Friday 19 January 2018

Punters will catch on fast if three-card trick goes ahead

Those who believe that there is nothing wrong with football should think again, says Colm O'Rourke

It did not take long for some Dubs to spring into defence mode after last week's suggestion of creating more than one Dublin team. Even allowing for one Dublin senior side, there should be nothing to stop multiple underage teams given the huge numbers available. And late developers would have a better chance too. At the moment a young player would need to be extremely talented even to get noticed in the massed ranks of Dublin underage club football.

The ambition of playing in Croke Park needs to be nourished, not choked, and the base should be widened even if the pyramid finishes with one county senior side.

The domination of Leinster can be summed up with the announcement of Barry Cahill's retirement last week. A very loyal and committed servant, his career yielded only one All-Ireland but eight Leinster senior titles, which shows that in the last decade, Dublin have trampled over everyone in Leinster more or less as a matter of course.

Alex Ferguson referred to Manchester City as the noisy neighbours and many Dubs feel the same about Meath and think that my suggestion is a Trojan horse to destroy the Dubs.

Without competition, football becomes unattractive fairly quickly and while the onus always has to be to get up to the level of the best rather than attempt to drag them down, there must also be the element of fairness involved.

Strange then that most of those who I heard from last week who would not like to see any break-up in Dublin are from Meath, as they only regard titles won to be of real value if the Dubs are beaten on the way. I hope they are not holding their breath for too long. In fact, this is probably the same where local rivalries are strongest, people do not want changes to their neighbours' status until they are able to beat them.

On more mundane matters, the controversy about numbers on the sideline rumbles on. I did not see the need for such a big reduction and with the necessity of having a runner, a medic and a substitutes' official just for a start, it automatically means that the selectors must be off the pitch. It certainly is a big issue for the management in making changes and there is something unedifying about seeing selectors having to lean across a wire fence in some places in order to discuss legitimate team business with the manager.

That needs to be changed and maybe the idea is to get management teams off the sideline altogether and if it is then a better mechanism could be used. At the moment it is totally unsatisfactory to try to run a team in this way. So while authorities want to see the sideline cleaned up it is at the cost of proper team management.

Last week saw the unveiling of the motions for Congress and the director-general's report. The big news surrounds the proposed changes to rules which have been flagged for a long time. The modification of cards is a recent innovation in order to stamp out cynical fouling, suggesting that a black card will now be used and a replacement can come on. The big concern for the rules committee must be that there will be so much confusion that delegates will decide to sit on their hands and vote against much of the proposals.

That would be a pity, but there are a lot of people who feel that referees are not going to be able to cope with a three-card trick – yellow, black and red. The only thing missing is the old blue card which was used to identify cattle in a different era before we became sophisticated and started mixing up horses and bullocks.

Now the general GAA follower learns fast and if the great and good who attend Congress are willing to take a chance on this new departure, then people will learn quickly. For the rest there will be plenty of fun listening at matches when a black card is flashed and somebody walks. It will be the new definition of confusion.

Speaking of confusion and uncertainty, the Hawk-Eye experiment is going to take place this year in Croke Park. Whatever is being spent on it I would regard as a complete waste of money. How many controversial decisions regarding scores were there in Croke Park last year? The only one that I can recall was a point scored by Dublin against Meath in the Leinster final which was quickly rectified because it was so obvious that the linesman intervened.

There is no need for Hawk-Eye as the big screen in Croke Park is quite able to clear up most problems, except that it's switched off at the slightest hint of danger. The public deserve better than to be treated like fools with every incident censored. Do the authorities

feel that the crowd will rush the field if they are shown what has really happened? Apart from a bit of noise, supporters go back to their normal selves fairly quickly so there is no need for the prevailing nonsense.

There is a very hard sell on at present for all these new proposals and terms like 'historic chance' will be used. There is a lot of value in what is on the table but the only historic challenge will come when there is an attempt to return football to being about football primarily. That ultimately means restricting the handpass and while this committee did the maths and found that handpassing was suffocating football, they did not take the next step and look for a restriction. Someday, some committee will take that step.

Perhaps, as now, they will have to face the lobby who argue that there is nothing wrong with football in its present form. This is a very large group and many of the present county managers are fully paid-up members.

Maybe I am part of a small minority on this and in any case I generally prefer that position. If it means thinking that Dublin should move voluntarily to field more underage teams in order to give their own more opportunities and feeling strongly that football should be about kicking the ball, then I am entirely happy to take the minority view – if that is the case.

Irish Independent

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