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Red card for square ball

THE controversial 'square ball' rule looks set for the chop after the GAA's high-powered Standing Rules Committee recommended an overhaul.

A new version of the regulation, which will be put to delegates at Congress next April, would see players allowed in the square before the ball, except when the ball is delivered from frees and sideline kicks.

Ironically, the current recommendation sees a return to the rule that was in place for the 2010 leagues before it was heavily defeated at that year's Congress in Newcastle, Co Down. However, the folly of that decision has impacted heavily on the last two championship summers.

The official guide states that it is illegal "for an attacking player to enter an opponents' small rectangle before the ball enters it during play".

However, that rule has come under increasing scrutiny following a number of high-profile incidences in the football championship over the course of the summer.

Meath's Graham Geraghty had a 'goal' disallowed during their Leinster championship clash with Kildare, while the Lilies were on the receiving end later in the summer when a legitimate-looking Tomas O'Connor goal during their narrow All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Donegal in August was ruled out.

Kildare were also involved in one of the most controversial incidents of the 2010 championship, when Down's Benny Coulter scored a goal to send Kieran McGeeney's side crashing out of the championship at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

Previously, the GAA could only make changes to playing rules in years divisible by five, but the Standing Rules Committee, which was formed at last April's Congress, can now make recommendations for alterations as it sees fit.

The other major recommendations from the committee are aimed at speeding the game up. Congress will mull over the merits of the introduction of 'instantaneous subs', which means teams will no longer have to wait on a break in play to make a switch.

A more radical move towards 'Tap and Go' free-kicks will be trialled extensively next year and will not be brought before Congress until 2013 at the earliest.

Irish Independent