Changes to rules don't go far enough - O'Connor
Published 02/12/2011 | 05:00
The GAA believe they have taken the first step towards creating an environment for Gaelic football where it won't pay to foul with the gentle introduction of the 'tap and go' free.
But Kerry manager Jack O'Connor doesn't believe the Standing Rules Committee have gone far enough and he has backed calls for the number of consecutive handpasses to be restricted in the game.
"That is the nettle that has to be grasped. I'd restrict it to four handpasses, something like that. I thought it worked well when it was introduced before," he said. "Possession is king in Gaelic football now. We've seen that over the last couple of seasons. The risk has been taken out of it and kicking has suffered.
"Rugby has done everything with its laws to speed up the game and it has worked. It's a better spectacle than it was. But if that issue is not addressed in Gaelic football soon, no one will go to the games."
However O'Connor accepts the provision for a 'tap and go' free and the penalties that occur when the proposed exclusion zone is not observed is a welcome initiative.
The concept of having the facility to run a free that has just been earned unimpeded for up to five metres could be one of the most radical measures taken to change the game since the adoption of the free from the hands.
But what's even more radical are the penalties that would be applied against a team which fails to 'back away' immediately when a free is awarded.
Any attempt to delay or obstruct the free-taker from kicking the ball quickly or running it will result in a territorial advantage for those in possession. This is where the battle against persistent fouling will really be won.
GAA officials have given the green light for this measure to be put before Central Council on Saturday week, with a view to trialling it in early 2012 (an out-of-competition game between two college teams has been mooted to give referees an insight into how it would apply).
Some counties, notably Donegal this year when they committed so many to defence, have made an art of slowing down free-takers to allow their team to take its defensive shape. By preventing a quick free, they gained precious seconds to allow so many of their players to filter back. They are not alone in the deployment of this tactic.
Under the new proposals, when a foul is committed outside the defending team's 45-metre line, if the exclusion zone is not observed to allow the 'tap and go' then a 45-metre free from straight in front of the goals will be awarded to the impeded player.
If the exclusion zone for a free is not observed inside the 45-metre line, a free will be awarded from a centralised position from the same distance that the foul has occurred.
The penalties send a clear message that it won't pay to obstruct or slow down play. Up to now, obstructing a free-taker merited nothing more than the free being moved up by 13 metres.
The 'tap and go' free was the brainchild of GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, who was the players' representative on the committee along with Cork hurling goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack. The concept has a likeness to the free options in AFL but Farrell sourced it from hockey, a sport at which he has represented Leinster at underage level.
A move to reintroduce the 'sin bin' failed to win sufficient support but, with the square ball being effectively abolished (it will apply for placed ball scenarios) and the instantaneous substitutes being introduced, the requirement for change had already been met.
Significantly none of the measures being proposed with the exception of the instantaneous substitutions will apply to hurling. Square ball infringements are much less common in hurling, while the concept of 'tap and go' from a free hardly presents an opportunity when the ball can be liberally delivered such a distance from a conventional free in the game.