Three recent GAA rule changes that are ruining Gaelic football

gaa rule changes

Leave our game alone.

Many GAA rule changes have occurred over the last few years, from the introduction of the black card to various ‘marks’ now allowed.

But after the opening weekend of Allianz National Football League action, here are three recent rule changes that are ruining the spectacle of Gaelic football.

GAA advanced mark rule.

The actual premise of the advanced mark rule isn’t a bad one.

Introduced after the relative success of the kick-out mark, it was initially trialled as a catch from inside the 20m line, from a ball kicked outside the 45m line in its early stages.

However, this was quickly changed to any catch within the 45m line, from a ball kicked outside the 45m line, so long as that kick is over 20m long. Still with us?

Anyway, this has essentially rewarded the easiest of kick-passes, if given the correct circumstances.

Take one example during the Roscommon-Dublin game over the weekend, where Niall Scully kicked a short pass across the field to the unmarked David Byrne, who casually caught the ball with his hand up.

This gave the Dublin defender up to 15 seconds to slow the game down as Dublin looked to maintain possession.

Former Kerry footballer Tomas Ó Sé made the point that once teams figure out how best to take advantage of the rule – similar to what Scully did – then it’s going to lead to a lot more 20m kick-passes getting rewarded with 15 seconds off the clock.

The GAA should abolish the rule as it’s just not going to work or, at the very least, revert back to the initial idea of allowing a kick outside the 45m line, to a player inside the 20m line awarded with a mark.

GAA Cynical foul rule.

Nobody is against stamping out cynical fouling, in fact, many people supported the introduction of this rule, particularly when it came to goal-scoring opportunities.

But what has already started happening during the first weekend of league action is a ‘double-jeopardy’ scenario where the punishment has far exceeded the actual offence.

Firstly, it’s important to look at the wording of this rule, as it is vital to understanding certain referee’s interpretations of what constitutes a goal-scoring opportunity.

The rule states: “If a cynical foul is committed on an attacking player with a goal-scoring opportunity inside the 20-metre line or the semi-circular arc, then a penalty will be awarded to the team affected.” A black card and 10-minute sin-bin will also be given.

The rule indicates that a cynical foul must occur so if a player makes a genuine attempt at the ball, the referee must decide whether he is still being cynical or not when bringing the forward down.

The second question to ask is what constitutes a goal-scoring opportunity? By definition it is any opportunity to score a goal.

We could be looking at scenarios where referees have a valid argument to give a black card and a penalty for a foul closer to the sideline than the goal if, for example, there is a possibility of an overlap, which in turn would create a goal-scoring opportunity.

If this is going to be the case, like the second penalty in the Roscommon-Dublin game, the ‘double-jeopardy’ punishment is far too high.

This needs to be changed to one or the other (a black card or a penalty), or we get rid of the rule entirely.

GAA advantage rule.

Despite the well-documented flaws when it comes to Congress, the GAA brought in a successful change to the advantage rule a few years ago.

It gave referees the opportunity to play an advantage, up to five seconds, if a player was being fouled but had the possibility to play on.

However, a quirk in the GAA rulebook indicates that the referee must give the latest foul that has occurred.

For example, if an attacking player is fouled by the defender but continues to play on and takes too many steps, the referee – even though he is playing advantage to the attacker – must, by rule, give a free out for over-carrying.

Now while this wasn’t strictly implemented, the powers that be wanted to cover themselves in case of any big match-defining moments coming down to this rule.

They decided to change the wording of the rule this year where an official can only play advantage if there is “the potential of goal-scoring opportunity” or “by creating or capitalising on time and space”.

Again, this leaves a lot up to the referee’s interpretation, but what seems to have happened in both football and hurling so far is that officials are blowing for fouls they see straight away, leading to many inter-county managers giving out about the ‘stop-start’ nature of games now.

Either the GAA rulebook changes and referees can play advantage safe in the knowledge that they can go back for the original foul, or they abolish the new wording of the rule and let officials make their own judgement.

GAA rule changes.

Kerry’s David Clifford gave us a reminder of how good a spectacle Gaelic football is over the weekend and if you cast your mind back to the two 2019 All-Ireland finals, there is currently far more right with the sport than wrong.

However, if the Association continues to experiment with rule changes, that are often passed through Congress without proper debate, then we are going to be left in a situation where a team’s summer could be defined by one of these changes.

It is essential that the three rules above are modified or abolished, and a proper debate is allowed at Congress so if rule changes are brought to the table in future, they have already been trialled in challenge games and have a majority consensus on the change.

Otherwise, leave our game alone.

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