GAA Football

AFL veteran Marty Clarke envisages early issues for the mark in Gaelic football

Marty Clarke (left) and Conor Meyler at the unveiling of the jerseys that will be worn by the players in the 24-hour marathon match at Garvaghey on January 7 to help raise funds for Cancer Focus NI and the Michaela Foundation
Picture by Bill Smyth

MARTY CLARKE believes the mark will not change Gaelic football at inter-county level and that five seconds is not a long enough period of time to offer a proper advantage to the attacking team.

Clarke formerly played in the AFL during two spells with Collingwood between 2007 and 2014, breaking for a year to come home and help his native Down to the All-Ireland final in 2010.

The mark is a key component in Australian Rules Football and a derivative of it will be introduced to Gaelic football from January 1 next year. When a player catches the ball cleanly from a kickout on or past the 45m line, they shall be awarded a mark and have the option of either taking a free kick or playing on immediately.

“I think it will change club football a lot, but I don’t think it will be an issue in county football,” said Clarke, who will take part in the 24-hour marathon match for Cancer Focus NI and the Michaela Foundation on January 7.

“I don’t think there are going to be very many marks during a game. If you have Player X takes two marks at the start of a game, any opposition is going to prevent that from continuing to happen, especially with so many of the kickouts going short. But at club level, I think it will be significant because you might be able to target a player or two out the field with kickouts.

“I remember when I first went out to Australia in 2007, my team-mates would have watched a bit of Gaelic to see where I came from. And they always asked: 'Why do the goalies just drive the ball out the middle? It’s crazy, it’s a free kick'.

“Now, the game has evolved to retain possession, and there are certain set plays done up. To me, that makes a lot more sense. Keepers aren’t just going to start bombing it out because of the mark, especially at inter-county level. I think lower down it will have an impact, but not so much where it’s wanted at Croke Park.”

The major issue for the former Down forward, who says he is currently focusing on a Sigerson Cup campaign with Queen’s and his health and sport studies in Stranmillis, is the length of time afforded to a player taking a mark.

“I think it could help the game as long as referees know exactly what they’re doing. Once you take that mark, if you go back off the mark you have five seconds. Do you have to kick it or can you handpass it?," he asked.

“I know what you have to do, you have to kick, and personally I think five seconds is way too short. It should be at least 15 seconds if they’re going to reward you for it. Of course, but then it’s the job of the opposition not to allow that mark. If you’re skilful enough and able to kick it out to a certain trajectory and someone catches, then you have your 15 seconds and that’s the reward.

“To me, catching it, rushing back, trying to find an option, the five seconds is gone. If you don’t use it in five seconds, by the time the referee gets it, gets boys organised and hops it, that’s more than 15 seconds.

“If you give a player 15 seconds, they mightn’t use it all the time. The option could be there after six seconds and the player uses it. But I think it could cause hassle at club games, a man catching a ball and no option, then it’s hopped and that will slow the game down even more.”

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GAA Football