GAA Football

Eoin Donnelly: Proposed 'mark' could make matters worse

Fermanagh midfielder Eoin Donnelly believes the 'mark' may cause more problems than it solves
Niall Gartland

FERMANAGH midfielder Eoin Donnelly has cautioned against the introduction of the ‘mark’ at this weekend’s congress in Carlow.

The proposed rule change’s raison d’etre is to preserve and reward the art of high fielding, but Donnelly believes the mark may only serve to worsen the problem of overcrowding in the midfield sector. And although Jarlath Burns, the chairman of the GAA’s playing rules committee, says the mark is a must to arrest the decline of one of the game’s most fundamental skills, the Coa clubman is more philosophical about the evolving nature of the game.

Donnelly said: “It'd probably be good to have more of a contest from long kick-outs and more high-fielding, but it’ll probably pose more challenges for refereeing.

“Obviously, there's going to be a lot of tactical issues as well because it might be possible for teams to crowd the middle, so I don't think it's as straightforward as it sounds. I think teams just want to get to get the ball to the other end of the pitch as fast as possible. If the other team is crowding the midfield, you'll have free men and you’ll tend to kick it short, it's just about using your head.”

He added: “There'd be some benefits, but whether it works or not is another matter.”

Donnelly believes an amendment to the proposed rule, which is only applicable to kick-outs between the 45-metre lines, would go some way to rectifying any potential pitfalls.

“If you get the mark, you can play on, but if there isn't a restriction on the number of people allowed in that middle sector it’ll only make it harder," he said.

“To be honest, I’d probably be happy enough to keep it the way it is and that’s only my own opinion and I’m sure there’s people who’ve looked into it more than me who have a different argument.”

Meanwhile, Donnelly and Fermanagh face-off against an Armagh side hunting for their first points of the campaign in Saturday’s league match at the Athletic Grounds.

Both freshly promoted from Division Three, Pete McGrath’s men have adjusted better to life in the second division, with a win against Meath following their opening day loss to Derry. They also welcome back Martin O’Brien and Ryan McCluskey to the panel, but Donnelly anticipates a gruelling encounter against their northern rivals.

“We still have a few injuries, but that’s league football - there’s weeks when you’re struggling to get everyone out and then, next week, you’ve lads coming back," he said.

“Last year, we had Armagh in the league and it finished a draw and, this time, it’ll probably be something similar. Hopefully we can get a good start in the game - we’ve had a three-week break, so we want to get up and running as quickly as possible.

“It’s going to be a tough battle going up to the Athletic Grounds, it’ll be tough in defence and we’re going to have to work hard to get a result.”

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