Sunday 17 February 2019

Controversial restriction on the Gaelic football handpass is likely to continue

Controversial restriction on the Gaelic football handpass is likely to continue
Controversial restriction on the Gaelic football handpass is likely to continue
David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Despite opposition from players and managers, the controversial restriction on the Gaelic football handpass is likely to continue in the league.

Today's Central Council meeting will review the five experimental rules which have applied in the pre-season competitions before deciding whether to leave them in place for the league season.

David Hassan, chairman of the rules standing committee which devised the changes, will make a presentation to the meeting based on the findings of performance analyst Rob Carroll.

He has studied the impact of the experiments on pre-season provincial games from a scientific viewpoint.

His work in analysing games over recent years had an input into the thinking which led to the experimental proposals.

The wider GAA public has also had an opportunity to gauge them and while opinion is divided, there appears to be growing support for extending them to the league which starts next weekend.

Several managers and players have complained about the handpass change, claiming that it's counter-productive and will not improve the game from an entertainment viewpoint.

A GPA survey showed overwhelming negativity towards the restriction, but that was to be expected as most rule changes down through the years were similarly opposed by players.

It has also emerged that some Central Council delegates have been lobbied by players and managers to vote against the handpass trial, but it's unlikely to have the desired impact.

Ending it after the pre-season competitions would leave Central Council open to accusations of bowing to pressure and failing to give the experiment a chance in the more competitive environment of the 116-game league campaign.

Some managers have complained that it's unfair to use the second most important competition as a trial ground for new rules, but that has often happened in the past and is unlikely to sway Central Council.

Hassan will outline any unintended consequences from the new rules which became evident over recent weeks.

Figures from the Dr McKenna Cup show a drop in the number of goals scored, leading to claims that restricting the handpass to three has caused promising moves to break down.

Central Council are unlikely to accept those findings as definitive, opting instead to wait until after the league to make a fully-informed judgment. Insisting that sideline kicks (except those inside the opposition's 20-metre line) must go forward has also been criticised by managers and players, although it's not seen as being anything like as important as the handpass change.

The advanced mark and the amended kick-out rule have been more favourably received, while there's general support from players to changing the black-card punishment.

Instead of a player being sent off for the remainder of the game, and replaced, the sin-bin alternative allows for him to be sidelined for 10 minutes, leaving his team with 14 men. Player support for the sin-bin is understandable as it involves 10 minutes out of the action, as opposed to the rest of the game.

Central Council has the option of retaining all five experiments for the league or dropping any - or all - of them.

None of the experimental rules will apply in this year's championship.

If they are approved today, they will be reviewed again after the league, when a decision will be made whether to bring them to Congress for a debate on whether they should be adopted on a permanent basis.

Irish Independent

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