New Gaelic football rules face road test in 2019 league

A suite of experimental rules are to be road-tested in next season’s Allianz Football League with a mind to them being introduced permanently from the 2020 Championship.

The standing playing rules committee has set out five proposed changes to improve the game as a spectacle - the sin bin, a limit of three consecutive hand-passes, forward-only sideline kicks, the extension of the mark to inside the 20-metre line, and a new kick-out protocol.

Headed up by Derry man David Hassan and featuring the likes of Cork secretary Frank Murphy and former senior football manager Brian Cuthbert, the group will engage in a consultation process with players, managers and other stakeholders where there will be open to amendments and suggestions.

Those recommendations will then go to GAA’s management committee next month and those approved will be trialled in next year’s Allianz Football Leagues. If proven to be positive additions to the game of Gaelic football, they will be brought in as rules for the 2020 SFC.

As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, a 10-minute sin bin, which would replace the black card and also be the same punishment for two yellow cards, is a major consideration for the committee. The player binned would not be replaced for that duration. As a result, the number of substitutes would return to five from six.

The handpass change is simple in that it seeks to curb the possession-driven aspect of Gaelic football, while the sideline kick proposal is simply considered a means of encouraging more positive play.

The extension of the mark would pertain to clean catches inside the 20-metre line from a kick delivered on or beyond the 45m line. Unlike the midfield mark, the player who makes the mark would have 15 seconds to take the resultant free. A score can be made from it and the kick would have to take place from the hands but he has the option of playing on. Opposing players would have to be at least 13m from where the ball is kicked.

The kick-out change would not only insist on goalkeepers kicking beyond the 45m line but just two players from each team being permitted between the 45m lines on the restart, the goalkeeper and a maximum of six players from each team having to be behind the respective 45m lines until the ball is kicked.

“The rule changes need to be considered in their totality,” committee member Cuthbert told the Irish Examiner. 

“Lineball, long kick-out, limited handpassing and the mark inside. The combination of these four rules changes is what is important; it’s not necessarily the individual rules themselves.”

Cuthbert, who distanced himself from strong speculation about him succeeding fellow committee member Murphy as Cork secretary, insisted the proposed alterations were not aimed at fixing the game but making it more attractive.

“I wouldn’t use the word upset but there are concerns about football as a spectacle with the season just gone. No matter the generation you come from, people like to see the ball being kicked.

“The rules committee have thought hugely about if there are more ways to attack and kick the ball. We might see the fruits of that process in terms of a different style of game being played. “Some people at the coal-face of Gaelic football have thought hugely about how you can play the game as it was played in the past and like in many other sports not just Gaelic football defences become paramount. Because of that, the game as a spectacle has suffered and you can’t argue with that. The rules committee are accepting that is the case and they are putting forward something to try and encourage teams tomove the ball a bit quicker.”

In yesterday’s statement, committee chair Hassan underlined the work undertaken to produce the proposals: “In advance of this document there was extensive research carried out including detailed consideration of video footage, data provided on inter-county games from 2011 to the current season, and discussion on the part of the committee’s members during the course of the year.

“Proposed changes are designed to enhance the core skills of Gaelic football. The committee will now embark on a period of consultation with all of the key stakeholders involved in the playing of our games.

This feedback is important, and we also know that the ultimate test of any proposals is when we see them implemented on the field of play.”

The committee intend focusing on hurling next year and 2020 where the hand-pass is likely to be redefined.

Also in the group are Tracy Bunyan (secretary and National GAA Super Games co-ordinator), GAA director of games development Pat Daly, former Meath captain and county operations manager, Seamus Kenny, former Leinster secretary Michael Delaney, ex-Galway hurling captain and GPA president David Collins and Antrim’s Alex McQuillen.

By John Fogarty
GAA Correspondent

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