Friday 23 August 2019

High fielders jump for joy as 'mark' rule gets backing

GAA president, Aogan O Fearghail will join director-general, Paraic Duffy as they visit the four provinces to explain new proposals to cut the risk of burnout in young players
GAA president, Aogan O Fearghail will join director-general, Paraic Duffy as they visit the four provinces to explain new proposals to cut the risk of burnout in young players
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

High fielders rejoice - your impressive skills could be set for a comeback in Gaelic football.

The GAA's Rules Review committee, chaired by former Armagh midfielder, Jarlath Burns, has proposed that the 'mark' be introduced to the game.

If accepted, a kick-out will have to travel more than 45 metres and when a player makes a catch, he will be allowed to play the ball away unimpeded.

A motion to that effect will be put to Congress next February.

The 'mark' was proposed five years ago, only to be shot down by Congress, but it could get a more sympathetic hearing now.

Short kick-outs have become quite common in Gaelic football as part of a wider ball-retention tactic, which is unattractive to watch.

It's hoped that the 'mark, which will be on display in the Ireland-Australia International Rules game in Croke Park on Saturday night, will not only lead to the eradication of short kick-outs but also provide high-fielders with an opportunity to showcase their skills.

The 'mark' has been on the GAA agenda for a long time but, for some reason, always came up against opposition.

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That's despite the clear evidence that high fielding is a dying art in the game, not because there's a shortage of catchers but due to the success of 'spoilers', whose job is to thwart the jumpers.

And even when a high catch is made, the fielder can expect a welcoming committee on his return to Earth, whose job is to force him into being penalised for over-carrying.

It's not only deeply frustrating for fielders but also detrimental to the game as a spectacle, a situation which has now been recognised by the Rules Review group.

The Rules Review group also want standardisation to be applied to the introduction of subs. Under current rules, referees cannot add on time lost while subs are brought on.

This is often exploited by the leading team, especially in the closing minutes of games. Details have still to be worked out, but the aim is to ensure that the introduction of subs should not result in playing time being lost.

It's an important proposal as stoppage time controversies, often caused by substitutions, continue to bedevil hurling and football.


Anything up to four minutes can be lost through time wasted during the introduction of subs. And since most substitutions occur in the second half, it leads to annoyance and frustration at the end of games.

Central Council also decided on Saturday to defer a decision regarding what - if any - proposals will go forward to Congress next February regarding changes to the format of the All-Ireland football championships.

No fewer than 18 proposals were submitted by county boards and the GPA.

Many had a broadly similar theme so it was decided to re-visit them with a view to deciding which should go forward to Congress for consideration.

Central Council will reconvene next month to make a final decision.

Meanwhile, GAA director-general Paraic Duffy and president Aogan O Fearghail will visit the four provinces in an attempt to sell the benefits of a suite of proposals, designed to generate a better fixture structure for club players, while also cutting the risk of burnout among those in the 17-21 age-group.

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