Friday 23 February 2018

New square-ball rule overhyped, insists Donegal totem Murphy

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IT HAS already caused the first serious ripple of the championship and it seems that not even the GAA's top players themselves can agree about the new square-ball rule.

All Star Kerry defender Marc O Se firmly believes it will cause managers to reintroduce "old-style full-forwards" into their teams this summer.

But a footballer who many regard as the prototype of just such a player -- towering Donegal totem Michael Murphy -- believes the effects of the new rule change are already being overhyped.

"You'd have to ask the question: if you can kick the ball into the square then why not put an extra few yards on it and kick it over the bar?" Murphy mused at an event for championship sponsors Supervalu yesterday. "There's an awful lot of emphasis on it at the moment, with people saying that it's going to be this massive advantage for teams attacking-wise. I suppose it will slightly favour some teams, but I don't think teams are going to put that much emphasis on it," he said.

"You see a ball dropping into the square how often, maybe once every game or every two games?" Murphy said. "There's been a few contentious incidents before but they are a very small minority and hopefully this will rule those out, but whether it's going to be a massive advantage to some teams, I'm not sure."

Murphy believes the recent introduction of the new rule -- it was passed at Congress in April and only came into operation a month later (May 14) -- will also lessen its effect as most teams would have had their game plans in place long before this. "It's strange timing," he said. "I suppose people are trying to make it (the game) more exciting."

Yet three-time Kerry All Star O Se, who will miss Sunday's Munster SFC opener against Tipperary due to a hamstring injury, believes it will have a direct effect on how teams approach the game. "It will mean goalkeepers will have to be more physical and defenders will have to be too and it'll bring back the old-style full-forward again," O Se said.

As a defender who has played both full-back and corner-back, O Se has already accepted that his line will now face a new barrage of high balls, but he's not complaining.

"I think it (the new rule) is fair. When it's a placed ball you can't go in (beforehand) and that's fair enough, there'd be consternation otherwise. We saw it ourselves with Kieran (Donaghy, his Kerry team-mate) and it'll be up to every manager to decide what they want to do, do they want to get the big full-back in as well," O Se added.

But he reckons teams will continue to adapt their defences, depending on who they are playing.

"Some teams already have them (big full-forwards). We've Donaghy, Donegal have Michael Murphy, Cork have been using Aidan Walsh but Dublin haven't been using a big full-forward and it's horses for courses really. A big full-back might be good one day but mightn't be appropriate the following game, so I'd say you'll see teams adapting as they go along."

Under the old rule, players could not enter the rectangle before the ball in any instance, but now they can be in the square ahead of the ball once they were not there when the final pass was initiated. The old rule still applies to placed balls (free kicks, line-balls or '45s').

Irish Independent

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