What GAA changes will mean

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT - BY BRIAN MAR­REN

The hand pass re­mains a byprod­uct of an epi­demic the GAA has ne­glected to fix, the blan­ket de­fence.


ON Mon­day, 26th of Novem­ber, The GAA Ard Chomhairle passed 4 new rules in Gaelic Foot­ball to be tri­alled in the GAA pre-sea­son com­pe­ti­tions, such as Con­nacht’s FBD League, and the and Le­in­ster’s O’Byrne Cup.

These pro­pos­als will move to a Spe­cial Re­view Panel on Jan­uary the 19th at the be­hest of the GPA, if passed, they are to be tri­alled in the Na­tional League, clear­ing the way for them to be in­doc­tri­nated in the GAA’s pub­lic con­scious­ness.

These rules, much like the Mark and the Black Card rules, both im­ple­mented in the past five years, will send the sport spi­ralling into a new di­rec­tion, and is Cen­tral Coun­cil’s lat­est at­tempt to im­prove Gaelic foot­ball’s qual­ity is­sue, but one won­ders if the GAA are tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the wrong sport in these cases.

The two stand out rule changes, from my per­spec­tive, is the in­tro­duc­tion of the sin bin in place of the black card and two yel­low card of­fences and the limit of three placed on suc­ces­sive hand passes.

These may ring fa­mil­iar with reg­u­lars of the oval game, as both clearly take in­spi­ra­tion from Rugby, both League and Union.

Since the in­tro­duc­tion of the sin bin in 2001, the sin­bin in rugby union has been a re­sound­ing suc­cess, with clear rules for pe­nal­i­sa­tion and room for dis­cre­tion on the part of the ref­er­ees.

Yet, in my opin­ion the GAA is not grasp­ing the flaw with the black card rule.

Since it was cre­ated the black card rule can only be ap­plied in 3 dis­tinct in­stances; when you de­lib­er­ately col­lide with an op­po­nent, when you de­lib­er­ately trip an op­po­nent with a hand or foot, and when you de­lib­er­ately pull down an op­po­nent.

So, there are only three in­stances when a black card is ap­pro­pri­ate yet ask any GAA match goer what a black card of­fence is, and they will tell you it is a cyn­i­cal, pro­fes­sional foul.

So if the is such a clear dif­fer­ence be­tween what the pub­lic be­lieve is a black card and what he GAA be­lieve is a black card, it is clear the word­ing of the rule is too rigid, too pre­cise, leav­ing no room for dis­cre­tion on be­half of the ref­eree, and lead­ing to con­fu­sion in the stand or on the pitch.

The pun­ish­ment for a black card is not the is­sue, it is the word­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion, and un­til the GAA re­alise that we will hear the same de­bates ev­ery sum­mer that we’ve heard since 2013.

As for the hand pass lim­i­ta­tion rule, it seems that the GAA has lis­tened per­haps a lit­tle too hard to the cries of the GAA elders, as hand passes have long been the bane of the GAA pun­dit’s life, yet it re­mains a by-prod­uct of an epi­demic the GAA has ne­glected to fix, the blan­ket de­fence.

For fear of be­ing con­sid­ered too rad­i­cal, the GAA has long danced around the topic of the blan­ket de­fence, in­stead choos­ing to tackle the rel­a­tively trivial is­sues like the short kick out and, now, overuse of the hand pass.

These tac­ti­cal evo­lu­tions are mere by-prod­ucts of the de­fen­sive sys­tems, and by re­strict­ing them they are merely al­low­ing the team de­fend­ing to sit back in front of the scor­ing zone, know­ing the at­tack­ers will be forced into ei­ther launch­ing high balls into the square, or go­ing for long range, low per­cent­age shots.

If the GAA truly wanted to open the game I would sug­gest that they take in­spi­ra­tion from the sport of bas­ket­ball, where rules such as the back­court vi­o­la­tion, de­fen­sive three sec­ond rule and the shot clock have all re­duced con­ges­tion of the scor­ing zone and quick­ened the pace of play.

I un­der­stand that not all of these are trans­fer­able to Gaelic foot­ball, yet I feel that they are cer­tainly more likely to have an im­me­di­ate, pos­i­tive im­pact on the sport as a whole. It re­mains to be seen what if these new rules will ever see the light of a cham­pi­onship Sun­day, but those who be­lieve that they will her­ald the com­ing of a new era, where foot­balls will fly over the bar with the fre­quency of a slio­tar may be dis­ap­pointed.

Brian Mar­ren (cen­tre) gives his thoughts on the new rule changes to GAA foot­ball. Pic: Ea­monn McMunn.

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