Sunday 18 February 2018

Short restarts kicked into touch

A general view of the result of Motion 21 from the Standing Committee on Playing Rules/Ard Chomhairle, relating to the kick-out in football, which was passed, during a GAA Special Congress at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
A general view of the result of Motion 21 from the Standing Committee on Playing Rules/Ard Chomhairle, relating to the kick-out in football, which was passed, during a GAA Special Congress at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Kick-outs in Gaelic football will now have to go beyond the 20-metre line before being played by another player from the defending team as a result of a motion passed at yesterday's GAA Special Congress in Croke Park.

The change will have significant implications for top-level goalkeepers, particularly Dublin's Stephen Cluxton, who has effectively re-written the Gaelic football restart manual over the last decade.

Under the existing rule, the ball had to travel 13 metres from a kick-out before a defender could play it. However, under the new rule, which will come into force on January 1, the ball will still have to travel 13m and also beyond the 20m line.

Had this rule been in place in the recent All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo, nine of Cluxton's 11 second half kick-outs would have been illegal as they didn't go beyond the 20m line before being touched by a colleague.

Dublin's scoring statistics may also have been significantly different as they scored 1-7 from moves that began with the short re-starts.

It was only in the All-Ireland final that Cluxton opted to go so short with his kick-outs. Prior to the final, only four of his kick-outs in the entire championship went to receivers inside the 20m line.

Jarlath Burns, chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, who proposed the motion - the only football rule debated at yesterday's Congress - argued that when a goalkeeper kicked a ball right or left to a colleague inside the 20m line, it was not within the spirit of the game. He accepted that kick-outs would become riskier for the goalkeeper under the new rules.

Opposing the change, Dublin delegate Michael Seevers said it would penalise teams who were being innovative while rewarding teams who wanted to be negative. Furthermore, it would condense the playing area even further between the 20m and 45m lines.

There was no further debate on the issue, and the change was approved on an 82-18 per cent decision.

Earlier, delegates voted through significant changes to the structure of the All-Ireland under 21 and minor hurling championship for a three-year experimental period.

Under the new structure for the under 21 series, Galway and some Ulster teams will compete in the Leinster championship. The number of Ulster teams who will compete in the Leinster series will be determined by the two provincial bodies.

Wexford opposed the move, while an Offaly proposal that Galway compete in the Munster under 21 championship while the Ulster teams play in Leinster was rejected.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy said the GAA could not allow a situation to continue where the Ulster under 21 champions were being consistently beaten by an average of 23 points in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Delegates accepted an amendment from Cork to continue to have All-Ireland semi-finals in the competition. The Central Council had suggested that the two provincial winners advance directly to a final. The new format for the All-Ireland minor hurling championship will see Ulster counties compete in the Leinster championship.

At All-Ireland level there will be a new round robin competition to determine the two counties to join the Munster and Leinster winners in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Galway, together with the beaten provincial finalists, will play in this round-robin competition.

There will be additional extra-time in all the All-Ireland football qualifiers, knock-out games in the National League and provincial club championship games if the teams are still level after one period of extra-time.

Under the new rule, two additional periods of extra-time of five minutes each shall be played. If the teams are still level the result will then be determined by a free-taking competition.

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