GAA stars say hockey rulings could be the way forward

A proposed “tap-and-go” system which aims to rid the GAA of cynically slowing down of play has been backed by those who have experienced it in another code.

The concept has been devised by Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell, a former Irish underage international hockey player who appears to have been inspired by a similar rule in hockey.

Hockey introduced an “autopass” rule in 2009 which allows players to take frees to themselves and advance unobstructed for five metres.

The idea was recently dismissed by Pat Spillane as “complete poppycock” and was not included by the Football Recommendation Committee (FRC) in their 18-strong list of proposals revealed earlier this month — but it is supported by the likes Dublin star Bernard Brogan.

Eddie Kirwan, manager of Nemo Rangers’ senior footballers and also a hockey coach with Ashton School and Cork Church of Ireland, believes it would be a no-brainer to introduce it to Gaelic football.

“It speeds up play, no question about it,” he said. “I don’t see any negative impact that it would have on the game; people want to see the ball moved quicker. It could be implemented with a minimum of fuss.”

Those sentiments were backed by David O’Farrell, who won a Cork U21 hurling title with Blackrock in October and plays hockey for UCC.

The 19-year-old says he’d also like to see the sin-bin introduced to hurling having experienced it in hockey, where players can be binned for two, five or 10 minutes depending on the severity of the offence.

“Since hurling is a much quicker game than football, I think the sin-bin would be very successful,” said O’Farrell. “Too many times, players are let off the hook far too lightly.

“It would make the game a whole lot more interesting if it was introduced. It gives the other team a chance to build momentum.”

The FRC have instead recommended that the first three players receiving a yellow card are replaced. They did, however, propose an advantage rule, something long-established in hockey.

“I would be an advocate of advantage, but with an end point, like in rugby,” explained Kirwan. “If there’s nothing accruing from it, the free is awarded back.

“But in the heat of battle, especially with just one referee, it’s very difficult to be consistent in how long you play advantage for, and what offences you play it for.

“Hockey has a three-standard ruling for fouls, a free, a penalty corner and a penalty stroke. That makes it easier to play advantage, the penalty corner option gives a bit of leeway.”

O’Farrell believes the GAA could borrow from hockey’s dual-referee system: “The presence of two referees, plus clearcut rules applied consistently, make hockey a superiorly run sport.

“The GAA could definitely do with more than one referee, or at least hand more responsibility to the linesmen.

“Hockey seems to be very progressive, unlike GAA; I’ve been very impressed by it since I started playing. New rules are seamlessly implemented, while in the GAA, new rules are a rarity.”

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