Devious mr underhand has caught everyone out
The clue is in the wording so we should scarcely be surprised when a blizzard of controversy -- some justified, some contrived and some ridiculous -- accompanied the new handpass regulations into the 2010 football championship.
Probably uniquely in world sport, the GAA has written the word 'underhand' into its rule book. Check for alternatives to 'underhand' and you're offered sneaky, devious, deceitful, dastardly, dishonest, fraudulent, sly, scheming, low and mean.
That's 10 options, none of which suggest that Mr Underhand is a particularly endearing individual. Yet, there he is, happily ensconced in the GAA's amended rule book and already causing mayhem.
So how did he get by the sentries when so many helpful phrases continue to be the subject of barring orders? Quite simple really. He skulked in the Congress shadows last month and waited for his chance to creep in when uninterested delegates had switched off.
Having watched Congress ditch almost all of the experimental rules which had been trialled in the league into the sea off Newcastle, Mr Underhand made his move. Well aware that you can get away with just about anything if you come up for discussion immediately after a major item has been dealt with at Congress, he slipped into the rule book.
Sponsored by the Connacht Council, his accession was quick and easy. "If a player handpasses the ball using the open hand, there must be a definite underhand striking action," read the amended rule. Yes folks, the word 'underhand' had been enshrined in GAA law.
Remarkably, experiments which had been trialled in the leagues, thereby giving players an opportunity to get used to them, were zapped into oblivion, yet a new regulation which nobody had seen in operation was accepted in minutes.
It's another example of the unsatisfactory system of making important decisions, but then Congress (complete with over 300 delegates, 80pc of whom never open their beaks) has always been a ridiculously unwieldy entity.
If delegates voted down proposals which had been experimented with, how could they blithely back a concept which they hadn't seen in action?
They were branded "intelligent fools" by Tipperary manager, John Evans, although one suspects he thought the mix was more a case of the latter than the former. Incidentally, John, you're talking about Tipperary too as I don't recall them objecting to the 'underhand' proposal.
Still, news of the amended regulation was relayed back to team managers and players but judging from the outcry last Sunday, one of four things happened: squads didn't work on the amended rule in training; they worked on it incorrectly; they didn't expect referees to be so harsh; or referees overreacted.
It's probably a combination of all four. In any event, Congress was unwise to hoist an untried rule on the championship; coaches and players might have worked harder to adapt to the new regulations and referees could have used a little more discretion on the opening day.
Remarkably in these situations, no blame is ever apportioned to managers or players. However unfair it might have been to land a new rule on them for the championship and however much they resent Congress for introducing it and referees for administering it so harshly, could they not have avoided the problem by making sure they were better prepared for it?
It wasn't as if, heaven forbid, players were asked to kick the ball more often. The sad thing is that while controversy rages over the bloody handpass, nothing has been done whatsoever to curb it and we're now left with at least another five years of Gaelic basketball with all its associated sterility. Frankly, that's a much darker cloud than a row over how to execute the transfer.
As for the new regulation which demands that sideline kicks must be made from outside the line, can you imagine the mess that will cause at club level when the lines are being run by members of opposing clubs?
A player kicks a spectacular point in the closing stages of a game only to find the linesmen from the opposing club is flagging back because the kicker allegedly had a toe inside the line. Trouble ahead on that one.
One final point. The impression seems to be out there that a rule requiring goalkeepers to remain on their line for penalty kicks is a new addition. Not so, of course. It was always there but has been largely ignored by referees.
They've got to act now, otherwise kicking penalties from the 11 metres range will be no advantage whatsoever if goalkeepers aren't penalised for being even a foot off their line.
Yellow peril doesn't bode well for game
The controversy over the handpass masked a greater blight on the launch of the football championship last Sunday.
A total of 36 yellow and five red cards were brandished at three games, with four of the reds coming off second yellows. That's an average of 12 yellows per game, a trend which if continued, will result in around 750 warnings by the end of the campaign.
Then again, we all know that referees ease up as the summer progresses. Still, it's ridiculously easy to pick up yellow cards yet there's a great contradiction on how they're dealt with.
A player could pick up two yellow cards early in a game and leave his team short-handed for the remainder which is quite a punishment, yet he could receive one booking every time he plays and never miss a single minute.
That apart, there's something suspect with the rules, the players or the referees if 12 yellows per game is to become the norm.