Changes to the rules suggested by Joe Brolly in May will be put to the test in a exhibition match
On May 11, Joe Brolly in his Sunday Independent column, outlined a rule change that would force teams to abandon adopting a blanket defence. Brolly wrote,
I believe there is such a solution. One simple rule change, that applies only on the kick-out. The goalkeeper must kick the ball out beyond the 45-metre line. For the kick-out, only the four midfielders can be in the zone between the 45s. The rest of the players must line up as per the throw-in, with six-versus-six inside each 45. They do not have to be in their starting positions, so long as there are six from each team inside each 45. From the kick-out, the ball is not in play until it is touched by one of the midfielders. Until then, the rest must stay inside their 45.
Brolly’s argument is that, such a change would encourage midfield duals and return the art of fielding the ball to pinnacle of the game. It would also allow for sweeping attacks to take place, as after the ball is won, half back lines would charge into the open space created by the system, rather than a blanket defence.
In order to trial the proposed change, Monaghan club Truagh Gaels, are holding a game on July 18, between a selection of players from Ulster against one made up of players from the rest of Ireland. Down’s James McCartan will take charge of the Ulster side while Seamus McEnaney will oppose him in the rest of Ireland dug out. Among the players committed to the fixture are Ronan Clarke, Ryan McMenamin, Aaron Kernan and Seanie Johnston for Ulster and Padraig Joyce, Eamonn O’Hara, Mattie Forde and Shane Curran for the rest of Ireland.
Critics of Brolly’s system point to the fact that after a midfield player fields the ball, it would be more advantageous for his opponent to foul him rather than allow him start an attack. Once the free kick is conceded, players would simply funnel back and reapply the blanket defence. Teams could also simply rotate the players playing in midfield, allowing different players tactically foul without much sanction.
There is also issues relating to the flow of the game. Each time a kick out is due to take place, teams would have to set themselves up. This would take much time if, as Brolly imagines, halfback lines swept up the field. Therefore timewasting would become an issue, as sides would be slow in positioning themselves in the restart position if they were leading going into the final minutes of a game.
Of course there is another very real issue, that has implications for players and teams competing outside of the inter county scene. What happens in the event of a gale blowing against the goalkeeper taking the kick out and he cannot reach the 45?
Brolly’s idea is good in principal but it has a long way to go before it can be called a concrete one.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena