and thank God they got over that line in 2018.

“Because it certainly does take that pressure off slightly, that that one is done because for every year it drags on, there’s no point saying otherwise, ‘73 is still raising its head so I think that was important.”

He feels the county game has moved on even in the four years since his own playing days ended.

“From looking at the lads from the outside as supporter for a couple of years after I finished, I was kind of looking at them: the physique, the speed they’re going at now, getting faster and faster.

“I was kind of questioning would I ever be able to mix it inside there. Then when you see them up close at training and I suppose the whole scientific approach to training now has gone to another level as well.

“All that is incorporated into Paul Kinnerk’s methods with training. It’s just all a totally new level for me, looking in anyway and obviously other counties are at that level as well.”

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