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Burns keen for group to deal with 'negative' side of football

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Space on the pitch is often at a premium in the modern game as Monaghan’s Ryan McAnespie found out when closed down by (from left) Donegal’s Neil Gallagher, Daniel McLaughlin and Paddy McGrath – something which Jarlath Burns would like to see change in the coming years

Space on the pitch is often at a premium in the modern game as Monaghan’s Ryan McAnespie found out when closed down by (from left) Donegal’s Neil Gallagher, Daniel McLaughlin and Paddy McGrath – something which Jarlath Burns would like to see change in the coming years

SPORTSFILE

Space on the pitch is often at a premium in the modern game as Monaghan’s Ryan McAnespie found out when closed down by (from left) Donegal’s Neil Gallagher, Daniel McLaughlin and Paddy McGrath – something which Jarlath Burns would like to see change in the coming years

The new chairman of the GAA's standing committee on playing rules has promised they will be "robust" in their approach to monitoring the way Gaelic football is being played over the next three years.

Former Armagh captain Jarlath Burns, previously a member of the GAA's Management Committee and a regular commentator on the game with BBC and TG4, says his body won't "stand still" during their term.

The chairpersons of all the national committees during the term of new GAA president Aogan O Fearghail were in Croke Park for their briefing over the weekend.

Burns has taken over a role previously held by the GAA president Liam O'Neill and the presence of a former inter-county player at the helm represents a different direction for this particular body.

With no window of opportunity for playing rule change for another five years for counties, only this body can engineer change between now and 2018 by making recommendations for Central Council to take to Congress.

Burns has yet to meet his committee but wants their work to be broad in finding solutions to take the game away from the "negative" path it is currently on.

"I can't be specific about what we will do but we have to acknowledge the game has become too defensive," he said.

"And defensive play by its nature is negative because it prevents creative play. Do we look to limit the number of handpasses? Do we look to limit the number of forwards that can cross a halfway line?" he asked.

So far in this year's league campaign the number of goals scored has dipped by just under 25 per cent as teams revert to safety in numbers to defend.

"As a body we have to work to look at solutions because if we do nothing we are saying that everything is fine and I think the vast majority of people would say that the game is not fine. Football is developing an ugly side."

The Football Review Committee (FRC), under the chairmanship of Eugene McGee, did much of its work from mid to late 2012 before presenting their first report at the end of that year that led to the introduction of the black card.

Since then the frequency of handpasses appears to have increased with one recent Division 1 league game calculated to have had in the region of 440 handpasses.

"Spectators want to see skills, they want to see high catches being made. They also want to see great blocks and tackles from defenders.

"But they don't want to see 12 men consistently behind a ball," he said. "That's lazy coaching. It's easy to coach that and there is nothing imaginative about it."

Burns says he imagines the work of his group will focus on addressing some of these issues.

Expansive

"We'll be robust in our debate. If there are solutions, I'd hope we can put them forward. Can we make the game more expansive? Can we make it more enjoyable to watch? Those are the questions we will ask ourselves."

Burns does accept however that change will be difficult because playing rules require Congress approval.

Meanwhile, the new hurling playing rules passed at Congress last month will be in force for the league semi-finals on April 19.

The GAA announced yesterday that the new rules, which ordinarily come into force four weeks after Congress, would not be implemented until April 11 instead.

This will allow Saturday's Central Council meeting to approve the correct wording for the rules governing the new one-to-one penalty in hurling and the advantage. It will also allow the national referees' committee more time to brief its members.

Irish Independent