Earley says 'mark' can facilitate demand for high fielding
The public's desire to see more high fielding in Gaelic football should shape thinking around the introduction of a 'mark' from a kick-out caught cleanly between the two 45-metre lines, one of the architects of the previous motion three years ago has stated.
Paul Earley, a prominent member of the Football Review Committee that introduced the black card at Congress in 2013 but failed by less than two per cent of the vote to introduce a similar 'mark', feels there is a duty on everyone connected to the game to make it more attractive as a spectacle.
The GAA's standing committee on playing rules, chaired by former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns, are proposing another 'mark' motion to this weekend's Congress, the third time in seven years that it will be put before delegates.
Earley has pointed to the FRC's public survey conducted in 2012 as evidence that, he feels, obliges delegates to support it.
"When we did the online survey we asked people to rate the skills they wanted to see in order of preference and high catching was number one," he reflected.
Figures gathered then showed that only 15 per cent of kick-outs were caught cleanly, 50 per cent were broken away.
Earley said their group regretted not showing more footage to illustrate their point at the Derry Congress when it got 64.8 per cent of the vote.
Footage of pull-downs had been critical to swaying minds of the black card it was felt. He also thought the success of the black card earlier in the afternoon may have impacted.
"There was a sense in the room that 'you got the black card you have enough'. But I'd be very strongly in favour of it.
"The argument I put forward was we had to decide was this a core part of our game. It's a kicking game and high catching is a big feature. It always has been. Is this something we want to retain? If it is you have to alter the rules to ensure that it becomes an attractive feature of the game."
Once again the motion is being moved without a high-profile trial though it has been in operation during the Leinster minor football league. But Earley supports that position.
"The problem with trials is that they are generally done at the wrong time of the year. The big competitions are on when the weather is good. But trials usually take place when no one is going to be able to get off the ground catch the ball. It's counter-productive. You are scoring an own goal straight away."
Kerry and Limerick are among the counties who have so far come out in support of the 'mark.'
"Naysayers will say if you introduce the mark it will promote more breaking ball. My argument was you can't increase it any more because there is so much emphasis on it at the moment. If there is a reward for the catch maybe coaches will put some emphasis on this on the training pitch.
"We talked to players (in 2012) who said there was very little time spent coaching a kick-out catch in comparison to the amount of time spent on breaking ball in the middle of the field."
Earley said he was struck by a weekend article in the Australian newspaper 'The Age' where AFL coaches are broadly supportive of plans to make their game more attractive. AFL chief executive Gillon MacLachlan has said, in his pre-season briefing, that there was "a changing view" of coaches in terms of where they want the game to go.
The rate of goalscoring is at a 15-year low and the desire for a more free-flowing games with fewer stoppages is apparent. "I thought it was very interesting that the coaches, in general, were supporting him," said the 2013/2014 Irish international rules manager.
"If you got a selection of inter-county managers and contacted them on such an issue, the reply would be, 'It's not my job to play attractive football, my job is to win.'
"The culture is different here and I feel it is a major issue for us. We have to ensure the game is attractive to play and to watch."