Niall Morgan fears rule changes could curtail the role of goalkeepers

Speaking at the launch of the GPA’s annual report for 2023, co-chair Morgan added that there are some trials he likes.

2024 Ulster GAA Minor Championship Playoffs Quarter Final.
 Tyrone’s Niall Morgan  during Saturday's game at Healy Park in Omagh.

TYRONE’S Niall Morgan has revealed his fears about the new rules in Gaelic football potentially curtailing the role of goalkeepers.

The former All-Star is among a group of adventurous sweeper ‘keepers who have been happy to join in outfield play by occupying space on opposition kick-outs, setting up attacks and even scoring.

But Morgan expressed his concern about possibly being limited by new rules which are currently being trialled by the high powered Football Review Committee.

The FRC has already assessed some of the new rules in ‘sandbox games’ in Westmeath, Mayo and Dublin with another outing planned for Armagh this weekend.

The initial plan was to try a number of kick-out variations, to limit goalkeepers to only receiving possession inside the large rectangle and another experiment where goalkeepers could receive possession from a team-mate beyond their 45m or 65m line.

Another trial involves both teams keeping three players, including the goalkeeper, inside their own 65m line.

“The role that I play, I would be slightly concerned with some of the rules,” said Morgan. “It does seem like the goalkeeper is going to go back to play on the line and that would make goalkeeping a lot more difficult.

“Over the last few years, it’s become a position that people say is attractive. Young players are looking to be a goalkeeper. It wasn’t so much that way when I was asked to play for Tyrone, I was completely against playing in goals but it was my only chance of getting into the county team.

“Do we want to make the position less attractive? Do we want to be saying to three players on the team that you can’t cross the halfway line, that you’re no longer a player? Mickey Harte used to say to us, ‘There are no forwards and defenders anymore, everybody plays football’.

“So you’re going to be pinning three players back, then you’re going to be attacking a ball and it goes over the 65 and you’re no longer able to attack it. You’ll have to wait, which goes against what you’re taught from when you were a six-year-old, to attack a ball.

“If you’re tracking a player back, you’ll have to start looking behind to count how many players you’re leaving behind. That’s going to take a lot of consultation to make sure that if we do this, we’re doing it right.”

Speaking at the launch of the GPA’s annual report for 2023, co-chair Morgan said there are some trials he likes.

“I love the 40m arc and getting two points for a long-range score,” he said. “It’s going to make teams come and press a wee bit more. The kick-out idea where it has to go beyond the 40m arc, does that promote a defensive system where teams will rally back behind the 40m line? It’s just making sure that we get it right and we don’t make any position less attractive or put people off wanting to play.”

GPA CEO Tom Parsons has met the FRC, which is led by former Dublin manager Jim Gavin and which also includes Malachy O’Rourke and Michael Murphy.

“We had two hours with Jim last weekend and a few observations,” said Parsons. “It was probably one of the best consultations I have seen done by a committee in terms of the stakeholder engagement.

“Their proposals are going to be brought to Congress next December so I think the GPA are going to be keen to do as much consultation as we can and have a very, very firm position on those potential rule changes.”

GPA finance chief Ciaran Barr, the former Antrim hurling captain, said he likes the idea of cracking down on dissent, one of the rules that is being looked at.

“I think another big plus, and I think the players are very comfortable with it, is the 50m penalty for disrespect,” said Barr. “Whether it’s disrespecting the player who has won the free and not giving him enough space to take the free, or disrespecting the referee.

“One of the values of the GAA is respect so this penalty, if they bring it in, will take out a lot of the messing. Stuff that just shouldn’t be going on. When a referee brings it up 50 metres, I think the first time people see that, a lot of people will think you can’t afford to do that again.”