U12 ladies footballers in Clare are ‘coached to foul,’ a club referee has outlined in a call for the sin-bin to be introduced at the age-group.

A motion from Burren Gaels to see the sin-bin commence at U12 level instead of U14 was defeated at the recent Emergency General Meeting of the Clare Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA).

Addressing the meeting, Burren Gaels Vice Chairman Pat Byrne O’Connell shared the view that the competitiveness at U12 level has exceeded that of U14 over the past three seasons. He has refereed the sport for sixteen years in Kildare and Clare and observed that “the lack of sportsmanship coming from managers is shocking. I feel sorry for the twelve year old girls playing the game because what is coming from the sideline is disgraceful”.

Byrne O’Connell felt the introduction of a sin-bin would stop the antics of managers. “The other option is to stop the trophies. Learning the game is also about learning the rules. Managers are coaching players to foul”.

Newly elected Chairperson of the Clare LGFA, Seán Lenihan questioned if it would be better to take action against the coach or parent that is shouting from the sideline as opposed to the player.

Recounting a game in 2019, Byrne stated that one girl was dominating proceedings, “I heard a manager say to a girl on the other team to take her out. As the girl was taking a free kick,, she came across and kicked her. I told the referee to send her off but referee said there was no cards at U12. There is a yellow card but no sin bin and red cards but the referees don’t give them. If girls get away with it at U12 it will creep in”.

Chairperson of St Josephs Doora/Barefield, Enda O’Flaherty opposed the motion. He praised the attitude of girls playing the sport but flagged that their “whole world falls apart” when they receive a yellow card at young ages, “they are not able to process it, they are small little kids. The person on the sideline should be punished, let’s not punish the kids”.

Ex Chairperson and Secretary of the Clare LGFA, Bernie Regan agreed with the views of O’Flaherty. “It does devastate a girl when she is put to the line, she is doing what she is told and when she is sent to the line she can’t understand it. When you’re coaching it the child believes it. They know they are going out to play a game, the coaches have to be punished for this”.

Regan called for the silent sideline to be introduced in the county. “It would give the child the freedom to play without interference from coach or parents, it also allows the referee to put coaches outside the line or gate. I’ve often been at games and you wonder how coaches can go that far to be coaches and verbally abuse children, I’m not saying foul language sometimes it comes in but it is a constant barrage of shouting, no wonder children drop out early from Ladies Football. It is supposed to be fun and if it is non-competitive that is how it is supposed to be,” the Wolfe Tones delegate added.

Emma Hastings of East Clare Gaels maintained “the ownership is on coaches to lead by example and not let it happen”. Clubs also expressed the view that referees have their hands tied through an inability to issue cards at lower age-groups.

In response, Byrne O’Connell recalled an U12 final he took charge of Kildare whereby he gave a red card to one player. “I ref by rules not by ages. When you’ve a referee constantly refereeing for the home team which does happen, he does let things go because that is where his bread is buttered every week,” he commented.

“We need to remember these are U12 girls, we want to attract them into the game. If my lady got a talking to on the pitch she would feel it and be hurt. We need to approach it carefully,” Newmarket-on-Fergus Chairperson Michael Darcy remarked.

Conduct which is deemed as “unsportsman behaviour” should be included in a referee’s report and redirected to CODA, Clare LGFA secretary Monica Callinan stated.

Lenihan referenced the age of players as young girls when voicing his concern with the motion. “My own lady was U16 when she got a red and I wasn’t right for a week after. I don’t think U12 girls are cynical by nature. At U12 we’re not supposed to be having competitive games,” the Chairperson felt.

He said the matter would be passed onto the Development Committee while Burren Gaels committed to bring the motion back before the floor if an improvement was not visible.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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