Thursday 17 January 2019

We won't tell Central Council how to vote, insists rules chief

Tyrone's Rory Brennan battles for possession with Conor McHugh of Fermanagh on Wednesday night when defensive play
dominated the action, which some believe is down to the limit placed on the handpass in the experimental rules. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Rory Brennan battles for possession with Conor McHugh of Fermanagh on Wednesday night when defensive play dominated the action, which some believe is down to the limit placed on the handpass in the experimental rules. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The committee behind the experimental rules that have been adopted throughout the pre-season provincial competitions will not be making any recommendations to Central Council as part of next week's review ahead of the national football leagues.

The chairman of the standing committee on playing rules, Professor David Hassan, will make a presentation of findings based on independent analysis of 10 to 12 games from sports performance analyst Rob Carroll.

Carroll assisted the committee at the outset in the preparation of data, especially around kickpass and handpass ratios in recent years.

But a decision on whether all five changes should be carried forward to the league will be left entirely to Central Council delegates as his group, who won't be meeting in advance of the review, don't have executive functions, Hassan pointed out.

Consequences

The chairman said his presentation will point out any "unintended consequences" of their application during the pre-season games. The review was agreed at the Central Council meeting in November specifically for this purpose and his understanding was that they would continue through the league.

"What we have been asked to do, and I will attend the meeting, is to put a report of a sample of 10 to 12 games before that meeting which will help inform the discussion but, in terms of any executive function or further refinement, that's a matter for Central Council.

"Delegates will bring to that meeting the views of their county executive and maybe others and it's largely their function to bring that level of discussion to bear as opposed to a committee reflecting that broad opinion, even though most people are aware of the different perspectives on it."

Central Council delegates are likely to come under pressure from county management teams and their squads to dispense with the three-handpass rule, given how vocal they have been in opposition to the handpass restriction especially since the trials began.

One of those "unintended consequences" may be the drop in the number of goals scored. The comparison is narrow but in the 18 McKenna Cup games in 2017 and 2018/2019 the number of goals scored has fallen from 47 to 34, a decrease of 27.65 per cent.

Leinster's O'Byrne Cup has operated a little differently this year but, drawing parallels between the games in advance of semi-finals this season and last, there have been 27 goals from 15 games played in recent weeks by comparison to 24 from 11 at the same stage last year, a drop of 17.5 per cent.

Hassan said he had no issue with the review taking place between competitions. "When any set of experimental rules in any sport are introduced there can be consequences that are maybe unexpected and it's quite right a review of those will take place."

Most opposition in recent weeks has been to the handpass restriction. "What we would say is that the evidence base for that recommendation is fairly clearcut and as a consequence of that we need to consider whether restricting the extent to which the handpass is used in Gaelic football would add to a game as a spectacle. Because even though managers that have been quite outspoken against the experimental process generally, even they would be willing to accept that the spectacle of the game needs to be considered as it has somehow been diminished in recent times.

"While rule changes have a proportionate role to play then clearly there is a broader stakeholder discussion to be had regarding the coaching, officiating of matches and particularly the issue of competitive balance."

Hassan said it was "unlikely" that his committee would explore any further playing rules possibilities after the league had concluded because 2020 was a year for changes to be made in line with the five-year moratorium.

Irish Independent

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