GAA Football

Obsession with rule changes could ruin Gaelic football warns Tyrone playmaker Peter Harte

Tyrone ace Peter Harte believes it is time to stop tinkering with Gaelic football after criticism of Dublin playing keep-ball towards the end of last month's Super 8 victory over Donegal. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

TYRONE star Peter Harte has warned that an obsession with rule changes could lead to Gaelic football being unrecognisable in years to come.

Recent years have seen the introduction of the mark in a bid to revive the art of high fielding, while last October’s Special Congress passed a rule forcing kick-outs to cross the 20 metre line.

Dublin were among those to oppose the motion after it was seen as a deliberate attempt to limit the influence of goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

And there were boos last month as the Dubs played keep-ball to kill off the Donegal challenge late in their Super 8 opener at Croke Park, reopening the age-old debate about the overuse of the hand-pass in Gaelic football.

But, speaking ahead of Sunday’s all-Ulster showdown with Donegal in Ballybofey, Harte insisted it was time to stop tweaking as “teams will just find ways around it again”.

“There’s loads of rules and different things being bandied about,” said the Errigal Ciaran playmaker.

“I think we have got obsessed with rule changes in the last few years in the GAA and how we can make the game better and change this rule and change that rule.

“Four or five years ago everyone thought football was going to be just mass defences, we thought that was the way it would evolve and that would be it, but you can see that it’s not any more.

“Scoring probably averages are up again, teams are attacking again and there’s probably a greater variety of scorers. I’m not sure about rule changes and changing this and changing that just because a certain team finds a way to win or see a game out.

“At the end of the day we might change the game from all recognition if we keep tweaking at what we are doing. Teams will just find ways around it again, so I’m not sure.”

Sunday’s game against their old foes is a de facto All-Ireland quarter-final, with a draw good enough to see the Red Hands through to the following weekend’s semi-final against either Monaghan or Galway while Donegal need to win.

The fact it is being played at MacCumhaill Park - where the Tir Chonaill men are undefeated in 19 League and Championship games - could help restore the fire to a rivalry that has dominated Ulster since the turn of the decade.

“I expect a fierce battle,” continued Harte.

“You just look at Donegal’s record there, it’s not a nice place for anybody to go. They have made it a fortress. It’s another challenge that the Super 8s throws up, basically your knockout All-Ireland quarter-final game in Donegal’s home pitch.

“It’s hard to know how much that actually influences the game. You can’t be hung up on where the game is, but you can be hung up on what Michael Murphy might do, or what Ryan McHugh might do. That’s probably more important than the pitch.

“We just have to prepare as best we can this week, not worry too much about where the game is and hopefully put in a performance that can get us across the line.

“Both teams must be fully focussed and be ready for the battle because that is what it is going to be, and try to get the performance levels to the right place to reach the All-Ireland semi-final which is a massive goal.”

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