Rules committee must bring in new sanctions to combat cynical play
Tomorrow night the GAA's Standing Rules Committee will convene for a third and possibly last meeting before proposals are shaped and finalised for despatch to Congress next April for approval or rejection.
The committee contains some heavy hitters from administrative, managerial and playing spheres -- a sign of the importance attached to policing rules on an ongoing basis.
Brian Cody and Kieran McGeeney have never been slow to voice opinion on the mechanics of their respective games, and GPA duo Dessie Farrell and Donal Og Cusack come to the table with a players' perspective having presumably taken soundings from their core membership.
Mick Curley gives a refereeing overview while, from Croke Park, Pat Daly has always been progressive in his thinking about the way the games should develop, even if his views haven't always found agreement in everyone.
The administrative layer is completed by the current and future presidents, Christy Cooney and Liam O'Neill, Cental Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) chairman Seamus Woods, Cork secretary Frank Murphy and director-general Paraic Duffy (pictured below).
The representation covers all possible angles. But getting consensus and a clear direction about how to move forward from such a mix may be difficult.
The two meetings held so far have involved a lot of discussion covering a lot of areas but, it seems, very little agreement about what specific action to take.
Even the issue of eliminating the square ball, looked upon as a fait accompli in light of the many controversies over the last two seasons and a reluctance to turn to technology unless it's for score detection purposes, is not as straightforward as it appeared.
Much discussion has centred on the role that cynicism plays in both games today, but tangible corrective action has yet to be established.
Some weeks ago in these pages, Duffy suggested that a radical overhaul of the way Gaelic football and hurling are played should not be expected.
The fact is, however, that both sports continue to evolve at a quick pace from year to year and the rules have to keep up with that pace.
GAA officials dislike the notion of lifting ideas from other sports on the basis that Gaelic games should be big enough to stand on their own without peering over the neighbour's wall. That's the way it has been for 127 years, after all!
Look at the pace of change in the rules (sorry laws) of rugby over the last decade and how it has sought to enhance the game with a much more dynamic element to it.
The law changes are all designed to promote more attacking rugby, but defensive orientation has improved in tandem to somewhat neutralise those changes.
Those charged with the responsibility on this committee don't have to be radical. But they can be very practical.
One of the most cynical ploys adopted by some teams, particularly their forwards, this year was a refusal to release the ball from their possession when a free had been given against them.
A delay of a few seconds gave their massed defence precious time to get back and take position. It was punishable by the ball being brought forward by just 10 metres.
Blocking a player from taking a quick free is a different way of extracting the same precious seconds for defensive alignment to be set up. Again, a 10-metre penalty is a small price to pay.
Shouldn't the punishment for blocking an opponent or refusing to release possession be a lot more severe? A yellow card, or a 45-metre free -- within range for so many now?
Could the GAA go a step further and allow a player to execute a pass to himself to speed the games up? What about the same facility from a sideline?
Is it time to look at the advantage rule? Over a decade ago, Kilkenny brought this to Congress in the hope that an advantage for a limited period of time after a foul had been committed would be allowed. It didn't provoke one word of discussion and was beaten out the gate. No thought given to it whatsoever.
Anything that keeps the game moving forward deserves strong consideration and even application. A survey of some 20 championship matches this summer by a performance analyst revealed that 'ball in play' average is still under 35 minutes, less than half the game.
Maybe the mark from a kick-out is a step too far for this committee.
But there are many more small positive moves that can be seized upon that can assist the process of evolution in Gaelic games.