Mark may bring more negatives than positives says Antrim GAA's Michael McCann
AS A player adept at catching a high ball, you’d expect that Antrim’s Michael McCann might be delighted at the introduction of the mark.
However, after initially joking ‘You might have the wrong number here’ when that proposition was put to him, he proceeded to question the need for this latest playing rule change.
The Cargin clubman isn’t completely opposed to the mark, but fears it will bring more negatives than positives. The 30-year-old suggested the new rule will slow down Gaelic football, lead to more packed defences and increased criticism of referees and actually lead to more short kick-outs, not fewer.
“I don’t know about it. I think we’re trying to pull rules out of every game in the world," McCann said.
“I don’t know why they brought it in - is it just to improve catching? It might help, it’ll bring catching on a bit better in that more players on more teams will want to catch the ball. Before, even if you had great catchers, as soon as the big man hit the ground the other team would gobble him up, 'Too long,’ would be called and they get the free.
“It may make teams play a wee bit longer out of defence - but, ultimately, if a short kick-out opportunity presents itself, you’re always going with the percentages. You’re going to go with 100 per cent short kick-out success as opposed to 60 per cent long.”
McCann accepted some sides may avail more of the mark option: “The people who are going to use this rule are those who have players who can catch a ball.
Video: What the mark means for GAA football
“If you don’t have those in your ranks, you’re not going to kick it long anyway. You’ll think, ‘I can’t afford to give a man a mark, let him set up and play the ball into our defence. So I’m going to look for the short kick-out even more’. Teams may start bringing different types of players in, more big men, so there are swings and roundabouts to that.”
McCann also acknowledged the mark might make teams more attacking, but is certain games will become slower and probably have more packed defences: “Defences might - might - be able to commit forward more on your own kick-outs, knowing that, if a player calls a mark, you can get him stopped and everybody can get back into defence and set up, as opposed to being caught on the break with a breaking ball.
“It’ll definitely slow the game down… it’ll probably pack defences even more because you can hold the catcher for a couple of seconds while everybody drops in to set up [defensively].
“When a team breaks on you, what you want to do is stop them in the middle of the field, slow them down, give them a free kick so that you can get men back – well, this will now do that for you, to a certain degree.”
The mark was tried out in the 2010 pre-season competitions and National Football League and McCann feels the same should be done, rather than the rule coming in for this year’s Championship. Central Council will decide on the timing of its introduction when they meet later this month.
“I think you need a trial, introduce it into the McKenna Cup and the league, so that we all know the processes and how it’s done. Give referees and players a chance to get it into their heads," he said.
“Like with the black card, my view is that we need to try to get the interpretation of the rules we already have right before we start introducing more. Are we going to keep introducing rules to try to get everything right? There’s too much for referees to do as it is, never mind marks, and deciding 'What is a black card?’.
“Referees are taking that much abuse because many fans and players don’t know the rules as well as they [refs] do. Now, we’re introducing more rules for fans and players not to know!
“When these rules first come out, everybody will know them because they research them - but, year on year, they tweak them until in five years’ time nobody will know what the rule is."