Tuesday 6 December 2016

No hands on free-taking deck: It's time for ground control

Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30

Meath's Mickey Newman. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Meath's Mickey Newman. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Early in last Sunday's O'Byrne Cup semi-final in Drogheda, Meath's Mickey Newman lined up a 35-metre free and despite taking his time over it, he didn't connect properly and the ball dropped short.

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A few minutes later, he hit a '45' confidently off the ground, sending the ball sailing over the bar. But then, he had no choice but to kick the '45s off the ground, since the rules demanded it. At the other end, Jim McEneaney - whose father Eamonn was one of the best free-takers of his generation during a long career with Monaghan - also alternated between ground and hand when taking frees.

Of course, Eamonn had to kick off the ground all the time since that was the rule at the time.

Given conditions at this time of year, free-takers improvise as best they can but even in high summer the majority kick from the hand, which has to be less reliable because the ball is dropped onto the boot, thereby increasing the margin for error.

Larry Tompkins, another great free-taker off the ground, has long argued that it should be made compulsory on the basis that it's an attractive skill. He's right.

Irish Independent

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