Playing rules committee chairman Jarlath Burns insists the new mark rule is intended to reward high- fielding despite it stipulating any clean catch from a kick-out on or past the 45 metre line will be rewarded.
Central Council will decide on the date of its introduction next month after it received 68% of Congress delegates’ support on Saturday following a stirring brief from Burns.
The new rule states if a player collects the ball on or beyond the 45m line he is entitled to either take a free kick within five seconds or play on. Should the opposition not retreat 10 metres, the referee can bring the ball forward 13 metres but the retriever still takes the free.
“I would see it as a high catch,” said Burns. “On the specifics of it, whenever the ball goes out to the middle of the field, if he goes up and catches it cleanly without dropping it then he gets a mark for it.”
In opposing the mark, Cork senior administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan said coaches don’t coach the mark.
“It was a chilling thing to say, it actually helped my argument,” said Burns. “It made my argument for me to hear him saying coaches aren’t coaching it. You cannot give life-support to any skill; all you can do is give it a gentle nudge and a gentle leg-up. At the end of the day, we slept-walked into the death of the drop kick and it’s gone now.”
On Twitter, Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and former Dublin footballer Alan Brogan questioned the decision to bring in the mark without a trial. Burns responded: “It was trialled in the National League four (sic, six) years ago – the problem was that no statistics were taken. But I was at all of Armagh’s matches that year and there seemed to be a significant rise in the number of free catches.”
Burns’ committee are now considering a proposal on limiting handpasses. “We have to be very careful in making the referee count any more than he has to count. Already he has to count seconds with the advantage rule – that has been a great help to our game and everyone understands it now. But we have to be very careful, consult widely with the referees.”
Also, a tap-and-go quick free will be trialled. “There is a feeling that Gaelic football is the only sport where if you get a free, it is actually a disadvantage because it slows the game down. This allows you to stop, quick tap, and move on.”
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