Eugene McGee recently launched his Football Review Committee. The group has a website all to itself and has used the space afforded it by its GAA parent to post a survey that asks the same tired old questions about the current state of gaelic football. There are shoals of red herrings in there, and a few cod questions too.
The committee seems to conflate together two separate issues. The structure of the All Ireland championships and the state of the game with specific reference to possible changes to the playing rules.
Gaelic Football is fundamentally the same game it has been for years but predictably and logically, as coaching techniques have improved, as GAA coaches and trainers have expanded their horizons taking in influences from other sports, the game has evolved and changed.
Almost every Friday Mickey Harte in his single transferable article in the Irish News took issue with the ranks of unnamed pundits who lamented the decline of Gaelic football.
Harte finds particular issue with the flat earthers that hark back to a so called golden era of football when the oral tradition would have you believe it was fifteen mano mano with epic high catches, wondrous kick passing and free flowing football. What it actually was we witnessed was brutal stuff, terrible pitches, the throw-hand pass, possession kicked away and training that bore no relation to what happened on match day. He returns to the subject again and again.
McGee is one of Harte’s targets and Eugene rather pointedly and unnecessarily name checks Mickey in his press conference talking about last Saturday’s spectacle in Killarney. Anyhow, targeting individuals will get them nowhere. If you have an opinion burning a hole in your brain, get onto www.frc.ie and vent your load. The survey is worth filling in. You can also email them if you so desire with details provided on their website.
From our perspective there are a few hot potatoes that need handled. I used to work with a guy called Bob and he had a saying sometime you gotta slaughter a few sacred cows.
So here’s a few hot potatoes and sacred cows we ‘ve served up for you.
Do away restarting with a kickout after a score. Restart the ball in midfield with a hop ball or give the team that scored a restart on their 45. Why? Well a lot of the problems with the game are built round the restart. The loss of the high fielding midfielder. The dropping players back. The defensive set up. The laborious carrying out of the ball. Soccer, basketball, Aussie rules, rugby, all restart from the halfway line. When the game restarts, specify the number of players in each half of the pitch. Start the game from up the field after a score and reserve the kick out for wides. There is no logic to the kickout anymore.
The Team Foul Count
Punish teams that repeatedly foul. Kerry killed the clock last Sunday by repeatedly fouling inside the Tyrone 45. Donegal do it all the time. Tyrone in a minor final nullified Darren O’Sullivan by rotating foulers on him. After say three fouls give a free thirty metres out. After six fouls bin the man who commits that foul. It is cynical and it destroys the game as a spectacle. Needs stamped out. A combination of free kicks and player/team punishment is the only solution.
Introduce a second referee.
The referee situation at the minute is strewn with controversy. For inter-county games bring in either a second free or introduce a TMO that can rule on off the ball situations, scores and foul play in real time. With a clearly defined role it can work. It’s easy to argue it doesn’t but last Sunday’s ad hoc use of the big screen blows all argument away.
Forget about the Mark
I cannot see what advantage the Mark would bring to the game as it actually slows the game down. Why should the skill of high fielding be rewarded more than say tackling, blocking or kicking with a weak foot?
Ban the Back Pass From a Free Kick
This is a blight on the game; it encourages players to go backwards. If a player kicks the ball backwards from a free, hop the ball or reverse the decision. Make players kick the ball forward. Crossmaglen do it without fail.
Introduce two Team Timeouts per half
Why not? In club games some coaches spend half the game encroaching on the pitch. This would let them speak to players without disrupting the flow of the game. Managers encroaching should encounter zero tolerance.
Forget about Lifting the Ball Clear off the Ground
Why abolish one of the game’s real skills, that is lifting the ball at pace with the toe. There is nothing wrong with the current game that will be improved by changing this rule. As far as I can see this is blight brought in from Aussie Rules. Coaching at underage level the youngsters feel a sense of achievement when they can do this – as if it marks their arrival as a Gaelic footballer.
After three consecutive handpasses the player must kick the ball. We do it in training, why not in a match? It would be easily enough enforced. Plenty of arguments why it shouldn’t be done from Harte and co, the increase of ill thought short kick passing. Balls. We’d soon get over it and move on.
Make the 45 a 35 but taken off the ground from a small specific zone right and left of the goal. This will help encourage attacking play. It also promotes and rewards the skill of kicking off the ground.
Ban players for matches when they get sent off for straight reds and accumulate yellow cards. If the culprit appeals and the appeal is unsuccessful automatically add on two further games.
In all of these rule changes they should be passed by a simple majority. And if introduced, subject to a grace period of one full season with a review group using video and written evidence to consider the impact.
The game of football at county level is dying. It is being killed by over-coaching and coaches who are afraid to lose because many of them are being paid. Players are doing professional level training and conditioning for maybe two or three games. That is not a proper season. The county teams are killing the club game as lesser coaches with poorer players are implementing a poor man’s version of what they see in Croke Park, Clones, or Killarney.
The FRC needs to grab the hot potatoes, slaughter the sacred cows and think outside the box. They can torture as many metaphors as they want but some serious thought is needed to rescue the game of Gaelic football from itself.