Keepers should be allowed off their line

Clare hurling goalkeeper Patrick Kelly believes the GAA needs to sort out 'the grey area' regarding the movements of 'keepers and placed-ball strikers during 20-metre frees.

In the drawn All-Ireland SHC final between Cork and Clare, Kelly came very far off his goal-line to block a close-in free from his opposite number Anthony Nash midway through the first half.

At the same time, Nash was practically on the 14-yard line when he struck it having propelled himself forward with the initial lift.

Referee Brian Gavin spoke to both players about their encroachment before Nash attempted a similar effort in the 57th minute. His words did not have the desired effect as both Kelly and Nash carried on as before, instinctively closing the gap between the goal-line and the sliotar.

Cork selector Ger Cunningham felt that Nash's free that was saved in the first period should have been retaken due to Kelly's encroaching off his line, but the fact is that players will do it as long as they are allowed to.

Giving his take on the situation, Kelly told Newstalk: "I've a very strong opinion on it. I think the minute he touches the ball (lifting it), the goalie should be allowed to attack the ball and try block it with his body...because otherwise he doesn't have much of a chance of blocking it.

"Will I come off the next day? You're going to have to wait and see. It's a grey area (the encroachment). All I'm saying is hopefully the referee the next day, James McGrath, won't be giving Cork handy 21-yard frees.

"I think they got five of them the last day, hopefully he won't be giving them this time. That's the only way to counteract that."

There have been very few instances of referees ordering frees or penalties to be retaken due to encroachment - the most noteworthy in this year's Championship came in Cork's quarter-final win over Kilkenny when Tommy Walsh encroached for a Richie Power penalty. Referee Barry Kelly ordered it to be retaken and Nash came to Cork's rescue with two terrific saves.

Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald, himself a fine goalkeeper and free-taker in his playing days, has called for the GAA to review the rulings for such instances - but does not reckon that will happen anytime soon.

"When you have to be 20 metres from the free (according to the rules), I presumed you had to take it from out around that area," he said.

"I'm having a laugh about this as much as anything else because they're not going to change the rules. Safety is my only concern on this and I think it's something that should be looked at - they probably will look at it in the future.

"Anthony Nash doesn't need to carry it too far because, trust me, he has an unbelievable shot. He is a fantastic goalkeeper. If we can keep him down the other end of the field we'll be happy. The biggest thing we have to do is not give away 21s and penalties."

Kelly is of the very same mindset to his manager. It is clear that the leaking of those three second half goals to Cork - Conor Lehane, Nash (free) and Pa Cronin were the scorers - has gnawed at the Inagh-Kilnamona clubman these past few weeks.

"I wouldn't have been happy with the concession of three goals the last day, and to rub salt into the wounds one of them was from Anthony Nash himself.

"As a goalie you pride yourself on the concession of goals. We know the next day Cork will be going for goals again, they're going to run at us. Hopefully we'll have a plan in place to counteract that and we're going to work extremely hard to get that right."

Kelly works primarily with Clare's goalkeeping coach Seoirse Bulfin, but revealed that having a former inter-county stopper of the calibre of Davy Fitz on hand is also hugely beneficial to him.

"To me, Davy's probably the best (goalkeeper of his generation). In fairness he gives a helping hand and if you need a kick up the arse, he's not afraid to do it.

"It's great to be getting experience from him and he gives a word of advice and you need that," added the 26-year-old, who says the Banner men are in the midst of 'a week's hard training and a week's winding down' in the build-up to the replay.

Cork, meanwhile, have one injury concern ahead of next Saturday's rematch at Croke Park. Wing forward Seamus Harnedy has emerged as a doubt due to a knock he picked up during the September 8 clash.

Harnedy, who has not taken a full part in the Rebels' recent training sessions, scored two points in the drawn game and won a second half penalty which Nash failed to convert. His possible replacements include Cian McCarthy and Stephen Moylan.

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