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Thursday 13 December 2018

Jack: New rules not aimed at Dubs

Experimental rules just tackle 'symptoms'

CHAMPIONS: Jack McCaffrey celebrates Dublin’s All-Ireland SFC final victory over Tyrone with the Sam Maguire last September. Photo: SPORTSFILE
CHAMPIONS: Jack McCaffrey celebrates Dublin’s All-Ireland SFC final victory over Tyrone with the Sam Maguire last September. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Conspiracies and the Law of Unintended Consequences.

It seems the GAA can't do right for doing wrong when it comes to addressing the increasingly urgent need to morph into a more aesthetically agreeable sport.

First the conspiracy.

These proposed rule changes come at a time when one team dominates the inter-county scene to an extent not seen since the late 1970/early 80s.

If the prosaic, safety-first methodology utilised by most managers is turning people off Gaelic football, the lack of drama in Dublin's fourth All-Ireland win in succession never brought them back for a curious peek.

Last year, a tentative change to the kick-out was brought in, compelling goalkeepers to go beyond the 13-metre line with their restarts.

Maximum

It just so happened that the team who used the short kick-out to maximum effect in 2016 was Dublin.

"I would be a firm believer that nobody in the GAA is sitting in a room, plotting at changing the rules of the game at every level in an effort to beat Dublin," says Jack McCaffrey in an assured tone.

"I don't think that (theory) is fair, to be honest.

"I do genuinely believe that everyone who is involved in the GAA, a remarkable organisation, that they are there to do their best and are trying to be positive.

GIVING IT SOCKS: Jack McCaffrey, with Brandon Nolan Burke, has pulled up his socks again for Christmas Sock Day which returns on Thursday, December 6. The TK Maxx campaign invites the public to sport their Christmas socks to raise funds for Enable Ireland, which provides vital support services for children and young people with disabilities. Photo: Julien Behal
GIVING IT SOCKS: Jack McCaffrey, with Brandon Nolan Burke, has pulled up his socks again for Christmas Sock Day which returns on Thursday, December 6. The TK Maxx campaign invites the public to sport their Christmas socks to raise funds for Enable Ireland, which provides vital support services for children and young people with disabilities. Photo: Julien Behal

"I don't think that would motivate anyone, it drives plenty of inter-county footballers around the country but it doesn't drive rulemakers.

"And that's the other thing," the Clontarf flyer goes on.

"These are rules that will not only affect us in Dublin or affect us in the inter-county scene, you are looking at changing the game at every level.

"And I had an interesting discussion with a good friend of mine who is a referee, and he just can't really get his head around how he is meant to do his job in an intermediate game in The Bogies between Finbarr's and whoever.

"I know that it is only been trialed at inter-county level in the national league and then it will be re-assessed, but it is just to be aware that it's not just changing the inter-county game to make two games a season more entertaining to the detriment of other teams," he adds.

Newtown's Third Law of Physics states that for "every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".

The soon-to-commence pre-season competitions will give an initial glance at whether the same is true of these new rules, but some unintended consequence is inevitable.

The experiment that will force teams to propel kickouts forward will no doubt have the desired effect on the team in possession but the counteraction to that potential benefit is equally easy to envisage.

As McCaffrey outlines: "I can't see why any team would leave anybody ahead of the ball if the ball is not allowed to go backwards, which I would have thought would encourage teams sitting back."

Limiting teams to three hand-passes in succession meanwhile, could conceivably stunt attacking football more than it might encourage it.

There are many recent examples of well-worked goals that would, under the new measure, be slowed or not have come to fruition because of the necessity for one of the players to kick the ball in the build-up.

Negative

Plus, teams who sit deep will hardly be encouraged to come out and press the ball if they know the opposition is now prohibited from cradling possession without the requirement to kick it every three passes.

"Look," McCaffrey announces, "I don't think anybody particularly loves seeing the ball being hand-passed around time and time again.

"But at the same time, it doesn't exactly make for negative football.

"If you play a couple of one-twos up the pitch at a hundred miles an hour, the Corofin goal scored last year, multitude of scores that there has been more than three hand-passes.

"But if they want to draw a line somewhere, they have to draw it somewhere.

"And they have drawn it at three, and you will wonder if that will affect the team that is playing into the packed defence or the team that is playing (with) the packed defence.

"But," McCaffrey asks, "why are teams hand-passing the ball 10 or 15 times in-a-row?

"And are you punishing that team or are you doing what you are trying to do?"

"If," McCaffrey concludes, "we are to presume it is to stop defensive football, teams dropping men back in a massed defence, I think they may be tackling the symptoms of that, as opposed to it (massed defences) itself," concludes McCaffrey.

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