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‘I was lucky there was no social media at the time’ – Seán Kelly reflects on opening Croker to foreign games

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Former GAA President Seán Kelly speaks to Eamonn Fitzgerald about his role in opening up Croke Park to soccer and rugby in 2007.

Rules 42 and 27 were the most contentious rules in the official guide of the GAA and both had very clear purposes.

Rule 42 prohibited field games other than Gaelic football and hurling being played in GAA grounds. Soccer and rugby were seen as the enemy, the garrison games in direct competition with Gaelic games. The hierarchy in the GAA reflected the fear and, indeed, the hatred of its members countrywide towards soccer and rugby.

Rule 42 did make provision for once-off games not in direct competition with hurling and football to be played on GAA grounds. One I remember was an American football game played in Croke Park in 1999 between the American Navy and Notre Dame. This posed no threat to the GAA games, so it went ahead.

One could see the logic of excluding soccer and rugby. The GAA has so many games for both genders, played in every parish in the country from juvenile right through to senior, and the logistics of accommodating soccer and rugby in your typical GAA field wouldn’t be realistic. If there were a clash of fixtures at the same time in the local GAA pitch, which would get preference? What pitch would be able to stand up to the wear and tear of the grounds, particularly when most of the soccer and rugby games are played in winter conditions? Who would maintain the pitch, where so much loving care, not to mind the expense, rested on the shoulders of the GAA club supporters?

Also remember that Rule 27 (The Ban) took a long time before it was abolished in 1971.

Move to Croke Park, the hallowed ground, where ardent nationalist GAA supporters, particularly (but not exclusively) from the six counties have not forgotten what happened there on Bloody Sunday 1920, when Croke Park became the bloodied field.

And yet the day came when the Irish soccer and rugby teams played their international games in Croke Park. The man who made all that possible is Kilcummin’s Seán Kelly, who did so during his term as Uachtarán of the GAA from 2003 to 2006.

I spoke with him recently about this and other matters and asked him why he fought so doggedly against fierce opposition within the officialdom of the GAA to the abolition of Rule 42, to overcome the odds stacked against him.

SK: I felt strongly that it was the right thing to do and I first raised the issue of making more use out of Croke Park when I was chairman of the Kerry County Board. It took 14 years to bring that dream to reality and I was realistic enough to know that some members and counties had fears, some justifiably so. I had to take these into consideration, but I felt that our games were thriving and should not be afraid of competition from rugby or soccer. We needed to open up Croke Park to soccer and rugby at that time, showing a generosity of spirit and ecumenism, and an opportunity to help ourselves while also helping our fellow Irish.

For the overall good of Irish sport in a new emerging country, timing was everything. It was so difficult to even get it on the ‘clár’ for Congress and I was very disappointed that in Congress here in Killarney it was ruled out. That cast a huge damper on proceedings in what was an outstanding Congress overall. The timing was favourable with Lansdowne Road closed and no real venue for rugby and soccer internationals. We had a state-of-the-art pitch and full facilities to cater for 82,000 spectators in Croke Park, so why not provide the facilities for the Irish teams?

When I took over as Uachtarán of the GAA in 2003 I deliberately made no mention in my address of plans to abolish Rule 42 and that was strategic.

 

As expected the ‘No Surrender’ flag was raised by Ulster, particularly by Micheál Greenan, Chairman of the Ulster Council, who could not stomach the thought of the foreign enemy games desecrating the sacred soil of Páirc an Chrócaigh. He branded you as traitor. Not surprisingly the Rebel County of Cork, and their beloved Michael Collins, opposed your mission, especially Christy Cooney. You stood out on a limb because you felt it was right, but you got a lot of stick for pushing your head above the parapet.

I did get a lot of criticism from within some sectors of the GAA as you have outlined, with nasty letters and phone calls, some of which were very bitter and personal. Luckily for me there was no social media at that time, so I was spared the invective so easily delivered at present through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram etc.

 

I recall you saying in one of your speeches that you were taking Johnny Cash’s advice and that you would walk the line, but keep your eyes wide open all the time, especially for your enemies within the GAA. How did you negotiate with Bertie, Mary Harney and Charlie McCreevy? After all didn’t Bertie have his dream of Bertie’s Bowl, which would have blown your idea out of the water?

In fairness to them they said that ultimately opening up Croke Park was a matter for the GAA itself. Bertie wanted to build that 80,000-seater stadium in Abbotstown and that would have been in direct competition with the GAA for big events such as concerts. The country could not afford an 80,000 stadium and an 82,000 one. A key man backing my proposal was Cahersiveen man Minister John O’Donoghue. He was so supportive and crucially for me I had access to him all the time and he could not have been more helpful.

 

You had to work Congress strategically and were lauded by the press, typified by John Fogarty, (Ireland on Sunday) who said “Kelly leads sport out of the dark ages”.

I was very aware of the sensitivities of the first occasion, so I ensured that rugby was first, a 32-county game, as distinct from 26-county soccer, which could be divisive. And also that Ireland’s first rugby game would not be versus England. That took some negotiating with IRFU and FAI but it was agreed before I left office and handed over to my successor Nicky Brennan.

 

So, mission accomplished. You got your way and Croke Park was to be opened up for soccer and rugby internationals. Take our readers back to those international match days in Croke Park. The first international played was France v Ireland (rugby) in their Six Nations on February 11, 2007. What were your feelings like in Croke Park that day?

A very proud man when they played the national anthems; proud, relieved and satisfied that what I set out to do several years before was now achieved. There wasn’t a guffaw or a single indication of disrespect from the huge attendance of 81,000. It was exciting and fulfilling that we had moved on to a more progressive organisation in the real spirit of sport. Van the Man (Morrison) was right: ‘nobody told me there could be days like this’. The perfect summation of Sunday, February 11. There was a huge build-up in the media to the England game, the old enemy and how could we tolerate the playing of ‘God Save the Queen’ in Croke Park. There were protest marches and I was vilified on placards. Seán ‘Judas’ Kelly, West Brit, and a lot worse than that. Could we forgive and forget? 83,000 spectators attended and Ireland won 42-13. Van the Man’s line once more.

 

MOMENTOUS: Ireland and England engage in a scrum during the historic Six Nations match at Croke Park in 2007. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

 

Rugby was tolerated because of its 32-county status, but soccer, the real foreign game, must have been an even bigger challenge. Was the staging of the soccer internationals more demanding?

It presented its own challenges but a full house turned up in a game that Steve Staunton, the late Bobby Robson and their team had to win. Significantly, I noticed that there were far fewer of the GAA hierarchy of the GAA present, unlike the rugby internationals. The game went off without any incidents or protests. We got off to a great start as Ireland were able to grind out a 1-0 win against Wales and a similar winning result four days later when we beat Slovakia on the same scoreline.

‘Olé, olé, olé’ of the magical Charlton days rang round Croke Park with the same passion. In 2007 Ireland played international games in Croke Park between rugby and soccer, winning three and they were just pipped in the other game.

 

Could you visualise the Fitzgerald Stadium being used for a high-profile soccer or rugby game, maybe a once-off occasion?

I see nothing at all wrong with it, but each request would have to be judged on its own merits. There would be no problem playing these games in Killarney, as long as they didn’t interfere with the GAA games programme.

 

I admired you for doing what you felt was the right thing to do and for your tenacity to take on entrenched views from, within the GAA and succeeding. That was great but even better still you extended the All-Ireland Club Football and Hurling Championship competitions to include junior and intermediate levels. Now even the smallest GAA club can aspire to play in Croke Park. You must have been particularly proud to see Kilcummin, your own club, win the All-Ireland IFC in Croke Park in 2009?

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh said that extending those All-Ireland Club competitions, catering for all three grades, was my greatest legacy from my term as Uachtarán. I insisted that all finals would be played in Croke Park. I faced all kinds of excuses to take the games out of Croke Park. Who would turn up for an insignificant junior final, maybe a few hundred followers in this huge stadium where you need upwards to 39,000 paying spectators to pay for the opening up? The first year of the finals were played in Portlaoise. I was bucking but I made sure that from then on the finals were played in Croke Park and that is there to stay.

 

In your present role as MEP and viewing sport from a European perspective, do you think that the All-Ireland Club competitions can go global? How about the incentive for clubs in all grades to progress to a World Club title?

The concept is great, particularly with the Irish diaspora cultivating their Gaelic games in so many places around the world. Wouldn’t the champions of Dubai love to play in such international competitions. There are some big difficulties such as expense, distances, languages and others, but these challenges can be faced up to, if the will is there and someone with vision to drive the project. I’d be all for it.

 

Perhaps Larry McCarthy, the new GAA president, would take up that suggestion. His record at club level in the PE College in Limerick and in his native Cork, as well as in New York in recent years, would promote that proposal. In fairness to him, he hardly has his legs under the table and the fall-out from Covid-19 is the major concern at present. However, when we do get back to normal…

You have been a great advocate of promoting hurling since your days as a player with Sat Pat’s East Kerry and your hurling brief at that stage being vice-chairman of the Kerry County Board.

Historically. hurling played second fiddle to football in Kerry. It was confined, for the most part, to a small number of clubs in North Kerry. When I took over in 1982 there was no hurling in East, West, South and Mid Kerry with some exceptions such as Kenmare and Kilgarvan. We founded St Pat’s East Kerry with the help of great stalwarts such as Pa Doyle, Dan Kelleher, and later Pat Delaney. St Pat’s have been competing ever since and that’s nearly 40 years ago. It was great to see Dr Crokes win the Kerry Intermediate Hurling Championship in 2020 and now they are going senior. That is progress.

 

You will have noticed that the role of ladies in the GAA as players and as administrators has blossomed in recent decades. In one of my interviews with Micheál O Muircheartaigh for On the Ball over a decade ago, he said his one big wish was to see a lady Uachtarán in the GAA. It hasn’t happened.

Not yet, but I am greatly encouraged to see the involvement of ladies as players and as officers, not just at club level but up along the ranks, and I share Micheál’s dream. Cork County Board would be classified as conservative, but they still elected Tracey Kennedy their first female cathaoirleach a few years ago. She did a great job and women of that ilk are well worthy to lead the GAA from the top. The ladies in the clubs are fully accepted and recognised for their work ethic and ability to manage and to lead.

 

Any views on the present Kerry GAA scene?

I think that eight teams in the Kerry Senior Football Championship is far too little and this should be addressed. The hurlers are going well and were unlucky to lose a few national titles in 2020. There was fierce criticism of the Kerry senior football players, the management and the county board when we lost to Cork. I was disappointed, but so much of the criticism was unfair. It was a once off on an awful day and Kerry have bounced back before from defeats. The good working relationship between the county board chairman and the team manager is crucial for success. In my 11 years as chairman of Kerry County Board, I worked with four managers: Mick Dwyer, Mickey Ned, Ogie and Páidí Ó Sé. All different, but all fully committed. We won some and we lost some, but we worked well together.

 

Finally, Seán, have you spent most of the last 13 months in Gortroe, working remotely as an MEP?

Pretty much so. I have only been in Brussels three times in that period so, like so many others, most of my work is conducted via Zoom .It’s great to have it, but it’s not as effective as being in the Parliament meeting up with people and getting things done. The vaccination programmes worldwide are paying off, as we see here in Ireland with less than 400 daily admissions. More new vaccinations, inter-country cooperation and we will get back to normal in the not-too-distant future.

Go néirí go geal leat, san Eorap anois, a Sheáin. Fís le torthaí agus gaisce mór ar son CLG.

 

 

 

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Eamonn Fitzgerald: Keane should know 11 of his 15 starters

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Kerry manager Peter Keane speaking with David Moran after the Super 8s match against Mayo in 2019. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile.

As Kerry ramp up towards the championship, Eamonn Fitzgerald gives his assessment of their preparations to date.

One certainly learns more from defeat that from victory, so what has Peter Keane and his management team learned from the 2020 debacle?

In fairness to the Kerry management, they have opened up the panel, brought some new players into the fold. They will bring them along hoping they will be in contention for places in the resurrection, which occurs when they start the 2021 championship campaign with a home game versus Clare in the Fitzgerald Stadium.

Tomorrow, Kerry will meet Tyrone in the NFL semi-final. Their league title is at stake. Too many supporters give them no credit for winning the 2020 National League.

If Kerry win and Dublin win as expected, there won’t be a league final and it will be a shared title. That is disappointing for the players. The GAA should have done better and ensured they a final had to be played.

IDEAL PREPARATION

Peter Keane and the Kerry players have had the ideal preparation for the championship. Three competitive league games so far and one more tomorrow. The Kerry selectors used the matches wisely, trying out as many players as possible to see which combination will deliver success.

Injuries forced their hands for all games and some established players were rested. That gave game time to so many players.

That huge win over Galway in Tralee was a great morale booster. They ran up a big score, inflicting a 22-point defeat on Galway, the worst ever margin of defeat for the Westerners. It was magical stuff, Kerry going at them from the throw-in and imposing their game on hapless Galway.

In my report I said that one swallow does not make a summer, but that one swallow was most welcome and hopefully the rest of the flight would follow to make a summer of delight in Kerry.

The eagerly awaited clash with the Dubs did not disappoint. Kerry were like the proverbial curate’s egg, good and bad in patches. Leaking three early goals was ominous. Had we learned anything about basic defending?

Dublin went seven points clear and looked odds-on to make it a 10-point win, but Kerry responded magnificently hitting six unanswered points. It looked all up when Dublin converted a late penalty, but David Clifford came to the rescue in the dying minutes of the game to snatch a draw. Lessons to be learned against the top opposition. Kerry forwards are very good, but the defence is still the Achilles heel.

Roscommon proved as tough as ever, but Kerry competed well. Still that goal leakage at the back was a worry. Diarmuid O’Connor improved steadily and will start at midfield v Clare.

Tomorrow’s very competitive match v Tyrone will tell us more.

STARTING 15

I expect at this stage Peter Keane and his selectors have 11 positions filled to start v Clare. They haven’t a surplus of class players and injuries will deprive them of a full hand.

I’ve still to see the Peter Keane gameplan, his stamp on this team. Every manager in any team sport wishes his/her team to play in a certain matter. The defensive tactics in Cork failed. Thankfully, that has changed in the three league games of 2021 and that is encouraging.

The ball is going in much quicker and sooner so that the inside forwards are brought into play. They score freely and once you get the ball inside 50 metres defenders are quite likely to foul. With Seán O’Shea that’s a pointed free in most cases.

I’m not suggesting that the Kerry defenders should send the ball anywhere out of their way. Leave that to supporters of Charlton. Get it out long and accurate setting up an attack, instead of lateral passing and not progressing.

I expect that the Kerry selectors have pencilled in 11 places and the discussion really is for the remaining starting four. They will also will be very mindful of seven other subs. The starting 15 will not be the 15 that will finish. Such is the intensity of the modern game.

DEFENCE

Shane Ryan has been out injured for this league and must be doubtful for the early stages of the championship. Kieran Fitzgibbon has been catapulted into goalkeeping duties and he has performed quite well, especially playing behind a much-maligned defence.

The goalkeeper is just not alone a ball stopper, but he is called into play once the opposition start moving out the ball from the other end of the field. He can see possible developments long before his defenders do. He can see the runner, gaps opening and real danger, before defender do. They are too taken up with marking their own men. The keeper is the eyes and ears of the defenders and must be sure and vocal. It will take time for him to assert his authority and the same goes for the kick-outs. Understandably, he hasn’t always succeeded in picking out a fellow player, be it short or long. That will come. Even Cluxton had to learn.

The defence has been much-maligned and leaking so many goals substantiates that argument. In their defence they are often at sixes and sevens with extra men galloping through, because other players let their men sally up field unmarked. However, I cannot understand why this sextet – and it could be any six – do not realise that their first duty is to mark their own men. Too often they stand off their opponents and gift them the initiative.

These are elite players who have been coached in the art of defence in their own clubs since they were juveniles. Too often, some but not all, do not seem to understand that there really is no defined tackle in Gaelic football, but you can get in close. Use your hands strategically and prevent the attacker scoring or laying it off to a fellow player. That’s all legitimate and there is no need to concede a free. I could name several players at club level who operate this defensive tactic so successfully. Great Kerry backs of the past did it. I think of players such as Paudie Lynch and Mike McCarthy.

The present Kerry defenders are plenty fit enough. They need to be near their direct opponents and be pro-active instead of being reactive. Rarely is there need for a long inaccurate clearance. A hand pass, or preferably an accurate punt kick will set the Kerry forwards in motion.

The Kerry full back line should not be drawn 50 yards from goal and certainly not sprinting out as a link man into the opposition’s territory. How often have we seen it by some of these defenders? Mind the house, don’t leave the goalkeeper exposed and the goal leakage will dry up, or curtailed at worst.

I also feel that Gavin Crowley should not be lured into up field sallies. He has a very onerous job. He must mind his man and also mark space. Tim Kennelly and Mick Morris before him were not classy players but were highly effective centre-backs. No yawning gaps to allow Brian Fenton, Eoin Murchan, or Jack McCaffrey exploit this this tempting mortal sin.

Primary duty for wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White is to mark their own man and when the two or three opportunities arise in the game they have the explosive pace to go up field to score or assist in a score. If that run breaks down it is not as serious, as if it happened to a centre back exposing the middle for those Dublin invaders.

MIDFIELD

Midfield has been a problem area for Kerry. David Moran has given Kerry great service over many years, but I contend that he should not be on the starting 15. He may well be on the finishing 15.

I like Diarmuid O’Connor. Big, strong, mobile, well able to score when the opportunity arises, he has a great engine and has youth on his side. Who should partner him?

Jack Barry is in the frame to start, but not Tommy Walsh.

I also expect Kerry to have a Plan B. My preference is to include Seán O’Shea and Paudie Clifford in the half-forward line, one of them centrally and both tasked with helping out at midfield. The older Clifford is mobile, brave and eager and could do a very effective smash and grab possession ploy. He should start. Now he is more even-tempered than he has been in the past. He can open a defence route one and knows when to deliver to the full forward line. I feel that we can get more out of Seán O’Shea.

I hope Peter Keane doesn’t fall back on the Cork gambit where the half-forward line’s role was to go back to their own half-back line helping out. Tracking back is important, but that last-ditch ploy inevitably draws out the inside forward line. Wouldn’t David Clifford’s marker love to see him 70 yards from goal? Even Kerry’s jewel will not score from that position. Again, send in the ball quickly to Kerry’s best scorers, Clifford and whoever is with him. Paul Geaney, Paudie Clifford, Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane are in the frame to score.

You can have all the fitness in the world, elaborate game plans and astute use of the bench, but those ingredients alone will not propel Kerry forward in a realistic bid for Sam 2021. Pride in the geansaí will oil the winning machine.

Over to you the present Kerry players, whichever 15 starts v Clare, then Tipperary followed by Cork. Bryan McMahon the former Kerry player and songster was spot on with the importance of dúchas and tradition.

“You cannot box or bottle it, nor grasp it in your hand,
But pride of race and love of place inspire a love of land
.”

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Tom O’Sullivan and Tony Brosnan start as Keane makes raft of changes

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Tom O'Sullivan, Peter Keane and Tony Brosnan. Pics: Sportsfile.

Dingle defender Tom O’Sullivan and Dr Crokes sharpshooter Tony Brosnan have been named in a much-changed starting line-up for Kerry’s National League Round 3 match against Roscommon.

The pair had missed out on Kerry’s first two matchday squads of the season but they look set to feature from the off in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday. The game will be shown live on the TG4 Player (throw-in 3.45pm) with deferred coverage on TG4 at 5.35pm.

O’Sullivan is joined in the full back line by his namesake, Graham O’Sullivan, and Jason Foley, who moves from No. 2 to No. 3. Regular full back Tadhg Morley drops to the bench.

The versatile Brian Ó Beaglaoich will line out at half back alongside centre back Gavin Crowley and there will be a first start on the other wing for Mike Breen of Beaufort. First choice wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White are listed as substitutes.

David Moran and Diarmuid O’Connor retain their spots at midfield as Jack Barry misses out on the 26 for the second week in a row.

Stephen O’Brien gets his first start of the year at right half forward with Ronan Buckley of Listry on the 40 and Paul Geaney at 12 for the third consecutive fixture. Seán O’Shea is named amongst the subs.

There is no place on the panel for Killian Spillane as the Clifford brothers, David and Paudie, are joined in the full forward line by Brosnan. David will captain the side in Paul Murphy’s stead.

As expected, Kieran Fitzgibbon holds on to the No. 1 jersey. Eoghan O’Brien of Churchill has been drafted into the extended panel to provide extra cover in the absence of the injured Shane Ryan, but goalkeeping coach Brendan Kealy continues to deputise as sub keeper.

Liam Kearney of Spa makes his first matchday squad of the campaign.

Roscommon, meanwhile, are expected to name their team tomorrow. Listowel native Conor Cox, who made seven appearances for Kerry before transferring to the Rossies in 2019, was a 50th-minute substitute in both of their matches to date.

Following those defeats to Dublin and Galway, Anthony Cunningham’s side will be facing into a relegation playoff semi-final whatever the outcome of Sunday’s match.

Kerry can mathematically join them in the bottom two but Peter Keane’s men would need to lose by at least 14 points and Galway would also need to beat Dublin.

Kerry team to face Roscommon

1. Kieran Fitzgibbon (Kenmare Shamrocks)

2. Graham O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses)

3. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue)

4. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)

6. Gavin Crowley (Templenoe)

7. Mike Breen (Beaufort)

8. David Moran (Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s)

9. Diarmuid O’Connor (Na Gaeil)

10. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks)

11. Ronan Buckley (Listry)

12. Paul Geaney (Dingle)

13. David Clifford (Fossa)

14. Tony Brosnan (Dr Crokes)

15. Paudie Clifford (Fossa)

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Adam Moynihan: So many GAA rules need tidying up

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Seán O'Shea evades the challenges of Brian Fenton and John Small. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Is there a sport in the world that alters its rulebook more frequently than Gaelic football? Every year when the first ball is thrown in, we’re left scratching our heads, frantically googling “GAA rule changes”, trying to come to terms with the latest updates to our playing protocol.

The changes to the advantage rule are causing consternation at the moment but the irony is that the game already has a number of laws that are either vague or poorly enforced. Below are just a few that come mind.

Surely it would make sense to iron these out before we even think about introducing further amendments.

1. Advanced mark. At its best (I would say less than 10% of the time), the advanced mark is a decent rule that rewards long-kicking and catches close to the goal. At its worst (the remaining 90% of the time), it’s a stupid rule that rewards nothing skills like short-kicking and unchallenged chest-catches. Plus, it abruptly stops the play for no good reason.

Of all the rule changes in recent years, it possibly holds the title of ‘most hated’. It simply has to go.

2. The tackle. You can only use one hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can only use an open hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can’t pull an opponent, but sometimes you can. You can’t push an opponent, but sometimes you can. What is a Gaelic football tackle? It’s so vague and open to interpretation. From game to game and even from tackle to tackle, you never really know what’s going to be foul and what isn’t.

It’s a difficult one for rule-makers to sort out but it’s not going to sort itself out, that’s for sure.

3. Booking both players when there’s a wrestling match. The ball is coming up the field. As the play approaches, a corner forward and a corner back become entangled and end up rolling around on the ground. Who do you think initiated that contact? Who has something to gain from that wrestling match? It’s almost always the defender. Is the forward supposed to go limp and play dead like they’re being attacked by a grizzly bear?

They have to stand up for themselves, and they shouldn’t be booked for doing so.

4. Feigning injury. The law states that attempting “to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury” is a bookable offence. While the “foul” part can be tricky to spot on the fly, the latter half of the rule is generally far more black and white. Thankfully, players flopping to the ground and holding their faces when they’ve barely been touched is less prevalent in Gaelic football than it is in other sports, but it does happen. Yet how many yellow cards have been brandished for this infraction?

The shame of getting booked for playacting would be a huge deterrent and help stamp this behaviour out for good. It should be punished to the letter of the law.

5. Moving frees too far forward for dissent/impeding the kick. When a free is awarded, the penalty for dissent or impeding/slowing down the taking of the free is 13 metres. How many times have we seen an over-zealous referee bring the ball forward 20 metres or more?

I recall playing a minor game for Legion out in Rathmore. I committed a foul outside of our 65-metre line. For questioning the call, the ref carried the ball forward well inside our 45. For questioning the distance, he brought it in – and this isn’t a joke or an exaggeration – to the 13-metre line. That’s roughly 55 metres of a penalty instead of 26.

That’s an extreme example, granted, but even a five-metre bonus out the field could change the course of a match.

6. Hop balls. From the throw-in at the start of each half, every player bar the four midfielders is meant to be inside the two 45-metre lines. A metre or two encroachment here or there isn’t the end of the world, but in the 2019 All-Ireland final we saw what happens when the rule isn’t properly enforced. At the beginning of the second half, there were two extra players within the 65s by the time David Moran touched the ball down. Another six were just about to enter. One of those six, Eoin Murchan, gathered possession and scored a season-defining goal.

If a rugby or soccer player got away with being 20 metres offside from a kick-off, the referee would be demoted to the lower leagues in a flash.

Hop balls during open play are even messier. The players not contesting should be 13 metres away from the referee. The most you’d normally get is five, and that’s if the referee makes a big song and dance about it. By the time the ball reaches its apex there is invariably a sea of bodies awaiting its return to earth, and the resulting maul is anything but pretty.

Allowing the two nominated players to properly compete for the hop ball would lead to a greater possibility of clean possession, and some football as opposed to a spot of rugby.

7. Steps. Speaking of that Eoin Murchan goal… (No, I will not let it go.) The manner in which players travel with the ball is one of the most fundamental aspects of Gaelic football, yet it is arguably the least properly policed. Four steps is the rule. Four steps before you have to release the ball or hop or solo. But, of course, the inside joke is that it’s not four, is it? Not really. Sometimes five is okay. Sometimes six. You’d get away with seven. Maybe eight. Possibly nine. Ten? Ten is taking liberties. But yes, you could feasibly get away with ten as well.

Stringently enforcing this particular law might seem like a potential nightmare because players are so used to getting away with five or more steps. It would certainly prove contentious at the beginning, but everyone would adjust.

As it stands, it’s just another half-enforced rule that makes you wonder why they bothered writing it down in the first place.

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