Disgraceful new rule changes show no understanding of the game
You should lose faith in the suits right about... now.
Five proposed rule changes for the football league in 2019, three of them totally and utterly insane.
Two of them you can just about make peace with, three are cringeworthy, and all five have massive, obvious flaws.
Do you know when someone is so stupid - like, especially stupid - that you genuinely just can't see the point in arguing with them? Well, that's almost the case right now except this someone is an official department of the GAA and this someone is deliberating on the future of the biggest sport in Ireland.
The Football Standing Committee on the Playing Rules covered themselves in shame with their proposals on Tuesday afternoon.
Don't doubt that we're talking about decent people and good Gaels who have served the game for decades but the document they produced was nothing short of embarrassing. Filled with superficial rule changes they would've seen bandied about on Joe Brolly's Twitter feed, their ideas to rescue Gaelic football - a game that drew bigger crowds in flesh and on TV than any Grand Slam rugby match or World Cup qualifier last year - were reckless, knee-jerk ideas that dealt only with the symptoms of some of football's ills, not the actual causes.
The hand pass
Take this childish plan to limit the hand pass for example.
Not only can the hand pass be slick and aesthetically pleasing, it's also just a necessary tool to get out of scrapes and awkward situations.
But whatever about when it looks good, or when it contributes to some of the finest goals or free-flowing moves, the excessive use of the hand pass these days is only there in response to blanket defences. Dublin figured out a way to counter mass defenders, by moving the ball from channel to channel, by refusing to take it into contact and by completely removing all the advatanges that counter attacking teams had, but now this rule is trying to force sides to kick it after three hand passes, punishing the like of Dublin who were doing it to get around the actual problem - and rewarding the blanket defence.
Now, more than ever, it would make even more sense to pack the defence knowing that teams could no longer hand pass their way around you.
It's also just unbelievably stupid if you think that forcing players to kick after three consecutive hand passes will make them go forward. They can kick five metres, they can kick sideways and backwards and, in reality, when they're trying to edge their way around a swarm of bodies, this rule will slow the game down even more because, where the like of Dublin hand passed to find inroads in tight areas, if you don't get those inroads after three passes now you'll end up kicking it back out into safety and start again.
And to those who say "it's called football", it's been called football for 134 years and hand passing has always been a fundamental of football. It's a different sport you're after if you can't stand an age-old and vital skill of this sport.
The problem isn't the action of the hand pass, it's the decision-making like going backwards and doing nothing with the ball but that's only there because of what's in front of you.
Amazing goal for Corofin against Nemo Rangers in the club final to put them 11 points clear after less than 20 minutes! What a sequence of passes! Sár chúl @TG4TV @SportTG4 @CorofinGAA #thepeoplesgame #allirelandclubfinals #gaa pic.twitter.com/i1ks0ffhWG
— Michael Mc Cague Music (@m_mc_caguemusic) March 17, 2018
Another idea that shows no real practical grasp of what actually happens in games. And why these things happen.
The sideline kick can only go forward? Unless, and they thought they nailed it with this stipulation, you're on the opponent's 13.
But what if I'm 15 metres out? What if I'm 20? What if there's a beautiful pass on to the other side of the pitch that opens the game up? What if I'm on my own 13 and everyone is marked up, I can't use the keeper anymore to get the game going?
This was not thought through. At least you hope it wasn't.
The offensive mark
Let's try this. It's a bit of craic seeing a ball go in and big men never get frees when they win possession at full forward because there's an unwritten rule that, because they're big, we can beat the shit out of them.
But this reward for catching a ball from the 20-metre line and in will also reward the same thing on the sideline. A 25-metre pass down the wing into a corner forward's chest will be a free kick now. Forwards don't need to take on defenders, free-takers become even more valuable and the game is slowed down every time someone catches it clean anywhere inside the 20'.
This rule is only worthwhile if you drew a circular zone around the posts.
But look forward to club referees trying to decide from 30 metres away if they were on or over the line when they caught it.
Grand. The black card isn't a harsh enough punishment on a team but if they were reduced to 14 players for 10 minutes it might be.
Don't ask why they've added in two yellows to now be a sin bin as well instead of a red.
And don't ask why they haven't tackled the real issue in all this, the actual black card rule. The more pressing matter here was to redefine it, to include cynical fouls like pulling a man back (and not requiring them to be brought to ground) and to put more pressure on referees to actually apply the black card rules.
2 v 2 between the two 45s for kickouts
Lifted straight, wholly and unashamedly with all its shortcomings from a Joe Brolly article two years ago.
Making it 2 v 2 for kickouts in a 54.5 x 88 metre area will completely redefine the midfield position overnight.
If you had any sense, you'd play your nippiest men in there now to sprint into space - whatever space you want - and win the ball, carry it straight up to the forward line and get a shot away. If you have a keeper who can kick it beyond the 45' and two sharp movers, you should never lose a kickout again.
Whilst this rule thinks it will recreate the classic high fielding contest, as if teams wouldn't just use all that space, it doesn't - yet again, of course - consider other practical elements either of how it would actually pan out right down to Junior C.
What if there's a big wind and hitting the 45' is actually not possible?
What if you're a shit kicker and actually can't hit the 45' any time?
What if you scuff it?
What if a player encroaches at either side? How is this actually going to be policed at club level?
And why is this here anyway when it's going to change the game as we know it?
These aren't tweaks to any old game, these would completely uproot the most loved game in the country.
They wouldn't just fundamentally change Gaelic football but they'd also create more problems than they'd solve and bring about even more nightmares for club players because the majority of people who play the sport - "the lifeblood" - weren't thought of at all when this committee got together in panic because Joe Brolly said he didn't enjoy an inter-county game.