What GAA changes will mean
The hand pass remains a byproduct of an epidemic the GAA has neglected to fix, the blanket defence.
COOLANEY/MULLINABREENA, ST ATTRACTA’S AND SLIGO U16 & MINOR FOOTBALLER BRIAN MARREN SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON THE NEW GAA RULE CHANGES.
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.