Kieran McGeeney and Liam McHale give ‘mark’ seal of approval

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney and Roscommon selector Liam McHale have backed the introduction of the ‘mark’ to Gaelic football, but McGeeney believes the GAA could do even more to encourage high fielding.

Kieran McGeeney and Liam McHale give ‘mark’ seal of approval

Under the new rule passed at GAA congress on Saturday, a player catching the ball cleanly from a kickout, after it has travelled beyond the ‘45’ metre line without touching the ground, has the option of taking a free kick or playing on.

McGeeney thinks the rule change is a good thing, but believes it should apply in every sector of the field, as in the AFL and International Rules series.

“I’d be all for it, but I can’t understand why we’re giving it to midfielders,” said McGeeney.

“You would think if it deserves a platform, should a corner-back or corner-forward catch the ball, it should be allowed because that’s what you want and you’re going to get more scores.

“Gaelic football is a fast-moving aggressive sport with a lot of skill in it.

“If we want to see that continue, then the rules should reflect the way we want the game to be played, and I think this will improve the game.”

McGeeney accepts the impact of stopping the game for a clean catch has yet to be determined, and could lead to even more tightly packed defences.

“If you stop and take the free, even though you’ve five seconds to take it, it gives players more time to filter back.

“So it’ll be harder to kick-pass the ball, which we’re trying to do.

“People get on their hobby horses about different things but in most cases in life, you’re looking to see what you end up with. What game are we looking to see?

“That should be our starting point.”

Rather than slow the game, McHale, a renowned high-fielder in his playing days with Mayo, feels the mark might even speed up midfield play.

“Some people think it will slow the game down but I think it will speed it up and stop that congestion around the middle of the field, when a big guy catches the ball but comes down and is battered by three or four guys.

“It will open up the game a bit around the middle and while it will suit certain teams, it won’t suit others.

Though McHale disagrees with McGeeney on widening the mark area.

“I’m just glad it’s in between the two 45m lines and not all around the field – it would be like Aussie Rules then.”

McHale believes that the mark will encourage teams with recognised high-fielders to pump the middle third of the field from kick-outs, rather than electing to go short in the search for primary possession.

He added: “You’d effectively have a free in the middle of the field and if you can move it on quick, you’re in a really good situation to attack and put the opposition full-back line under pressure.

“The short kick-out will remain for some teams but others will have the likes of Gary Brennan (Clare), Gearoid McKiernan (Cavan), our own Cathal Shine with Roscommon, Aidan and Seamie O’Shea in Mayo.

“Management teams will look to get them isolated, one on one with their man and bomb long kickouts. It will add more strategy and clean it up around the middle.”

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