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Kiely fears rules will be condemned without trial

A MEMBER of the Gaelic football task force that proposed the controversial new playing rules has pleaded with managers and players to give their experimental regulations a chance.

As the new GAA inter-county season gets under way today with three games in the McGrath Cup, former Waterford manager John Kiely has defended the changes to the playing rules, and urged people not to make rash judgements.

"We are trying to bring skills back into Gaelic football like the proper handpass, more accurate kick-outs and the high fielding of the ball," Kiely said, insisting they are not massive changes. "But they are new challenges to managers who will have to coach their teams differently in some areas of the game.

"The handpass in both football and hurling, the worth of a penalty to the attacking team, the square ball, were all aspects of Gaelic football that we decided to act upon. We're trying to take away the uncertainty that surrounds the handpass, trying to help teams get rewarded for attacking play by moving the penalty spot closer and we're trying to get rid of unsightly mauls around the middle of the field. They are all worth looking at and yet there has been a lot of negativity. Would managers not give these rules a chance to settle before they make a judgement?"

Kiely revealed that his committee opted against awarding four points for a goal, and decided not to penalise teams after more than two consecutive handpasses as policing such a change would place more pressure on referees.

The task force also elected not to abolish the fisted point as they felt it would restrict attacking play.

"And we decided against removing the toe pick-up. Mick O'Dwyer said recently that there was no skill involved in the toe pick, but I actually see it as one of the great skills of the game. And taking it away would only lead to a constant danger of players clashing heads as they dive in to claim the ball.

"Mickey Harte and other managers have stated that there was no need to change the rules, but I don't think we should be afraid to try new things and I don't think they should be condemned without a trial.

"I don't think there should be a big inquest after the first games of the McGrath or McKenna Cups either. There has been a tendency for a lot of us to react after the first game but maybe we're better giving it time, to wait for a few games at least. The feedback from management, players and referees will be crucial but let's hope that it's done after a series of games."

This year is a rule-change one at GAA Congress and any of these experimental rules that are adopted will be in place for a number of years. The rules will not be offered to Congress as a package but each one will be considered individually on its merits.

Kiely sat on the committee with players Anthony Rainbow and Oisín McConville; Croke Park officials Pat Daly and Pat Doherty; former Galway manager Liam Sammon; Monaghan official Seamus Woods and referees' representatives Mick Curley and Michael McGrath. Kiely said their suggestions would force players and managers to rethink how they approach games.

"People are saying the mark will slow the game down but that's not necessarily the case. The mark could prove to be one of the great experiments of the game and could bring the excitement back to the middle of the field.

"Certainly, a team like Derry, with four big midfielders on their books, should thrive next season. Likewise, we'll see a lot more target men hanging around the square. Again, more excitement. All we ask is that people give the rules a chance."

Sunday Independent