In the aftermath of this years GAA congress, many people in the GAA community have been left quite displeased.
One of the biggest changes brought in at the congress was the introduction of the mark to Gaelic football. Motion 41, which narrowly passed the two thirds majority with 68% of the votes in favour, will see the following rule introduced:
“When a player catches the ball cleanly from a Kick-Out without it touching the ground, on or past the 45m line nearest the kick out point, he shall be awarded ‘a Mark’ by the Referee. The player awarded a ‘Mark’ shall have the options of (a) Taking a free kick or (b) Playing on immediately.”
Former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns, the chairman of the GAA’s playing rules committee, made the case for the mark’s introduction. His belief is that it will help restore the art of high catching in the game, but not everyone is in favour of it.
Sunday Game analyst and former Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan, has described the rule as “off the wall” in an interview with the Irish Independent.
“I think to come out with a simplistic approach and think that this is going to introduce the skill of high fielding back into out game is off the wall, because it simply won’t. Coaches will always coach guys to try and field high balls but the game has changed. The modern day goalkeeper now tries to find someone in space. The modern day inter-county goalkeeper will not be playing if he’s not good enough to find people in space.”
Cork GAA opposed the motion at congress as they believed it should be trialled at senior county level first, something Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea seems to be in agreement with judging by this tweet.
We may have to wait until next year to see the mark in action however, as it will be discussed at the GAA’s Central Council in three weeks. Here, a decision on the timing of its introduction will be made. The mark will most likely be deferred until next January as changing a rule mid-season would not go down well with anyone involved in the game.
The other proposed changes made at congress focused on reducing player burnout and shortening the inter-county season to benefit club players.
Two of the proposed burnout motions were approved. The approval of motion 4 means the age limit for inter-county minor football and hurling will be reduced from U18 to U17. This means that all minor players at inter-county level will be aged between 15 and 17 and at club level minor will remain the same. It will become effective from January 1, 2018.
Motion 5 was also approved, which means that the U21 grade at inter-county football level will be replaced with an U20 grade, with players eligible to be aged between 18 and 20. This change will have no effect on the U21 grade for hurling, or at club level, in either code.
These changes were welcomed by Pat Spillane on “League Sunday”, who believes that the changes will have positive effects on players playing inter county football and their leaving cert results, as they will not have to cope with the stress of both simultaneously.
However, the motions to reduce fixture congestion and give club players more game time all failed. Motion 7 proposed that All-Ireland football finals be played on the first Sunday in September, with the hurling final to be played two weeks prior. The motion received 60.8 per cent in favour, but not enough to pass.
This result is a major blow for the improvement of the fixtures calendar, as it will once again be very hard to make more space to play club games and have the All-Ireland Club Championships completed in a calendar year.
Motion 8 sought to make extra-time obligatory for practically all games, apart from provincial and all Ireland finals. However, the 57.5 per cent vote in its favour was not enough to carry it, meaning that replays will remain a central part of the GAA summer and further congest fixture lists.