SEVERAL more affected parties have questioned the merits of Gaelic football’s new handpass rule, just days after massive controversy erupted following Sunday’s three SFC clashes in Munster, Leinster and Connacht.
But Croke Park has reiterated its defence of how the new ‘underhand’ rule was implemented, releasing statistics from the Armagh/Derry and Kerry/Tipperary games to back up this contention.
Dublin forward Paul Flynn has slammed the new rule as a “disgrace”, while top whistler Pat McEnaney has argued that the GAA rule-makers have made the referees’ job more difficult by binning the ‘closed-fist only’ rule at Congress and replacing this with a more complicated alternative.
“I think it’s a disgrace, but what are you going to do?” Flynn bemoaned. “I watched the games at the weekend. If they are going to bring in new rules, make sure you are going to enforce them properly.
“They (teams last Sunday) were the guinea pigs - they got the harsh end of it and it might be a bit better next weekend,” he added.
“I can see a lot of teams just reverting to the fist pass. But again, you saw Kieran Donaghy at the weekend give a clear handpass and it was overturned. It’s the first round of championship, but if that happens in an All-Ireland quarter-final there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the referee.”
Stressing that he didn’t understand why the change was made, the Dubliner added: “I think if you just stick to the handpass with the fist, you will be better off. That’s what I’m going to do - I thought about it after watching the matches. There’s no changing it now, so you just have to deal with it and get used to it.”
Meanwhile, McEnaney believes Congress should have kept faith with the fist pass option that was experimented with during the recent National Football League.
Instead, players can now either pass with the fist or, alternatively, pass with an open hand on the proviso that there’s a definite underhand striking motion.
“To use an old phrase, we had the dog nearly trained and now we have been given a pup,” the Monaghan official complained.
“The closed fist pass is what the referees favoured - it was tried and trusted, and we would love to have seen it retained. “It would definitely have made our job easier on the field.”
McEnaney accepted that the new rule will be “difficult to enforce” but added: “Referees have no problem in dealing with the flak over this - the rule is here to stay and we are going to enforce it.”
Meanwhile, Croke Park has released statistics from last weekend’s games shedding new light on the handpass controversy.
An in-house review of the Armagh/Derry clash revealed that just six of the 196 handpasses executed at Celtic Park (roughly 3pc) were adjudged by referee Maurice Deegan to be illegal.
The percentage of illegal handpasses between Kerry and Tipp was lower still - just six out of 270 were deemed against the rules.