GAA Football

Kevin Madden: Running the rule over some of the new rules in GAA

The black card has been a 'miss' in Kevin Madden's book

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

PERHAPS we could all do a lot worse than take on board this famous quote by the Greek philosopher Socrates.

We are living through a time where negativity and apathy among the ordinary GAA members must be at an all-time high. Change can be hard to accept, and we have witnessed it aplenty over the last number of years.

The black card, the advantage rule, the mark, Sky TV and the ‘Super 8’ have been some of the most controversial shifts that have all divided opinion universally.

There are lots of us who have disagreed with most of these, but sure some of us are too hard to please and there are others among us who will never be happy.

But there comes a point where change must be embraced until its inception proves either it was the right or the wrong thing to do.

If it is the latter, then as a democratic organisation it is up to the people to speak up and create a new way.

In today’s column, I will look at three of the more recent rule changes.


The obvious flaws and increased pressure on referees has led to divided opinion on the value of this feature.

The biggest challenge has been the consistency of its application and the lack of understanding around the rule.

The primary reason it was introduced was to eradicate cynical play, particularly towards the end of games.

There is less body checking and fewer deliberate drag downs, but the fact remains that its introduction has done little to improve the game.

Very few players, coaches, supporters and referees that I know have hailed it as anything other than a failure.

Verdict: Miss


I believe the advantage rule has been a huge success, making a really positive contribution to Gaelic football. I always found it frustrating how a player could be fouled and the referee would then attempt to play the advantage and then realise in fact a free was the more rewarding thing to give. By then it was too late. Now, the advantage is nearly always with the team being fouled against.

There does seem to be some confusion among players, managers, referees and supporters when it’s a case of ‘what happens if another foul is committed during the five seconds advantage?’

It is my understanding that the referee should award the second free if it is deemed to be in a more advantageous position. But more often than not we see the referee reverting to the original free. It is fair to say that confusion also reigns if a player fouls the ball during the five second advantage. Which foul takes precedence? It should be the latter and the advantage is lost. Again, inconsistency is a problem. But those minor flaws aside, the good outweighs the bad in this case.

Verdict: Hit


The mark was introduced to try and bring back the art of high fielding. I have to admit I am

still quite sceptical about it, and I don’t think the stop-start nature of the rule will help the game. Having said that, I have spoken to a number of players who, so far, quite like the concept.

The biggest advantage in my opinion is when a player catches the ball from his own team’s kick-out.

In that instance he will generally have his back to the attacking goal before becoming surrounded by opposition tacklers.

So the free is often a good advantage, especially for players who don’t have great agility to turn and accelerate away from the tackle. The biggest issue is the ‘Did he gesture to play on?’ or ‘Did he actually decide to take the mark?’ This has led to confusion between referee and players in some games I have seen so far.

I don’t think this new rule will stand the test of time but, for now, the jury is out.

Verdict: Too early to tell


The club and community are still our bedrocks

NO matter what rule changes are introduced or corporate deals signed, two events over the weekend reminded me that the club and community still is, and always should be, the bedrocks of our association.

On Saturday, for the fifth consecutive year, Crossmaglen Rangers ran their sevens competition in memory of much-loved club member and ex-player James Hughes.

Teams from all over Ulster and beyond received tremendous hospitality from the Armagh club who put on a great show in memory of one of their own.

It was clear from the outset just how highly-regarded James was and how he is still dearly missed by all who knew him.

At his funeral back in 2011 the priest spoke of his ‘legendary kindness’ and those of us who were lucky enough to attend Saturday’s Sevens experienced exactly that from his siblings Rita, JP and everyone at the club.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Lough Neagh, Sunday saw another serious congregation of the GAA fraternity, out to show solidarity for another family of their own.

Clubs, teams and individuals from all over Ulster came out in support of a Big Breakfast brilliantly organised by Creggan Kickhams GAC for schoolchildren Fintan and Mary O’Neill who were knocked down and seriously injured in a road accident a number of weeks ago. No other organisation in the world has the ability to generate the community spirit and good will of the GAA.

To think that over £40,000 could be raised in one breakfast morning by a small rural club is truly incredible and huge credit must go to everyone involved.


South Derry Abú

TOMORROW sees the mighty Slaughtneil embark on the third and final leg of their incredible journey.

Good luck to all the teams playing on St Patrick’s Day, but on this occasion my heart lies

in the Oak Leaf County as I will be hoping to see both the Andy Merrigan Cup and the MacRory Cup return to South Derry.

Now if that happens, that certainly will be a change – something new.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access