Tinkering needed rather than overhaul of rules

There is a scene in Fr Ted where Ted is trying to fix a dent in a car. He “almost had it” at times but end result was the car was changed beyond all recognition. And not in a good way!

The almost annual review of Gaelic Football rules has thrown up five proposed rule changes which are to be trialled in 2019.

While small tweaks are worth looking at, we need to be careful we don’t fall into the same pitfall as Ted. Football has its flaws like any sport. But constant tinkering could result in it becoming a complete “write off” as a spectacle or worse again as a game to play.

The introduction of a Sin Bin would at least be an adequate punishment for cynical play. Rugby & Ice Hockey have shown that a numerical advantage for even a short spell can really be exploited. Obviously this won’t stop players carrying out cynical fouls in the final moments of games, so maybe a more suitable punishment here e.g. 21m free if cynical foul takes place anywhere outside 21m line; penalty if it takes place inside the 21m line.

Limerick in action against Mayo in the 2018 Championship

The mark inside 20m line proposal certainly encourages delivery of the ball from distance and rewards successful kick passing. It may also mean the defending team would need to push out to pressure the kicker, which in turn should lend itself to more space being created.

Anything that gives the team in possession incentive to move the ball in a positive manner at their own discretion is worth a look. I would have reservations about introducing another mark area as it may add to the stop/start nature of games.

The new kickout proposal is interesting. It certainly favours the team who is in possession of the ball, allowing them a better chance of using the ball in a positive way. And it’s the only time apart from the throw in at the start of each half where you are guaranteed there won’t be any sweeper in play. However, there are too many ways for this to be a “clock killer” in having to ensure all players are in the right zones.

The sideline ball rule is just a non-event for me and won’t change anything. It won’t help the team in possession at all as it just reduces their options. And the defending team will know that too & set up accordingly.

The proposed hand pass rule for me is completely unworkable and would be a nightmare to monitor. Whatever about regulating it within your own half, limiting a team’s quota as they move closer to goal is crazy.

To my mind, Corofin are the Kings of kick passing at present. A joy to watch. And yet the best score I saw in recent times was their 2nd goal in the All Ireland Final. A thing of beauty, which wouldn’t have been possible under this proposal. Forcing teams to kick is not the answer.

For me, real change would only come about if playing numbers are altered e.g. 13 a side or by limiting the amount of players that are allowed in a defensive position e.g. must keep minimum of 3/4 players in each half. This would allow players & coaches to make their own decisions & exploit the extra space using any number of hand passes or kick passes they see fit.

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