Cen­tral Coun­cil to tackle foot­ball rules in­ful­la­genda

There ap­pears to be a con­sen­sus not all five pro­posed rules changes should hap­pen at once

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - GAELIC GAMES - Seán Mo­ran GAA cor­re­spon­dent

This Satur­day morn­ing in Croke Park, the GAA’s Cen­tral Coun­cil gets to grips with a heavy­weight foot­ball agenda, which cov­ers play­ing rules for pro­posed tri­alling dur­ing next year’s na­tional league, a tiered cham­pi­onship as well as a re­view of the cur­rent round-robin quar­ter-fi­nals for­mat af­ter the first sea­son of a three-year trial.

It is dif­fi­cult to get a feel­ing for the prospects of all items up for dis­cus­sion, but there ap­pears to be a con­sen­sus that not all five pro­posed rules changes should hap­pen at once.

There is fur­ther­more a re­sent­ment among some coun­ties that the league is be­ing used for such a pur­pose, given the spring com­pe­ti­tion’s in­creas­ing im­por­tance, es­pe­cially for coun­ties in lower di­vi­sions for whom pro­mo­tion and divi­sional suc­cess are more re­al­is­tic tar­gets than cham­pi­onship break­throughs.

Al­though it was pos­si­ble ini­tially to de­tect a con­sen­sus view that foot­ball as a spec­ta­cle had de­te­ri­o­rated to the point where in­ter­ven­tion was ur­gently needed, the closer the Cen­tral Coun­cil meet­ing gets, the more un­cer­tain the out­come be­comes.

Pri­mar­ily the prospects of the re­stric­tion on hand-pass­ing in or­der to en­cour­age more di­rect and at­tack­ing foot­ball have be­come shrouded in doubt, as re­luc­tance to make sweep­ing changes ap­pears to have set in.

One county in­di­cated that a cir­cu­lar seek­ing the views of the clubs at­tracted no in­ter­est, whereas an­other has cho­sen not to man­date its del­e­gate de­spite the im­por­tance of the is­sues.

Kick-out

It’s prob­a­bly eas­ier to look at the pro­pos­als which stand a good chance of be­ing ac­cepted: the re­quire­ment that the kick-out must travel to the 45-me­tre line and be taken from the 20-me­tre line has sup­port, pos­si­bly as it’s un­com­pli­cated and has been seen to work well in in­ter­na­tional rules tests against Aus­tralia.

The tweak that the kick be taken from the 20 rather than 13-me­tre line emerged from a trial match in St Patrick’s Col­lege where a gale was blow­ing and goal­keep­ers were seen to ex­pe­ri­ence real dif­fi­culty in get­ting kick-outs as far as the 45.

The orig­i­nal ac­com­pa­ny­ing pro­posal that just two play­ers from ei­ther team could be be­tween the 45-me­tre lines for kick-outs was dropped when it was felt to be too dif­fi­cult to mon­i­tor and amid fears that the game would be slowed down by play­ers, in what­ever cir­cum­stances suited, tak­ing their time to clear the area.

An­other of the pro­posed tri­als that looks to have crit­i­cal mass is the in­tro­duc­tion of a sin-bin for 10 min­utes as a pun­ish­ment for com­mit­ting a black-card in­frac­tion. Cur­rently the pun­ish­ment is that the of­fend­ing player should be re­placed for the re­main­der of the du­ra­tion of the match.

The at­tack­ing mark is an­other idea that ap­peared ini­tially to gather sup­port, but it has been mod­i­fied to ap­ply within the op­po­si­tion 45 – rather than the 20-me­tre line – once the pass is also kicked from within the same line and it must travel 20 me­tres.

Ra­tio­nale

The ra­tio­nale be­hind the move, as ad­vanced by Rob O’Car­roll-Gaelic Stats, is that “the av­er­age num­ber of kick passes per game has fallen by al­most 15 per cent (lat­est avail­able fig­ures from 2017) over the course of just seven sea­sons (ie 127 foot passes wit­nessed per se­nior in­ter-coun­try game in 2011 ver­sus 110 foot passes played dur­ing such games in 2017).

“All other things re­main­ing con­stant, the num­ber of ac­tual kick passes in in­ter-county Gaelic foot­ball will, based on this pre­dic­tive trend, fall into dou­ble fig­ures in fewer than five sea­sons (ie by 2023).”

Reser­va­tions about the ini­tia­tive are based on the dif­fi­cul­ties posed for ref­er­ees in try­ing to judge where the ball is kicked and caught as well as ev­i­dence from in­ter­na­tional rules that play­ers in­creas­ingly opt to kick the mark rather than play it on im­me­di­ately – a ten­dency that slows down the game.

Other busi­ness in­cludes de­cid­ing whether a tiered foot­ball cham­pi­onship should be in­tro­duced.

There is a strong feel­ing that this is an idea whose time has come – de­spite hav­ing to be pulled from the clár at the 2016 an­nual congress for lack of sup­port – and it is es­ti­mated that the op­tion of al­low­ing coun­ties to re-di­rect into a graded cham­pi­onship af­ter they have been elim­i­nated in ei­ther of the first two rounds of the All-Ire­land qual­i­fiers, has the greater chance of suc­cess.

The at­tack­ing mark is an­other idea that ap­peared ini­tially to gather sup­port but it has been mod­i­fied to ap­ply within the op­po­si­tion 45 once the pass is also kicked from within the same line and it must travel 20 me­tres

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