'Tap and go' free on the agenda for rules chiefs
A proposal to introduce a 'tap and go' style free in Gaelic football and hurling is a strong consideration for the GAA's high-powered playing rules committee.
The committee, which met for the third time last Thursday, are discussing the possibility of the new concept after a proposal from GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, who is a member of the committee.
The concept is based loosely on the same facility for players in other sports such as AFL, rugby and hockey.
Farrell has a background in hockey and is understood to have based his idea on the 'autopass' which came into rule successfully in the sport in 2009.
Under the terms of what is being proposed, a player who is fouled would have the option to take a solo or 'tap and go' himself with a five-metre exclusion zone. The onus is on opponents to clear the area and failure to do so would result in stronger penalties than just the ball being moved up 10 metres. Under discussion is the possibility of awarding a 45-metre free in front of the opposing goals if the area is not cleared.
In rugby, the tapped penalty is used effectively to put opponents on the back foot. They cannot execute a tackle within 10 metres.
When a 'mark' is taken in AFL, a player must move backwards but can then go with the ball himself. This rule is also deployed in International Rules.
In Gaelic games, a player must hit a free away from the area by boot or hurl a distance of 10 metres or more.
Farrell's proposal is designed to bring more speed into the game, but doubts arise over its suitability for hurling. Allowing a player to 'tap and go' through an area that has been cleared could be an antidote for the heavy defensive orientation that some teams set up with.
Blocking the free-taker and preventing him from a quick pass allows defending teams to get numbers back fast. The current punishment of moving the ball up 10 metres scarcely acts as a deterrent and by allowing the 'autopass', the games would retain fluidity.
Future meetings may also consider the same facility from sidelines.
One of the concerns is the ability of match officials to keep pace with the game if these modifications were to be introduced.
Proposals that win approval at this committee level will be put before Central Council for further approval before they are submitted as motions to Congress.
The committee contains some high-profile names. Brian Cody and Kieran McGeeney represent managers; Farrell and Donal Og Cusack, the current chairman of the GPA, represent players; former Armagh footballer Jarlath Burns is one of those drawn from Central Council.
GAA president Christy Cooney, his successor Liam O'Neill, director general Paraic Duffy, referees chairman Mick Curley and Pat Daly, the GAA's director of games development and research, are among those involved.
They have been looking at other avenues of change and it's understood that inter-change substitutes, the scooped pass (where a player can pick up a moving ball without having to place his foot beneath it), requiring a ball to go out over an end-line before a game can conclude and an advantage rule are still being discussed.
A motion calling for an advantage rule to be introduced was tabled at a Congress in the early part of the last decade, but barely provoked a word of debate and was soundly beaten in a subsequent vote.
Rules up for review
Square ball abolition
The square ball has had its fair share of controversies, most notably in the last two years when controversial decisions were game-changing. Under discussion among the rules committee is the abolition of the square ball rule, which prevents a player being in an opposing square before the ball arrives. The exception is when a free or a sideline is being taken. In that case, the old square ball rule would apply. This was trialled in the 2010 league.
Prospects of success: Strong
This concept allows a player who wins a free to 'tap and go' himself and avail of a five-metre clearance area. The thinking is, it would help to speed up the game and reduce time for teams to flood defence with numbers. The penalty for failing to observe the five-metre exclusion area could be a 45-metre free from in front of the opposing goals.
Prospects of success: Strong
There is a certain lobby who feel an advantage rule has its place in Gaelic games. More and more referees are observing this anyway, where they allow play to develop for a few seconds before calling play back if an advantage does not accrue. The issue for legislators is determining how long an advantage would last for and what territory gain is allowed before advantage is lost.
Prospects of success: Not in the short term
Andy Ellis booting the ball into the stands at Eden Park to win a World Cup for his country is an unusual way to bring a 24-year famine to an end, but rugby has become used to such unseemly finishes on the basis that it gives an attacking side in possession every opportunity to snatch a result. The GAA trialled it in the 2010 league, but it got nowhere near the required support at Congress. But there is now a move for ending a game of football or hurling only when the ball crosses an end line. The downside is the amount of added time it could take.
Prospects of success: Might not get enough support
Of all the proposals under discussion, this is easily the most radical. Dublin manager Pat Gilroy promoted the idea last week to cater for the level of intensity that games continue to rise to. So far, it hasn't been completely shot down. Policing it on the sideline remains the biggest obstacle.
Prospects of success: Would need much more feasibility and trialling