Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Be brave and imaginative and don't miss a chance'

Daly calls on Central Council to vote for radical changes to football rules

Farewell to Weeshie: Kerry footballer James O’Donoghue places The Legion flag on GAA broadcaster Weeshie Fogarty’s coffin at his funeral in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney yesterday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Farewell to Weeshie: Kerry footballer James O’Donoghue places The Legion flag on GAA broadcaster Weeshie Fogarty’s coffin at his funeral in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney yesterday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Counties are urged to be brave and imaginative by backing the extensive suite of proposed football rule changes at Saturday's Central Council meeting.

The call comes from Pat Daly, the GAA's director of games development and research, who is a also a member of the committee that formulated the five rule adjustments.

Since many county boards haven't formally discussed the package, instead leaving their Central Council delegates to decide how to vote, it's difficult to gauge the overall attitude to proposals which include restricting to three the number of successive handpasses allowed.

However, Daly is confident the proposals will be favourably received.


"I would be disappointed if they weren't accepted. It's important to remember that they are for an experimental period only. It's not as if they are being written into the rule book permanently.

"Let's have a look at how they work out in next year's league and then make a decision whether to keep them, throw them out or tweak them, based on solid information," said Daly.

The other proposed changes are: allowing a 'mark' for a clean catch in the attacking half, provided the ball is kicked from outside the 45-metre line and travels 20 metres; all kick-outs to be taken from the 20-metre line and must pass the 45-metre line before being played; all sideline kicks, except those inside the opposition's 20-metre line, must be played forward; current black card sanction replaced with 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

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The GPA are opposing the handpass, kick-out and sideline proposals and favour the other two. The handpass restriction will, if accepted, bring about the most radical change, one that Daly argues is necessary.

"We have to decide if we want kicking the ball to be a fundamental principle underpinning the game. It used to be but to anything like the same extent anymore. Research shows that the number of handpasses has, on average, increased by 100 per game since 2011.

"That's a massive difference and there are no signs it's going to change. In fact, it could continue to increase. Is that what we want? Our proposal to cut it back to three before the ball must be kicked is well worth experimenting with," said Daly.

He fears that ignoring the growing impact of the handpass risks alienating the public.

"We've seen how much it has increased over the past seven or eight years - all we're doing now is suggesting a way to curb it," he said.

Two of the original proposals were tweaked after their practical impact was studied in nine trial games. The original plan for the 'mark' was that it be allowed for a catch made inside or on the 20-metre line from a kick outside the 45-metre line but referees were unhappy with it on the basis that it would be difficult to apply consistently.

"There was a feeling that with the extra responsibility of counting handpasses and all the other responsibilities referees have, more mistakes were likely," explained Daly.

The same applied to the original proposal to allow only two players from either team to be positioned between the 45-metre lines for kick-outs.

Daly accepts that proposing five changes at the one time is quite radical, but argues that all of them are addressing areas of concern.

Besides, the kick-out/sideline/sin bin proposals are relatively minor, leaving the handpass/mark as the two big-ticket items.

Daly rejects criticism that the Allianz League is too important for counties to have it played under so many different rules.

"Of course the league is important, but we feel that if the changes are to be properly tested, it needs to involve a lot of games in a competitive environment.

"There's no doubt about it, counties would face a different challenge in the league, but it's the same for everyone. It's not as if anyone would have an advantage. We're not suggesting change just for the sake of it - this is about the future of football and how we want it to evolve.


"Nobody is right or wrong in this debate and nobody has a monopoly on wisdom.

"Sports evolve all the time and have to be assessed on that basis. That's what we're doing here.

"We think the changes we're suggesting would be very good for football, which is why we're proposing experimenting with them. Hopefully, Central Council will see it as being worthwhile," said Daly.

The committee who devised the proposed rule changes is as follows: David Hassan, chairman (Derry); Pat Daly (GAA director of games development and research), Frank Murphy (Cork county secretary), Michael Delaney (former Leinster Council secretary), Seamus Kenny (Meath), Brian Cuthbert (Cork), Alex McQuillan (Antrim), David Collins (Galway).

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