Tuesday 25 June 2019

Controversial Gaelic football handpass rule will not continue for National League

Ciarán Kilkenny handpasses the ball
Ciarán Kilkenny handpasses the ball
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA's Central Council has opted to spike the contentious three-handpass rule for the forthcoming Allianz Football league by a narrow margin.

A meeting this morning voted 25-23 not to continue with the experiment for the 116 league games.

This comes after trialling during the pre-season competitions in all four provinces triggered strong opposition from managers and players.

Ironically, a presentation delivered to Central Council delegates at the meeting showed a dramatic drop in the number of handpasses since last summer, the very reason the Standing Committee on Playing Rules conceived the idea.

Their findings, based on 10 games reviewed by sports performance analyst Rob Carroll, showed that the handpass/footpass ratio dropped from 3.5 to 1 last summer to just 1.3 to 1 in recent weeks, a significant fall.

In the Derry/Tyrone McKenna Cup game, for example, there were 252 handpasses to 223 foot passes, a ratio of just 1.1 to 1.

Carroll's work found that there was only a five per cent lift in the number of passes that went backwards despite being more than 100 kicks per average in a game.

He also found that the number of uncontested kicked passes - kick passes with no chance of the opposition intercepting the ball - rose by just four per cent - 68 per cent to 72 per cent despite the increase in the number of kicks.

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Delegates were lobbied by their county team management and by Gaelic Players Association representatives, urging them to vote against the experimental rule.

The issue of detection by referees was also raised with referees, via survey, conceding that they found counting the chains extremely difficult.

In Carroll's assessment, 16 hand pass limits were missed by referees, an average of 1.6 per game.

The other four experimental rules - the 10-minute sin bin, the 20-metre kick-out, the forward sideline kick and the advanced mark from a 20-metre-plus kick will all continue until the end of the league.

Tonight's McKenna Cup final between Tyrone and Armagh and tomorrow's Connacht League final between Galway and Roscommon will be the last games to have the three-handpass restriction in place.

Because they didn't contest the McGrath Cup, Kerry and Tipperary did not play a game under the handpass restriction while Dublin's All-Ireland winning squad also missed out.

When Central Council approved the trials last November, 60 per cent were in favour.

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