Limerick manager Billy Lee goes it alone in backing handpass limit

Limerick football manager Billy Lee has gone against the grain by declaring he is not opposed to the three-handpass limit.

Sunday’s programme of pre-season action across the four provinces saw a slew of managers hit out at the experimental rules, much of the criticism centering on the handpass restriction.

Clare boss Colm Collins described the new rule as “ridiculous”, while Cork’s Ronan McCarthy said limiting teams to three handpasses in succession will encourage more use of the blanket defence “as it is very hard to work through a defence if you have to watch the number of handpasses you are marking”.

Limerick manager Lee, who has no issue with the three-handpass limit, is very much in the minority with his views on the suite of experimental rules. Heading into his third season as Limerick boss, Lee believes the game is in desperate need of shaking up.

“I think they are worth looking at. I know a lot of people are anti these experimental rules, but it depends on the style of football your team play. If you play a running game, you are going to be against them. Against Cork [in the McGrath Cup semi-final], we didn’t see any black cards. The kick-out is only being taken seven metres further out and how many sideline kicks would you normally have in a game? The three-handpass rule, I’ve no problem with that.

“We all have to be honest with ourselves. We all think the condition of football, nationally, is not where it should be. It was exacerbated by the quality of the hurling championship last year.

“These rules deserve a chance. At least we are trying to improve the quality of the product. Every manager is going to worry about his own county and that’s absolutely right. I haven’t heard the referees giving out about anything and yet I see a lot of people talking about referees. Let’s see how the rules unfold over a period of time.”

The sole criticism that Lee has, and this is one shared by nearly every inter-county football manager, is that they are in the dark as to whether the five rules will be used during the Allianz League.

A decision will be made when Central Council convene on January 19.

“It might be better if we knew right here right now if they were going to be further trialled in the league as opposed to finding out on January 19. I just think we need to look at the product. The game evolves, rules evolve. But once we are open-minded about trying to improve the quality of the product, that’s the biggest issue for me.”

Limerick open their Division 4 league campaign away to London on Sunday, January 27. The Treatymen endured a disappointing 2018 when managing only one win between league and championship, that sole victory coming at Waterford’s expense in the league on March 10. Lee is optimistic 2019 will be kinder to his team.

“Last year, there were a lot of lads who didn’t know what they were getting themselves in to, what was required from them. They’ve learned from the year. People might look at the results and say, how can that be? But when you are working with the lads week-in, week-out, you can see the difference in their attitude.”

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