Wednesday 21 February 2018

Experimental rules opening floodgates as top-flight sides exploit changes

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE mice are beating the mousetraps more easily than usual in the top flight of this year's NFL, according to figures from the first six series of games.

The experimental rules are believed to be partially responsible for the added pressure on defensive systems which have been tested to the limit over the past two months. Scoring returns from Division 1 show a marked increase in each of the last four seasons, with the current campaign the most prolific of all.

It has produced an average total score of 31.4 points per game, up more than three points on last year, up five points on 2008 and six on 2007.

The increase has come about mainly through goalscoring, which has shot up by 74pc on last year. Division 1 has already yielded 52 goals in 24 games, compared with 30 for the first six rounds last year.

"The extra goals could be down to the experimental rules which allow players to be in the square before the ball is in open play," said GAA director of games Pat Daly.


"Taking penalties two metres closer in also helps. Put the two together and it's definitely a plus for attackers."

The scoring surge is confined to Division 1, which suggests that the better the teams, the more equipped they are to exploit the openings which experimental rules tend to provide. Last season's Division 2 returns increased on previous years but have dropped back again this year. Division 3 has decreased by two points on last year while Division 4 is down five points.

Whatever about the square-ball and 11-metre penalty trials, there are still mixed views on other experiments, particularly the switch from the open-hand pass to the closed-fist pass.

It was hoped that the change might lead to the ball being kicked more often, but that is definitely not the case according to ongoing research by Mayo's PJ McGrath, a former All-Ireland referee.

He's been comparing the kicked-pass to hand-pass ratio at one NFL game each week since the season started and says it's coming it at one-to-four in favour of the latter.

"The ball is being hand-passed four times as often as it's being kicked. That's not what people pay in to watch," he said.

Delegates will vote whether to retain the experiments at Congress next month.

2009 NFL

Total number of points per game

NFl Div 1 Div 2 Div 3 Div 4

2010 31.4 26.7 28.8 28.1

2009 28.1 28.8 26.8 33.5

2008 26.5 26.6 28.4 31.7

2007 25.1 27.1 * *

*No Div 3 or 4. Div 1 was divided into 1A, 1B and Div 2 into 2A, 2B.

Irish Independent

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