GAA Football

Did GAA break much Delft when running rule over hand-passes?

David Hassan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, was trying to fix a game that was already broken.

AN old ‘joke’ told about a newly married man was that, when his wife asked him to wash the dishes, he would be well advised to break a few. ‘Won’t she be annoyed at me?’, he wonders.

‘Maybe’, he’s told, ‘but she certainly won’t ask you to wash any more dishes’.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the current Gaelic football inter-county managers had that in mind when they approached the pre-season competitions and especially the experimental rule which limited hand-passing.

Certainly some had not the slightest wish to think their way around this new challenge but rather appeared determined to make it look as bad as possible.

If two teams both decide to set up with most of their players behind the ball when the opposition is in possession then the spectators know they’re for in a turgid, tedious spectacle.

If you don’t press up on your opponents, then they’re going to kick the ball backwards and sideways, not forwards.

Cue fewer goals than in recent times, and cries of ‘This isn’t the game we know’ and ‘This is a different sport’.

So it blooming well should be.

Clearly the limiting of hand-passes was far from perfect, leading to some unintended consequences, but it did lead to much more kick-passing, more turnovers too, more contests for possession. You know, things that spectators like to see.

I can’t decide either whether the GAA’s ‘PR department’ is simply clumsy – or whether they deliberately dropped a plate or two as well.

With the amount of public outcry against the hand-pass rule, it was obvious some positive PR was needed if the GAA really wanted it to be tried out in this year’s National Football League.

The statistical breakdown provided by Rob Carroll showed that there was indeed an increase in kicking the ball backwards – but only by five per cent.

A far greater shift was taking place in a positive direction, in terms of the ratio of hand-passes to kick-passes.

Yet all this analysis was, strangely, not put out in the public domain before the Central Council meeting at the weekend which decided by a narrow margin to end the experiment with limiting hand-passing.

Despite some of the words being bandied around, most matches weren’t ‘ridiculous’ and it wasn’t ‘ruining’ the game – or not any more than it has been harmed in recent years.

It’s utterly disingenuous to blame David Hassan et al for supposedly doing damage to a game that was already broken.

Yes, there were some exciting matches last year – but mostly only between the very top teams, i.e. those in the ‘Super Eights’, or trying to break into that category, as Roscommon and Armagh were when they met in a thrilling qualifier.

There should be some limit on hand-passing, at least outside the opposition ‘45’.

There should also be ban on passing the ball back to your own goalie, at least from outside the 13m line, and perhaps even a ban on any backwards passing into your own ‘20’, in order to compress the playing area, and create more opportunities to battle for possession.

Just don’t pretend that football is fine by burying your head under a pile of broken crockery.

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Moving on from sexist old jokes to a better present and future, the new year brings new ideas – and it’s good to see a number of double-headers of men’s and ladies games planned for the respective national leagues. Thirteen, to be precise.

There’ll be two at headquarters, Croke Park, two also at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, two in Castlebar, two in Navan, and one each in Semple Stadium, Aughrim, Dr Hyde Park, and Dr Cullen Park.

The mathematically-minded among you may have noticed that that only adds up to a dozen games, not a baker’s dozen.

The other one is at – well, no prizes for guessing that it’s at the home ground of the nicest, most advanced people in the north, Healy Park in Omagh.

The Division Two ladies derby between Tyrone and Armagh will precede the Division One men’s clash of the Red Hands and Cavan on Saturday March 2.

Sadly, if it wasn’t for the good people of Tyrone, there wouldn’t be a single double-header in Ulster.

Surely more counties can do more to provide a platform for ladies football?!

Can camogie follow suit?

Given that there’s a significant overlap involving the counties which are strong in hurling and camogie, it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man (and certainly not of woman) to set up some double-headers involving hurling and camogie.

After the understandable complaints about the rises in admission charges this year, more double-headers would offer more value for money.

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Dublin obviously apply that “break some dishes” line of thinking to their supposed ‘home ground’ of Parnell Park (the ‘home’ that their senior men’s teams rarely use any more), by making it the most unwelcoming ground to visit, at least for the media.

I actually really like the ground and the atmosphere at it, so much so that I somehow forget what a horrible experience everything else is there.

Match programmes for the press? Go and buy them yourself.

Don’t even dream of a cup of getting a cup of tea, never mind a biscuit or a sandwich. Do you think Dublin GAA is made of money?

Obvious evidence of Wifi? Sure don’t the only media that matter live nearby?

Worst of all is the visit from the steward who somehow manages to keep a straight face when he asks, five minutes after you’ve returned from obtaining post-match quotes on the pitch, ‘Are you finished yet? I need to lock up’.

Sure don’t the only media that matter live nearby?

My motion to Congress is for the same treatment to be meted out at all other grounds to any Dublin-based media. Then there might be more calls for some basic manners associated with them being hosts.

As long as Parnell is unwelcoming, though, few will complain about Dublin’s real home being Croke Park.

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