The Return of Gaelic Football’s “Big Hit!”

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 23/9/2012'Donegal vs Mayo'Donegal's Mark McHugh with Lee Keegan of Mayo'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 23/9/2012'Donegal vs Mayo'Donegal's Mark McHugh with Lee Keegan of Mayo'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***

An interesting feature of this year’s Championship has been the return of thecontroversial ‘Big Hit’.

Nothing sends out more of a signal than this, to see one 14 stone athlete knocking another 14 stone opponent to the ground and then looking him in the eye to say ‘Game On!’

It signals serious intent and the crowds react to it by raising their level of support.

Of course, it must be done fairly as in shoulder to shoulder and when it’s not it can be a very dangerous tackle.

This, of course, has been highlighted by Donegal boss, Jim McGuinness after the recent ‘big hit’ on lynchpin, Mark McHugh in the Ulster Final against Monaghan.

It was a ferocious hit and it took McHugh out of the game and left him with some serious injury problems.

The Donegal boss highlighted that they don’t fear physicality but that when a player ends up with burst ear drums and a nasty leg injury, a line must be drawn.

McGuinness felt that his players were being physically singled out by opponents and he was unhappy with the level of protection afforded to his team by the match officials during Donegal’s qualifier win over Laois.

“I would be fearful that our players are going to end up on the receiving end of something that’s going to cause everybody a lot of pain, and it’s just not worth it if it goes to that point,” said McGuinness.

“Because I am not happy that we have a player (McHugh) with a burst ear drum.

“I am not happy he had a major concussion. I am not happy that he has a five centimetre tear in his quad muscle as a result of the impact.

“I am not happy that he spent two nights in hospital. I am not happy that he has missed a full week off work. For me, we are in a very dangerous position and I would fear that something is going to happen. My biggest fear is a spinal injury or a neck injury.

“He (McHugh) also shipped a very, very heavy tackle in the All-Ireland final (against Mayo last year). We have to create a situation where we feel that it is okay to send players out on the pitch.

“We are not afraid of physicality. But Mark McHugh’s injury last week was our fourth concussion in three games. Four concussions in three games? I would imagine the Munster or Leinster rugby fellas wouldn’t have that level of injuries.”

Therein lies the problem as there is no agreed standard among referees.

Some don’t seem to allow any decent physical contact while others (a few) allow what some might deem dangerous contact.

It’s surely something referees will discuss after this year’s Championship but in the meantime it’s here to stay!