Martin Breheny: Wishful thinking for 2013
As the new GAA season gets under way, here are 15 areas where adjustments could be made to provide a more attractive package across the hurling and football landscapes.
1 That managers don't gang up on the rule changes proposed by the Football Review Committee and attempt to influence opinion to such a degree that when they are discussed at Congress next April, delegates will have been brainwashed into discarding them.
Every proposal should be scrutinised in detail by all who have an interest in Gaelic football and accepted or rejected on its merits. Managers are as entitled to their say as anybody else but have, in the past, used their influential status to campaign against change. Why do so many of them fear change? Every other field game assesses the rules on an ongoing basis – why should it be any different in the GAA? For whatever reason, GAA managers tend to think that change is designed with their particular team in mind – hence the negativity.
2 That referees don't apply the rules differently as the season progresses. It happens every year in the championship, where the letter of the law is applied rigorously in the early stages, only to ease off as the summer progresses. Suffice it to say, a player is much more likely to be sent off in the first 20 minutes of an early-season championship game than in an All-Ireland semi-final or final.
3 That footballers become a little more ambitious in trying for goals. It appears they are programmed to shoot for goal, but only if there is a 90pc chance of scoring. We're told the modern-day player is so advanced in every facet of the game, yet very few forwards are prepared to gamble on a goal unless the odds are stacked in their favour. Go for it, lads; you might be pleasantly surprised by the return.
4That those counties whose jersey numbering is hard on the eye be told that unless the design is geared for maximum clarity, they will face a hefty fine. The paying public should not have to risk eye strain because jersey designers – or county boards – don't seem to give a damn about making the numbers as visible as possible.
5 That the GAA either enforces or scraps the rule on where players, other than midfielders, are positioned for the throw-in. Half-backs and half-forwards are never as far back as the rule stipulates, yet apart from referees half-heartedly waving them away, no action is taken. Why such a cavalier approach to that rule, yet zero-tolerance on others?
6 That the blood sub rule be re-examined, because it's being abused on a widespread scale. Placing no restriction on how long a player can be off for treatment of a blood injury invites chicanery and, sadly, it has become increasingly prevalent. After all, if player 'A' goes off for treatment and his replacement 'B' is doing well, why make a change? It's more advantageous to retain 'A' for a return later on in the game without using any of the five official subs.
7 That Croke Park ends the practice of switching the big screens to advertising mode if there's the smallest disciplinary indiscretion. Also, that Croke Park ends the "stewards to end of match positions" call five or six minutes from the conclusion of games. "End of match" is the last thing a team trailing by a few points wants to hear while it can provide the leaders with a psychological lift. Surely the stewards can be instructed in advance to take up their positions once the second half is showing 30 minutes.
8 That the appropriate amount of stoppage time be played at the end of games. It has been very much at the minimal end in recent years, which encourages time-wasting by the leading team.
9 That football referees be more vigilant on where free-kicks are taken from. It's not unusual to see kicks taken five to 10 metres from where the foul occurred.
10 That Croke Park insists that senior championship teams be announced no later than the Thursday night before Sunday games and the Wednesday night before Saturday games. In a world of global sport, the GAA has to do everything possible to promote itself, a process greatly enhanced by the announcement of teams during the week. An increasing number of counties delay team announcements until Friday night or later for no good reason other than what they perceive to be good tactics.
11 That the referees' appointments committee use provincial boundaries more regularly than has been the case when making appointments for big games. It's a small country, so there's a clear logic in not having a referee officiating at a game involving a county from his own province.
12 That hurling referees be stricter on penalty-taking. A growing number of penalty takers are now lifting the ball, balancing it on the hurley as they run towards goal, often approaching the 13-metre line before striking. In effect, a 20-metre free is becoming a 13-metre free. The striker should not be allowed to balance the ball on the hurley as he runs in on goal.
13 That football referees be stricter on penalty-taking, only this time coming down on the defending team. Goalkeepers are moving forward off the line all the time, yet are rarely penalised. A blind eye was almost always turned to that offence over the years, but even more so since the penalty spot was brought closer to goal. It appears there's more sympathy for the goalkeeper since then, which is wrong because either he, or his colleagues, are the transgressors in a penalty situation.
14 That senior GAA officials – both at central and provincial level – accept that the inter-provincials have been retained on the democratic wish of counties and act accordingly. Many of the main powerbrokers have for years wanted the inter-pros scrapped, so it's hardly surprising the competitions are so badly timed and poorly promoted.
Bizarrely, they have again been fixed for spring this year, which is by far the busiest time of year on the fixtures front.
Why such reluctance to fill two weekends in November with well-promoted inter-pro action?
15 That the Football Review Committee recommends redrawing provincial boundaries for championship competition so that each of the four regions has the same number of counties.
It would be fairer to everybody while also providing the framework for a more balanced inter-county schedule and, by extension, more space for club activity during the summer.