Armagh's Kernan welcomes recommendations
ONE OF football’s highest-profile county and club players has given the FRC report a broad welcome. Aaron Kernan has won Ulster and NFL medals with Armagh and is a vital cog in the Crossmaglen machine that will be in pursuit of a record third successive All-Ireland in the new year.
Responding to the committee proposals to reintroduce the disciplinary experiment from the 2009 league, Kernan recalled his experience of the rule whereby players receiving a yellow card have to be replaced and leave the field.
“I think it had a slow start while players got used to it. Maybe they stood off a wee bit at first and games were more open. A team could find itself down a main man and it will be up to the players to play within the rules but those rules will need to be crystal clear. Once it’s clear with players and referees I think it has a good chance.
“It’ll take time and I hope it doesn’t soften up the physical contest in the game.”
Whereas concerned about clarity in the rules and their imposition, he accepts the premise of the FRC argument – a desire to address cynical fouling within the game.
“I think sometimes when teams are trying to work a goal they’ll find men being pulled to the ground. I wouldn’t do it if I thought ‘that’s me out of the game’. No one wants to be stuck on the bench.”
A keen observer of the AFL and an Ireland International Rules player, he is also in favour of the mark.
“That’s a great idea. There’s nothing better than seeing one of your men catching a high ball but often he just gets bottled up and is done for over-carrying. Once you’re allowed the option of playing on when you get the mark I think it’s an improvement.”
The new definition for the tackle isn’t a major departure from the current rule but it is clearer.
“It’s an awful lot for every referee to police in every incident,” according to Kernan. “But if you’re allowed get your body in front of the man but if you pull his arm or jersey that’s a foul, that’s straightforward.
“In fairness refs have it hard enough. I think there’s been an improvement since Pat McEnaney was appointed (as chair of the National Referees Committee) and if they give respect they get respect. I think the more games into the season the more they’re afraid of making mistakes as there’s more at stake for the teams.
“Players aren’t going to solve this on their own and neither are referees but I don’t think there’s anything majorly wrong with football; we just need to sharpen it up a bit.”
He also approves of the clean lift, which will now be allowed as well as the traditional pick-up with the boot.
“That will speed up the game and allow forwards to control the ball more easily and add to the pace of the game.”
As someone with a strong commitment to club activity he sympathises with the plight of club players, as identified by the FRC.
“The big problem for the GAA now is – and this is whether you’re playing junior or senior – is that players don’t know when they’re on or off.
“If you’re playing rugby or soccer you’ll know when you’re playing and when you’re off and when you can take your holidays.
“When you don’t know whether you’re stopping or starting it’s difficult and particularly for players with families.”