Four of five Gaelic football proposals get green light

Kick-out proposal accepted after modification at GAA Central Council meeting

Saturday’s meeting of the GAA Central Council has largely accepted the proposed changes to football rules for trialling next year. Of the five proposals, four were given the go-ahead for the 2019 league and provincial secondary competitions.

This means that the hand-pass will be restricted to three in succession before the ball must be kicked; a sin-bin will be introduced to punish black-card infractions; line-balls must be kicked forward; and the attacking or ‘advanced’ mark will be introduced.

The only proposed rule not to be accepted in its original terms was the requirement that kick-outs have to travel as far as the 45-metre line – although an enabling proposal that all kicks be taken from the 20-metre line was passed.

The margin of support was roughly 60 per cent of the meeting.


There was surprise at the wholesale introduction of the proposals, as reservations had been expressed during the week – and again at the meeting – that introducing several rule changes at once would create confusion.

It was felt, however, that suggestions like the sin-bin and the restriction on line-balls would not change the mechanics of the game and the revised kick-out rule will not now tax match officials to the extent originally envisaged.

There will also be a body of evidence from secondary provincial competitions, which start in December, by the time Central Council meets in January and if anything calamitous emerges there will be an opportunity to tweak further.

In relation to the football championship, a Tier Two competition got the go-ahead, “broad support”, and formats will be considered by Central Council in the new year and a motion forwarded to annual congress.

It appears, though, that the likely format will entail a graded championship for Division Three and Four counties, who are beaten in the provincial championship, rather than in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Recommendations by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) in relation to the All-Ireland football championship quarter-final round robins were also accepted. This means that provincial champions will have their home fixture in phase one of the quarter-finals and the Croke Park matches will take place in phase two.

These tweaks have been accepted as a one-year experiment and won’t have to go to February’s annual congress to be changed.

Unhappiness at Dublin playing both the Croke Park phase – effectively a neutral venue for all other counties – and their home phase in the stadium has been expressed but it remains open to all counties to bring motions to congress to change the rule if they wish.

The CCCC didn’t believe that it was appropriate to express an opinion on the substantive issue and limited itself to the matter of sequencing in the light of some complaints that provincial champions were disadvantaged by not having home venue for their opening matches in the quarter-finals.

A changed hurling league will commence in 2020 with the current Divisions 1A and 1B combined in mixed-ability groups, to be drawn up along the following lines.

Division 1 – Group A

1st Placed team 2019 Div 1A
4th Placed team 2019 Div 1A
Winner of Div 1A relegation playoff
2nd placed team 2019 Div 1B
3rd placed team 2019 Div 1B
Promoted Div 2A team

Division 1 – Group B

2nd placed team 2019 Div 1A
3rd placed team 2019 Div 1A
Loser of Div 1A relegation playoff
1st Placed team 2019 Div 1B
4th placed team 2019 Div 1B
5th placed team 2019 Div 1B

Groups to run on a two-year cycle (2020, 2021)

Other matters before the meeting included fixture making. Roscommon’s motion, supported by the Club Players Association, that a ‘blank canvas’ approach be taken was overwhelmingly defeated and work will begin on the GAA’s fixture review next summer. The CPA have been invited to send a representative.

All-Ireland preliminary hurling quarter-finals in the Liam MacCarthy Cup and the Joe McDonagh Cup (Tier Two) final will be decided on the day, with extra time and a penalty shoot-out – details to be developed by the CCCC – as opposed to the current free-taking competition if the sides are still level.

The trial in the All-Ireland under-20 football championship, concerning the introduction of a group format, was accepted, as was the proposal that under-20 players be allowed play senior for their county once they have exited the underage championship.

Football rules trial

1) Hand pass to be restricted to three in succession before ball must be kicked.

2) Side-line balls must be kicked forward except when in or on the opposition 20-metre line.

3) An attacking mark may be taken inside the opposition 45 provided kicked in play from within the opposition 45 and travelling at least 20 metres.

4) A black-card infraction to be punished by 10 minutes in a sin-bin rather than automatic substitution by a replacement.

All accepted

5) Kick-out to be taken from 20-metre line and must travel to the 45-metre mark.

Modified: There will be no stipulation that they have to reach the 45-metre line.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times