'We don't know where we stand': Potential loopholes undermine new rules

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Brian Adam
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Tony McEntee says players and managers don’t know where they stand with the GAA’s rule changes to Gaelic football.

Speaking on the Irish Examiner’s Allianz Football League preview podcast, McEntee said the implementation of the rules reflected a wider leadership deficit.

“It’s a reflection of where the GAA is at the minute. We don’t know where we stand. Our rules are changing on a daily basis. The interpretation of the rules are clearly not thought out.

“We have, as far as I can see, a leadership deficit, absolutely no clarity through club nor county, and the mark is an example of that.

“It started off as a simple mark, kick the ball in and you catch it. Now there’s confusion over whether the defenders catch it or forwards catch it; the distance involved in it. What happens when you catch it? Do you take your four steps? What does the defender do? Does he stay off you?

“I spoke to a man recently, from Down admittedly, and he was talking about another Ulster county team who I’ll not name. Their tactic at the minute is when you catch the ball from a mark to put the arms around you to prevent you raising your hand so you can’t take the mark.

“And now I’m led to believe you can wait three seconds or four steps before you can lift the hand. This is a nonsense.”

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Laois manager Mike Quirke pointed out that he’s seen four different referees apply four different interpretations of the rules in their pre-season games.

“There’s a little bit of mud in that if you catch the ball inside the square that’s been kicked from outside the 45, the whistle will sound and before you put up your hand, the defender can’t touch you for four steps, anywhere in the field.

“So if you win the ball inside the large square, you can run your four steps and the defender is not allowed to touch you.

“If the defender tackles you inside the four steps, there’s a penalty awarded. If the defender knocks the ball, it’s a 20m free, because it’s a technical foul as opposed to a personal foul.”

Former Cork attacker Colm O’Neill questioned whether the expansion of the mark will be good for the game.

“If it’s going to be more like Aussie Rules, I’ve watched one or two Aussie Rules games and they’re not very good viewing, to be honest. I just think it’s going to slow up the game, especially for inside forwards.

“If I was a manager, I don’t know should you be building your game plan around a specific mark? I think you take it as it comes, I don’t know should you be changing your style of play just to suit the mark.”

McEntee asked if talk about the mark was “more smoke and mirrors and anything else”.

“You’re going to be looking at 25 to 40 attacks in a whole game, depending on who the opposition is, and you’re going to be worried about three or four marks in the whole game when you’ve 25 or 30 or 40 opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

O’Neill also warned of the effect of the rules changes at club level: “There’s gonna be pandemonium from people in the crowd who think they know the rules who don’t know the rules and are going to be roaring into the refs.”

Quirke added: “I’m not a big fan of these rules having to be completely blanketed across club level. I’d have no problem if this mark was a part of inter-county football but not a part of club football.”

While Quirke was positive about the sin bin, more flaws were discussed.

As well as the potential for time-wasting, McEntee pointed out the incentive to get sent-off rather than sin-binned in a game heading to extra-time, as teams with a man sent-off can return to 15 players but those with a man sin-binned have to wait until his ten minutes are served.