'Tap and Go' system set to be trialled next year
WHILE the change to the 'square ball' rule could be in place before the start of next year's championship, a much more radical change to Gaelic games could be just around the corner.
The GAA's Standing Rules Committee were expected to bring about change with regard to the 'square ball' rule, but their decision to trial a 'Tap and Go' system early next year represents fresh thinking, even if it won't be introduced until 2013 at the earliest.
The rule would mean that when a free-kick is awarded, a player can opt to play on without being tackled for five metres.
As it stands, a 13-metre penalty is applied to a team who prevent a quick-free from being taken, but teams are often prepared to accept that penalty to take up defensive positions.
However, in a bid to speed up play and to stamp out one of the more cynical technical fouls, a number of new, more severe sanctions are under consideration.
One punishment being considered is the awarding of a 45m-free from a central position, while the immediate issuing of a yellow card is another possibility. The exclusion zone around the fouled player may be extended to 10 metres, with officials keen to explore every available avenue before making a final recommendation.
In the wake of the storm caused by previous changes in playing rules, such as the furore that surrounded the various alterations to the handpass in recent years, the Rules Committee have opted for extensive experimentation.
Plans are in their infancy, but the 'Tap and Go' system looks set to be trialled in pre-season provincial competition in 2012, such as the O'Byrne Cup and other specially sanctioned in-house games, but it will not be put before Congress until 2013.
The 'Tap and Go' would see the first major adjustment to the free-kick since a committee, chaired by former Dublin star Tony Hanahoe, recommended that all players be permitted to take a free-kick from the hands back in 1990.
But the proposal sees the Rules Committee exercise some of the extensive powers they were handed after being set up in the wake of Congress last April. Previously, alterations to playing rules could only be made in years divisible by five.
And while initially well-worn topics like the 'mark' were expected to dominate proceedings, the 'Tap and Go' represents a radical proposal from a committee that pulls from various layers of GAA.
Included on the committee are managers Brian Cody and Kieran McGeeney, GPA duo Dessie Farrell and Donal Og Cusack, Mick Curley gives a refereeing overview while, from Croke Park, Pat Daly has a shown a willingness to try new things.
Outgoing and incoming presidents Christy Cooney and Liam O'Neill, Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) chairman Seamus Woods, Cork secretary Frank Murphy and director general Paraic Duffy complete the highly influential line-up, whose recommendations will go to December's Management Committee meeting to ensure they are in order before they are presented to Congress.
There are also changes in the pipeline for the way substitutions are made. Teams will still be allowed to make five changes but under new proposals they will not have to wait for a break in play before making the switch.
An inter-change system along the lines of Australian Rules was believed to be among the proposals considered, but that was deemed unwarranted.