Jarlath Burns favours deferred introduction of mark

Proponent of reform says next January the better option for bringing in change

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy and Bryan Sheehan display their high-fielding skills during their Football League Division One game against Down at Páirc Esler, Newry, on Sunday. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho.

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy and Bryan Sheehan display their high-fielding skills during their Football League Division One game against Down at Páirc Esler, Newry, on Sunday. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho.

 

Jarlath Burns, chair of the Standing Committee on the Playing Rules, who piloted the reform through annual congress last Saturday, has said that the mark is unlikely to be introduced into football before next year. He also expanded on the reasons behind the introduction of the measure, intended to reward high catching.

There had been ambiguity over the precise introduction date, as rule changes usually become operative in time for the same year’s championship but as the proposer, Burns won’t be looking for immediate introduction when the matter goes before Central Council in just over two weeks’ time.

Not insisting

“You could dig your heels in but you’d have to allow it a wee bit of time to bed in and allow reflection time as well.

“It wouldn’t be fair just to spring it on everyone without allowing the opportunity for players to train for it and referees to prepare et cetera.”

He said that he wasn’t taken aback by some of the criticism directed at the reform in the aftermath of the weekend’s matches.

“The vast majority of people I’ve spoken to are in favour of it. It’s not as if we are changing fundamentally how we think about the game or how we play it. We’re just introducing a little innovation.

“I covered the Down-Kerry match on TG4 on Sunday. The first opportunity for the mark to be an advantage didn’t come until the 26th minute when Bryan Sheehan caught the ball and fell – a beautiful catch – and he hadn’t a hope of making it back up with the five men around him. We turned around and said to each other ‘there’s the mark’.”

The mark, allowing a free kick or the option of playing on to a player who catches the ball from a kick out that has travelled at least 45 metres, has been on the GAA agenda for six years at this stage.

In 2010 it was trialled in the national league but was controversially struck off the agenda after which an attempt by Burns to have standing orders lifted so that the matter could be properly debate was refused.

Three years later a similar proposal was part of the Football Review Committee proposals. It came extremely close to securing the necessary two-thirds backing, getting 65 per cent, but failed.

Different perspective

“It’s the job of legislators to make the game attractive and it’s the coach’s job to win. It’s wrong for us to consider coaches as the authority on the integrity of the game because they have to look at what they have at any particular time and think at this particular time will this rule suit me?

“If it doesn’t they are against it because they’re judged on results.

“I would say to coaches that we will listen to you after a particularly dour game when you say that it’s not your job to play attacking football – it’s your job to win – if you stay out of our road when we are trying to make the game attractive.”

He also said that contrary to some comment, the reform had been trialled successfully.

“It’s been trialled in the Leinster minor league and what’s happening is when they catch and come down they’re just being stood off slightly. That’s all.

“We have this thing in the GAA that because we make one little change Armageddon is coming to get us.”

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