Saturday 3 December 2016

'It's off the wall stuff' - Ciaran Whelan slams decision of GAA congress to introduce 'mark'

Published 29/02/2016 | 20:12

Ciaran Whelan was a brilliant exponent of the skill of high fielding
Ciaran Whelan was a brilliant exponent of the skill of high fielding

Dublin legend Ciaran Whelan has slammed the introduction of the 'mark' in gaelic football by the GAA congress as 'off the wall'.

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A player who catches the ball outside the '45' from a kick-out can either call a mark or play on.

Former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns, who is now chairman of Playing Rules committee, made an eloquent case for its introduction, mainly that it would help restore the art of high catching. Opposition opposition came from Cork, who wanted it trialled.

Whether it will be in place for this year's championship remains to be seen. It will be discussed at Central Council in three weeks' time when a decision on the timing of its introduction will be taken.

It's most likely to be deferred until next January as changing a rule in mid season would not go down well with players or managers.

Whelan, who has been acting as a selector with the Dublin minors under Paddy Christie, has heavily criticised the rule changes and has monitored the rule closely in recent weeks while it was trialled .

"We saw All-Ireland's where Tyrone's tactic was to allow fielders to come down with the ball and smother them and try to get the ball off them and in that context, yes, you can see where the merits come from," he told Game On on 2FM.

"Like everything in life, you have to weigh up the pros and cons and I just think with the modern game, and I've seen it closely in the minor league trial over the last few weeks, has changed so much. I think to come out with a simplistic approach and think that this is going to introduce the skill of high fielding back into out game is off the wall, in my opinion, because it simply won't.

"Coaches will always coach guys to try and field high balls but the game has changed.

"The modern day goalkeeper now tries to find someone in space. The modern day inter-county goalkeeper will not be playing if he's not good enough to find people in space.

"All of a sudden now, you have half-backs who are options on kick-outs and midfielders running into space.

"The game has evolved where number 5s and 7s aren't looking for breaking ball in that sector. They're viable options for kick-outs.

"The amount of kick-outs that go out long in a 50-50 scenario has reduced considerably. We've trialled this over the past three weekends and I'd say that less than 50pc of our kick-outs go into that area.

"Generally when the midfielder does win the mark now, he's coming down in space so to keep the flow of the game going you want him to keep the ball moving.

"There will be a very limited advantage to bringing it in but the fact that they didn't look and say let's pilot this, let's get feedback from the group that has been using over the past number of weeks.

"I can see where current players feel aggrieved. The game is being messed around with over the weekend by the stroke of a pen with a rule that hasn't been thought out in my opinion."

Whelan also has misgivings about the rule based on how it will be officiated.

"It's going to be interesting to see how it goes because even the context of the players having to call the mark, he has to call it and the referee has to blow it and that is difficult for referees," he added

"He also has five seconds to take the kick and we have seen on numerous occasions in recent weeks where the five second goes fairly quickly and all of a sudden it's a throw-ball. It counteracts the benefits of the markin the first place.

"I would be disappointed that they didn't look at this more before they brought it in."

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