Offaly manager Michael Fennelly has predicted a “summer of frees” if the GAA doesn’t backtrack on the amended advantage rule.
The Kilkenny great and eight-time All-Ireland winner described the tweak to the rule as “madness” and claimed it will “cause serious problems for everyone”.
Referees can now only play advantage if they believe the team in possession has a goalscoring opportunity or if “the player that is fouled is clear and has time and space”.
Fennelly, whose side hammered Meath in Division 2A of the Allianz League on Sunday, fears that it could lead to “tactical fouling” in defence by teams.
“If that rule is there and referees have to abide by it, that’s going to cause serious problems for everyone; supporters, managers, players,” said Fennelly.
“If you have advantage in the half-back line and someone is fouling you but you get away from him, by the letter of the law that’s a free and you bring it back.
“But no-one wants to be going into a summer of frees. We saw it there a couple of years ago where there was 30-something frees in games, we can’t be going back to that again.
“I hope to God whoever came up with that idea, obviously a group came up with the idea, that can’t be going on. Who would come up with an idea to slow down the game and give frees, and they want frees? For me, that’s madness.”
Speaking on The Sunday Game, former Cork goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack said the GAA must act quickly and reverse the rule change.
Ex-Limerick star Shane Dowling agreed and said it will only “slow the game down even more” and labelled it a “disgrace”.
Fennelly believes that if the rule remains then teams will opt to foul in defence knowing that advantage won’t be played, giving them time to reset and restructure.
“What you actually might see is more frees coming in the full-back line, lads stopping the ball there and saying: ‘Let him have a free’,” suggested Fennelly.
“Tactical fouling and everyone goes back (into their formation). That could come into it which would be an awful pity. We’ll see how they go. We’re judging this after the first weekend, we don’t know but that’s my gut feeling on it.”
The main focus before last weekend’s hurling resumption was on the new rule targeting cynical fouling.
“We had a referee down with us and we went through it in terms of what you can’t do but it’s very subjective and every referee is going to be very different,” said Fennelly on that rule.
“You don’t want to be fouling in that area and you have to know the rules as much as you can but you’d be afraid for some of the full-back line, I’ve no doubt that they were probably more nervous and were sceptical about going near a Meath forward in terms of pulling them down or chasing him down with a hurl even.”