ALL STAR Dermot Earley has thrown his considerable weight behind plans to experiment with the ‘mark’ in Gaelic football.
The GAA yesterday confirmed that the mark will be one of five football specific rules that will go on trial in the 2010 National Leagues beginning in February.
Three new hurling specific rules, including an alteration to the hand pass, will also be introduced.
A further six rules affecting both codes – including the introduction of the advantage rule for attacking teams and the end of the ‘square ball’ directive – were also confirmed.
The most eye-catching change is the new mark, borrowed from Australian Rules football and used in the International Rules game.
Any player who catches a ball cleanly from a kick-out, providing he’s standing between the two 45m lines, will gain a free-kick.
The rationale behind the experiment, according to the GAA, is to reward “high fielding, once one of the most highly-acclaimed skills in the game”.
Kildare midfielder Earley made some spectacular catches for Kildare last season en route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals and unsurprisingly has backed the adoption of the new rule.
“It promotes the skill of fielding and that’s something that a lot of people have felt has died away,” said Earley, who rejected claims it’ll slow down games.
“Quick ball is still the way to go if you catch a ball in the middle and there is no one around you.”
Donegal midfielder Kevin Cassidy has criticised the GAA for continually tinkering with rules each season.
“People are bringing in these rules to improve the game so you have to look at it positively,” countered Earley.
“At the end of the day we’ll be able to see did it benefit the game.
“It’s only bringing it in for the league, and if the game is right for the Championship, that’s the important thing.”
Aside from the introduction of the mark in football, players must also complete hand passes with a closed fist, take kick-outs from 11 metres, instead of 13m, and kick the ball out from the 13m line.
In hurling, “a definite striking action of the hand” is required for passes while the punishment for illegal puck-outs by goalkeepers has been reduced from a 65m free to a throw-in.
The GAA considered the notion of awarding two points from a sideline conversion in hurling but ultimately rejected this.
“It’s hard to know whether they should have brought it in or not,” said Galway’s Joe Canning whose forte is converting sideline cuts.
“If there was two points for a sideline maybe they thought there’d be more players going for it instead of keeping the ball in play.”
The new advantage and square ball rules will relate to both codes as will a direction that throw-ins must take place at least 13m from the sideline.
The GAA statement confirmed that referees will be ordered not to blow for half-time or full-time, even if time has elapsed, until the ball goes out of play.
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