Saturday 24 February 2018

Chaos sure to erupt at refs' square rule

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

IT hasn't been the best of times in Iceland. Their banks are broke and their volcanoes are erupting like acne in a teenager.

We share their banking woes but I suppose we're lucky we don't have poor oul craters of volcanoes like Eyjafjallajokull. That's some rocker of a word. It took me three goes to type it out. Can you imagine trying to cheer for them in the county final.

"Go on Eyjafjallajokull give dem dirty hoors from Karahnjukar plenty of timber."

Here in Kerry we have Glantaunyalkeen and Lisheennashingane but luckily the natives play under the parish names of Duagh and Spa.

In yesterday's Indo, Kate Ravilious told us the end might be nigh. There's a risk a super volcano will either blow us all to smithereens or poisonous us with noxious gases.

Time then to speak out. What is there to lose now?

Our intercounty referees should be subjected to re-education forthwith. They haven't a clue.

GAA Congress will decide today on the fate of the proposed new rules, one of which proposes that attacking players can enter the small square before the ball. How can you explain the referees' associations backing for a rule that will lead to fouls, brawls, assaults and serious injury? And, worst of all, goal hanging.

A goal hanger parks five metres from the jumpers in kids' football waiting for the soft chance, it being a well-known fact that seven-year-olds do not man mark. Goal hangers are the scavengers of the underage game. They never fight for a ball or tackle anyone. Goal hangers' parents think their boy is the chosen one and allow him to eat his jelly and ice cream before the dinner. Now you know why Cristiano Ronaldo is so lazy.

It's strange what emerges by way of rational thought when a group of seemingly intelligent men and women go into conclave.

The fact that the referees' committee decided to back a rule allowing big men to crowd a tiny space in high-stakes games leads me to the conclusion our inter-county referees are sadly lacking when it comes to understanding the game they adjudicate upon.

I played under the old rules, when you could tackle a goalkeeper inside the small square. Keepers were left trapped in the net like a caught salmon.

The full-back was seen as the keeper's minder and if you hit the goalie you notionally hit the full-back. The fights were savage because there was no room to back off and there is also the increased risk of injury as a result of a goalpost collision.

This rule is madness. An underage ref told me the other evening that he will quit if the change is brought in. He too remembers the days when it was open season on goalkeepers.

Even the quickest ref cannot travel as fast a football -- or especially a sliotar -- and it can be very difficult to judge whether or not a player goes in after, or at the same time as the ball. Technology can solve that problem in the bigger games.

I suspect the embarrassment caused by the highlighting of awful refereeing and umpiring decisions by 'The Sunday Game' is behind the refs' approach.

Some of the new rules will enhance the game. The mark was well thought out and if the player who catches the ball is allowed to kick it without waiting for a direction from the ref then it will reward the catcher.


How often have we seen a soaring midfielder grab a ball covered in volcanic ash only to be ambushed on his return to earth by strategically placed hit men?

Penalties are much harder to convert in Gaelic football than in soccer. In soccer the ball is nearer and the goals are wider. The new rule puts the spot nearer the goal. This makes perfect sense.

Once again the refs show an alarming lack of appreciation of the nuances of Gaelic football when they say they are in favour of the proposed closed-fist rule. This rule would mean that the fist would have to be kept closed when the ball is passed. Anyone who has played Gaelic football will tell you this manoeuvre will slow down the game.

Some of the most aesthetic scores have come from forward-moving hand-pass drives. The problem with our game is that there is too much lateral and back passing.

The proposed new rule will make it next to impossible to pop the ball over a defender's head at close quarters, leading to less scores and will turn open spaces into elevators. The refs say the new rule will be easier on them. I always thought the officials were there to facilitate the players.

So delegates, please take heed. It will be five years before you get the chance to change the rules again. That is if we survive the clash of that Icelandic ash.

Irish Independent

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