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Geezer changes tack to target major problem -- the tackle

THE papers yesterday were full of Kieran McGeeney's latest denunciation of refereeing inconsistency. Now he has moved on to a fresh, albeit related, target -- the tackle in Gaelic football.

The Official Guide may state what constitutes a legitimate tackle, but 'Geezer' believes there is far too much ambiguity when it comes to practical application of this rule.

When you couple this with the growing practice of players (forwards especially) engineering frees by means of holding an opponent's arm while falling to the ground, you have a recipe for endless controversy and post-match griping by teams who fall prey to what is actually a form of cheating.

The Kildare manager believes some managers are coaching their players in the art of the 'manufactured' foul. "I don't," he stressed, "but definitely you have to start considering it, because free-kicks win games now.

"Most championship games are won in the last five or six minutes. You take us back to the Leinster final (last year). Two or three decisions just went against us, and game's over. I would look on them as harsh decisions, but I'm sure if I was wearing a Dublin jersey I would have thought they were fair.

"When you train so hard all year, you want to make sure that, yeah, it was a foul, suck it up and that's it."

McGeeney clearly doesn't want his complaint to be viewed as yet another example of him pontificating about referees and rules. Contrary to what many past-players would tell you, he believes the game has improved and that TV recordings of matches from 20 or 30 years ago actually confirm that all this "pulling and dragging" was then "probably ten times worse!"

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't address the problem of referees in All-Ireland finals "being conned for free-kicks and players getting booked and getting reputations for doing stuff that they do nothing for."

He feels the GAA could start by making the tackle "more clear-cut" and therefore easier for referees.

"If you've on, one hand, players bluffing it, and then the ambiguity of the rules on the other hand, it's a hard thing to make a call on," McGeeney admitted.

"There's no clear definition of it. One week, if you're strong it's an advantage, the next week it's a disadvantage. It varies on the referee and the type of game that's being played," he said, before adding: "There's loads of ways of addressing it. We've changed the rules a lot of times since I've been playing and coaching, and they still haven't changed the tackle."

McGeeney maintained that there are "very few aggressive fouls" in football today, despite what some pundits might claim, whereas the 'manufactured foul' is a growing problem.

"The players have a big part to play in that as well, playing the games fairly.

"But I suppose in competition, when there's a win-at-all-costs mentality, if referees are giving soft frees to another team and they're not giving you free-kicks, you're going to probably play for them," he concluded.