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Saturday 25 January 2020

McCaffrey has no love for Aussie Rules - or the advanced mark

Cathal McShane of Tyrone
Cathal McShane of Tyrone

Jack McCaffrey has no issue with GAA stars swapping codes and hemispheres to pursue an Aussie Rules career.

But he remains steadfastly opposed to the importation of one particular concept from the AFL - the advanced mark.

"A terrible idea," the Dublin ace declared - not for the first time - about a rule that he'll have to get used to very quickly with the Allianz League just over a fortnight away.

The poaching peril posed by Aussie Rules has been in the news with the furore over Cathal McShane's proposed career move Down Under.

But McCaffrey, who once blazed a lightning-fast trail at an AFL combine (or training camp) in Dublin, has no issue if the Tyrone All Star forward or anyone else takes that route. Only it's not for him.

"A player can do how they want really, as far as I'm concerned," he stressed. "On the whole Aussie Rules thing, it never particularly interested me. You're right, I did do that combine when I was coming out of minor. It was probably more out of curiosity to see what it was all about; to see where you matched up.

"In my professional life, Australia is a place where a lot of my (medical) colleagues have found themselves for a year or two. I don't know what it is, for some reason it just doesn't appeal to me as a place to live. And Aussie Rules doesn't appeal to me at all as a sport to play."

McShane, who is heading for a two-week trial with the Adelaide Crows, may be older and more established than the normal Irish recruit ... but, as McCaffrey stressed, "it's somebody emigrating for a professional opportunity. It happens all the time here in Ireland. We've a very storied history of that.

"I can understand a manager being annoyed and frustrated, but a player could leave for any number of reasons … I don't think we can, or should, read too much into the fact it's to go try a different sport."

Next (slightly related) topic: the offensive mark now passed into permanent rule.

"I still haven't seen it in action, the advanced mark, and I still maintain it's a terrible idea. But I suppose we have it now and we'll deal with it," McCaffrey mused.

"I wouldn't be too afraid, I don't think we're morphing into Aussie Rules at all, but I just think it's a stop-start (rule). Since I've started playing senior football we've had a couple of rule changes in terms of midfield marks and black cards and the like, but this just kind of sits a bit differently and feels like it's changing a pretty core principle of the game.

"It's going to have to change, as a defender, how you approach pretty much everything. It remains to be seen, I've been wrong before, but I'd be very nervous about what it will do and I still haven't really figured out what it's for and what the problem is that it's addressing.

Blanket

"I'm assuming it was something to do with blanket defences - to counter that. Well I think, A, their day has kind of begun to pass anyway. And, B, the more I think about it the more I think it will encourage them because, as a defender, you have to prevent your man catching the ball cleanly because that's a guaranteed score essentially at inter-county level.

"You've to avoid over-committing to the ball because he'll turn you and score a goal, and the easiest way to do that is to have two people marking him - one in front and one behind. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of people making their way back."

Admitting that he should "probably stop giving out about it until we see it in action", McCaffrey accepted that Dublin "probably didn't get to grips with it as quickly as other teams" during its trial implementation last spring.

"Similarly, you are kind of playing a risky game if you change your game completely to rely on a rule you are not going to have in the summer. So we probably just kept the head down and were tipping away as we always would have - if you got a mark, take it.

"Obviously this year it's going to be one of the new things we've to contend with."

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