Thursday 21 September 2017

Clock/hooter hit for six as timing deadline looms

Central Council argues against new mechanism to conclude games

Paddy McBride and Matthew Fitzpatrick of St Mary’s College, Belfast, become involved in a tussle with DCU duo Davy Byrne and Conor McGreanor in the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup
Paddy McBride and Matthew Fitzpatrick of St Mary’s College, Belfast, become involved in a tussle with DCU duo Davy Byrne and Conor McGreanor in the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup

The GAA's Central Council has presented counties with six reasons for its controversial bid to prevent the introduction of a clock/hooter mechanism to end games.

The system is due to apply from the start of this year's championships but Central Council made a dramatic intervention last month, proposing that the concept be scrapped.

That's despite it being twice passed by Congress in 2010 and 2013.

Central Council opted against its introduction after 2010 on cost grounds while the latest attempt arises from concerns thrown up by trials in third-level games.

Arguments

The six arguments, which Central Council hope will turn Congress delegates against the clock/hooter, are: fear of human error; 'fouling the clock down' as the leading team persistently fouls opponents in the closing minutes; keep-ball, where the leading team repeatedly plays the ball across the field late on; over-analysis of time lost through various stoppages; deliberate concession of a line ball by the leading team after the final hooter has sounded so as to end the game; systems failure.

Counties will consider the perceived problems, prior to deciding on how to vote at Congress on February 28.

As the introduction of the clock/hooter became a rule last year, it will take a two-thirds majority for deletion.

Otherwise, the new system will come into play in May, unless Central Council finds some other way of delaying its introduction.

The clock/hooter has operated successfully in ladies football for several years but the GAA's Central Council contend that it could damage the reputation of the Association.

They hold that once players know precisely how much time remains in a game, a number of negatives arise. Trials showed that a team leading near the end of a game were likely to do whatever it took to hang on.

There were several instances of teams fouling constantly in the closing minutes in an attempt to protect a lead. And since the crucial seconds taken to book or caution players could not be added on, it meant that the losing team had less time to work their way back.

Delegates are likely to ask why that could not be dealt by issuing a string of black cards so as to weaken the offending team.

Reputedly, the trials also provided grounds for concern over attempts by winning teams to retain possession in the closing minutes by playing 'keep ball' with cross-field or back-passing, leading to games petering out. This was confined almost exclusively to football, since it's nowhere nearly as easy to retain possession in hurling.

Supporters of the clock/hooter will argue that 'keep ball' already happens under the existing time-keeping system.

Central Council are also concerned that the new system would give rise to complaints over the amount of time taken over frees, sidelines, kick-outs, etc.

Getting consistency across that range of issues would require the clock to be stopped on a repeated basis, something that would detract from the overall flow of the game.

There's also unease over ending games with the leading team conceding a sideline, which would be the final act, once the hooter had sounded.

It would not be feasible to end play immediately after the hooter sounded, as it would leave room for controversy.

That risk would arise from a situation where the hooter sounded just as the ball was being kicked or pucked and produced a match-deciding score.

It would be impossible to figure out the split-second timing of the kick or strike. Central Council also believe that human error (failure to operate the clock/hooter correctly) and systems failure (hardware issue or power cuts) are two other reasons why it should be abandoned.

It was one of several proposals in the Football Review Committee report, issued in December 2012.

Chaired by Eugene McGee, the FRC strongly supported taking sole responsibility for time-keeping away from the referee for all inter-county fixtures.

An FRC online survey found that 80pc of respondents favoured the introduction of a public time clock at inter-county games while 49pc backed it at club level.

"Key stakeholder groups such as referees were also in favour. Discussions at the focus group meetings confirmed the desire for a public time clock at inter-county games," noted the report.

The call for its introduction was passed by Congress in Derry two years ago but its implementation is now dependent on the Central Council motion being beaten by a two-thirds majority later in the month.

Irish Independent

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