Friday 20 October 2017

Devil in the detail of new 'mark' rule

Mickey Harte: confusion. Photo: Sportsfile
Mickey Harte: confusion. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

With the exception of Mickey Harte, who accused the latest rule change of causing confusion and adding no value to the game, reaction to the first weekend of the 'mark' in football was largely indifferent.

That was always likely since the rule is in an unusual position where it can be ignored by players. It allows a player who catches the ball outside the '45' from a kick-out to call a 'mark', which, in effect, earns him a free. However, he may opt against that and instead play on.

It's a minor rule adjustment, having been brought in to reward high-fielding, a dying art in the modern game. Curiously though, any catch outside the '45' will qualify for a 'mark', even if it's only a few inches off the ground, which happened during the Cavan-Tyrone game last Sunday.

Obviously, it will take some time before the full impact of the 'mark' can be gauged but, in all probability, its impact will be minimal. Still, if it brings even a marginal increase in high fielding, it will be good for the game.

However, one aspect of the new rule is surprising and will prove controversial, especially if it happens in a big game.

Since a player from either side can call a 'mark' from a kick-out, there will be instances where the attacking side makes the catch. Now comes the controversial part.

He can call a 'mark' and opt to take a shot at goal unimpeded. Okay, so he will be required to kick inside five seconds but it will still provide him with a free shot at goal, simply for catching the ball.

It's totally disproportionate that the reward for making a routine catch could be the chance to win a free that decides a game. Surely, it would be fairer to restrict a player in that situation to playing the ball away, but not including a shot at goal.

Irish Independent

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