Managers voice concerns over new handpass rule
CONFUSION over the handpass is the chief concern among football managers as the experimental rules head for more serious tests in the National Leagues, which get under way the weekend after next.
Football and hurling managers met senior Croke Park officials -- including GAA president Christy Cooney -- on Tuesday night in an attempt to improve communication and give the experimental rules a fair chance before Congress decides on whether to implement them on a permanent basis for the championships.
"It was a very constructive meeting," said Cooney.
"From our perspective, we want players to give feedback to their managers, who, in turn, pass that on to the county boards, so that Congress delegates have as much information as possible when it comes to making a decision on the experimental rules in April. That's what this trial period is all about."
Mayo manager John O'Mahony, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said that the execution of the handpass (the ball must be struck with the fist) was causing concern and confusion.
"In theory, the new rule looks fine, but if a player has his back to the referee when he makes the pass, how can the referee know whether he fisted the ball or used the traditional handpass?" O'Mahony argued.
"There may have been a degree of laxity regarding what was legal and illegal under the old rule, but there's now a concern that this won't make things any better.
"If anything it could make it harder on the referee as there will be times when he can't see how the pass is executed. That's unfair on everybody."
There's also a degree of confusion over the square ball rule. A player can be in the square before the ball arrives, but not before a colleague launches the kick.
That leaves refs facing the added pressure of judging the position of two players (the kicker and the player running into the square).
Said O'Mahony: "It's a form of off-side which will make life very difficult for officials. You can't have a player lodging inside the square waiting for a high ball to come in, but it won't be easy to decide if he's in there before the kick was made.
"A referee will have to watching the kicker and the player, or players, running into the small square at the same time. That could be as difficult to police as the old rule."
Queries were also raised as to why a player who makes a 'mark' is not allowed to decide whether he wants to stop before playing the ball away or maintain his movement.
Under the rule, only the referee can decide if a player is allowed to play on immediately after making a mark.
"Again, that's an area that needs to be cleared up because it could lead to confusion and frustration," added O'Mahony.
Hurling managers felt there was very little need for rule changes. However, the square ball is seen as an even bigger issue in hurling than football as the sliotar can be driven much further and quicker, bringing added pressure on officials.
O'Mahony, meanwhile, is likely to be without midfielder Pat Harte for the first half of Mayo's National League campaign because of the player's work commitments abroad.
Mayo will also be without full-forward Barry Moran for their opening two games -- against Galway and Tyrone -- because of an ankle ligament injury.