Monday 21 January 2019

'A quick counter-attack turns into a backwards kick-pass just to be safe' - Handpass rule comes in for criticism

Westmeath’s Killian Daly handpassing the ball during Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup clash. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Westmeath’s Killian Daly handpassing the ball during Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup clash. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The limit on the handpass came in for most criticism from Wicklow manager John Evans and Longford star Michael Quinn after their sides clashed in an O'Byrne Cup opener over the weekend.

The midlanders emerged with a one-point win on a desperate night for football in Newtownforbes and while both Evans and Quinn were slow to make a definitive judgement so early in the experiment, they were united on their view that the handpass rule can, in fact, slow the game down.

"What's happening is guys are just kicking the ball three or four yards, they are kicking it five and seven yards just for the sake of restarting it and it slows down the game considerably, there's no question about that," said Evans, whose team has now played three challenge games under the new regulations.

"Guys are trying to think what they will do and when they do and I suppose until the games speeds up a bit and have practised it a bit that you'll see the true worth of it - whether there is any worth in it."

Quinn played every minute of the game. And while he admitted that Longford had put little work into the new rules in training in the last few weeks, he reckons that around four fifths of kick-passes are going backwards to ensure a team retains possession.

"The handpass one is the biggest concern," Quinn said. "From what I have seen it just doesn't make sense at all. Teams drop off and wait for the kick-pass. They don't press for the first couple of handpasses and then they put the squeeze on.

"What was clearly obvious the other night was that there's the first handpass and someone comes at pace and gives it to another man, the other man thinks, 'There's two hand passes already I have to be looking to kick-pass or give it to man who is in a kick-passing position'. So a quick counter-attack turns into a backwards kick-pass just to be safe.

"At the beginning it was, 'Kick it, kick it', and it was just turnover after turnover. I'd love to see the stats done, how many kick-passes after the second or third handpass were positive or negative yardage passes? I think 80pc of the kick-passes are going backwards which is completely against what you are trying to do."

Quinn reckons his side got caught twice for over-playing the handpass but reckons officials might have missed another handful of incidents. He believes upping the limit to five would ease the pressure on referees while Evans would prefer a regulation that sees team only allowed to move the ball forward in the last ten minutes of a game.

And he believes that if a referee misses a fourth handpass in the build-up to a score, it will see tempers fray.

"From the three referees I have spoken to in our three games so far they have huge difficulty," Evans said. "They can't look elsewhere other then the three handpasses… If he gets it wrong and it leads to a score all hell will break loose. Further back the field it's not as bad."

One player was sin-binned in the match. Evans admits that should the regulation remain in place going forward, coaches will look at scenarios where they coach their team to move into 'damage limitation mode' for the ten minutes.

"What is going to happen you encourage guys to go defensive if you lose a man the same as you do in rugby. You set up your defence and you (decide) you are not going to be creative for that ten minutes. But I wouldn't be against the sin bin. Teams can set up all they like defensively but if you have a man or two advantage you have to try and use it."

Agreement The pair were in agreement that the other experimental rules - the forward sideline kick, the kick-out from the 20-metre line - have little impact on the games while taking forward marks proved very difficult in the conditions.

The rules are scheduled for a review at Central Council meeting in early January and Quinn insists players don't want to see the rules still in situ when the league kicks off.

"Coming from a players' point of view and the GPA side of thing, I don't think players would stand for it coming in in the league which is such an important competition and rolling out a rule like that.

"It's not tested enough to bring it in, it's not an experimental competition the league, it make a huge difference and for the likes of Longford in Division 3 is huge and important to try and push on and succeed and that's our championship really. You want to hold yourself in there and to try a rule like that and implement it, and these games the next few weeks I think it's important to take a good note of them."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport