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27th Apr 2017

Jarlath Burns on potential rule change in football that every full-forward in Ireland will love

Nothing more valuable than time

Niall McIntyre

All too often in the current football game does a forward pluck a high ball from the sky only to be bottled up by a swarm of defenders almost instantly.

This leads to the forward’s magnificent display of skill being forgotten about in a matter of seconds as the flock of defenders more often than not bully them out of possession.

Catching a high ball under the ferocious pressure that exists within the 21 in the modern game requires many of the most important and visually pleasing skills in the game including bravery, strength, athleticism, hand-eye co-ordination and many more.

It is slightly unfair and quite disappointing, then, that a forward doesn’t necessarily gain an advantage for the depth of skill that they have displayed when they field a ball from the heaven’s.

Host Colm Parkinson was joined by Jarlath Burns, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules during The GAA Hour Football Show last week. The Laois man presented his ideas to Burns on how such situations could be avoided and how to reward a forward for their efforts. He labelled this theory as an ‘offensive mark’, which would have the same principles as the kick out ‘mark’ that came in to operation at the start of the year.

“It’s an offensive mark, so if a ball is kicked from outside the 45 and it’s caught inside the 21 by someone on the full-forward line, you have a free shot at goal.

“The reason I think that would work is that there’s no packed defences in Australian rules because of the mark. You would have to put pressure on people out the field because a good diagonal ball will be caught even if you have a sweeper or two back there.

“The reason a sweeper or two is back there is because when it’s caught they’re going to surround you and dispossess you and it’s probably going to be a free out.”

One of the key aspects of Parkinson’s idea is that the attacker, after fielding a high ball, has an option to call the mark, or they can lay it off to another player in a better position. This would ensure that the flow of the game isn’t affected hugely by the new rule.

Parkinson feels that it would be a positive development in the manner that it would encourage more open, attacking football and more kick passing of the ball.

“You can absolutely lay it off to somebody running past you, but you’ve the option of calling the mark in there, and it will encourage more kicking from out the field into a full-forward line and I think it will make teams come out and pressurise the kicker in the middle third and not allow that really quality diagonal ball to go in to allow someone to catch it.”

The Armagh man was in agreement with Parkinson’s ideas regarding an ‘Offensive mark’ type development and claimed that it is something that he and his colleagues on the Committee on Playing Rules have discussed and may attempt to bring into operation next year.

“It’s a great idea and one that I 100% agree with,” he said. “I think if we have a full year of the (kick-out) mark working really well, it’s something we could look at for next year

“You’re looking at things to encourage people to take risks and secondly encourage skill where a forward goes up catches a ball and suddenly he can go for a score or he has space to lay the ball off.”

It would certainly be an exciting introduction for the new year.

Listen to the lads chat about the potential ‘Offensive mark’ from 29’20”.

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