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The forgotten GAA star from Mangerton View

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Eamonn Fitzgerald tells the unusual tale of Paul Russell, the Killarney man who won six All-Irelands and played for eight clubs in eight different counties

 

Dick Fitzgerald, Johnny Culloty and Colm Cooper were outstanding Kerry football stars, all winning five All-Ireland medals wearing the green and gold, but there was another Killarney man who went one better. A man about whom little enough is known. His achievements deserve recognition.

Paul Russell (1906-1965) was born in Mangerton View on July 2, 1906, the second youngster of a family of six (four girls and two boys). His only brother joined the Franciscan Order.

His near neighbour was Hugh O’Flaherty, who was eight years older than him. I don’t know if Hugh ever played football. I must ask his sister Pearl (Dineen) in Cahersiveen to clarify that, but he was an amateur golf champion and that was no surprise. His father Jim, whom I knew, was a steward in Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. Hugh became famous in another sphere, saving the lives of 6,500 Allies in Rome during World War II.

KICKING THE BALL

Now for some meat to flesh out Russell’s achievements. Most of our readers will not remember him, but quite a few knew Kathy, one of his sisters. Niall Keogh, the former Crokes player, interviewed her for ‘Dr Crokes Gaelic Century 1886-1986’. She said Paul’s first love was football and not “the books” because he spent endless hours kicking the ball around Mangerton View. There he perfected the drop-kick, a huge feature of football at that time, but now effectively gone out of the modern game as retaining possession at all times is the mantra.

The street had few cars then and Fitzgerald Stadium wasn’t built. Juvenile football wasn’t organised at that time, but the Street Leagues were hugely popular.

First off let’s look at Paul Russell’s stats: 6 x All-Ireland Senior Football medals (1924, 1926, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932), 3 x Railway Cups, 1 x Dublin Senior Football Championship.

He was a student in St Brendan’s College, Killarney and the 17-year-old had to get special permission to play in the 1923 final v Dublin, his first All-Ireland. He had never played for any Kerry team before this and hadn’t even got a trial. He had been playing for College Street in the Killarney Town Leagues and was a new lad on the Crokes senior team, but that was all.

It was enough for Dick Fitzgerald, the organiser (no such person as a manager that time) who knew that this fellow would make it. He convinced his fellow Kerry selectors to gamble on this strapping young Killarney man and put him in directly at wing back for the 1923 final. That was of a Tuesday. The first he heard of his Kerry selection was on his way to school in the Sem on the following morning (Wednesday). Frank O’Shea (the local blacksmith obviously being Twitter before its time) delivered the hot news.

CELEBRATION

The Sem boss at the time was Canon John Breen and he was overjoyed, declaring that the college would celebrate this distinction with a holiday to mark Paul’s amazing achievement. He didn’t bother contacting the Department of Education to pass it by them. He ruled and no one objected.

On Saturday Dick Fitzgerald took Russell up to the train and introduced him to his teammates. Russell said he was very nervous as they booked into Barry’s Hotel.

In the dressing room Jack Prendergast (‘Pendy the Jersey Man’) was a key figure. God knows Kerry have had some great bagmen down through the years, all great characters. I think fondly of the great Gaffney (Duggan) who made sure that the perk would stay in Tralee when he got too old to lift the bag of jerseys. He coached Leo (Griffin) to take over from him many years later. The power struggle switched to Killarney and up popped Niall Botty O’Callaghan to give out those precious geansaís. Who has that job now?

Prendy threw Russell the number five geansaí and Paul didn’t leave the Kerry side down with a fine display. They were just edged out by Dublin, 1-5 to 1-3. No medal at the first attempt.

Paul Russell brought something new to the game, perfecting the drop-kick. In the words of Michael O’Hehir, “he sends a long relieving clearance down the field turning defence into attack”.

At that time players were never allowed to stray out of their zones of play. A half back was not allowed to come up beyond midfield, but that did not deter Russell, who was a man before his time, an attacking half-back soloing up the field into enemy territory. That was strange in that era, as Dr Eamonn masterminded Kerry’s All-Ireland victories by promoting own zone play and he drew out that plan for the players on a blackboard. That was the secret to success in 1955, over the hitherto dominant Dublin machine.

Russell went home on the train after the match and was up early for school the following morning. He didn’t have his Greek homework done for obvious reasons, and the heroics of the previous day in Croke Park were not an acceptable excuse. No mercy, no cop-on. Sín amach do lámh and the priest/teacher gave him the customary six ruts. Ouch.

No bother for Russell to take it, as it hardened him for a glorious future to win six All-Irelands. Champions Dublin hoped to retain their title, but not this time. Hard to believe it but the score in the 1924 All-Ireland final was four points to three. Paul Russell won the first of his medals and he was still only 26 years old when he earned his sixth within eight years.

He played on the first Kerry team to win four-in-a-row (1929-1932). He won three Railway Cup medals, two with Munster and he also won one with Leinster. In fact, he was picked to play for both Munster and Leinster in the same year in the same competition and the GAA had to step in to decree that he must play with Leinster, which he did. Strange to relate that he played for Dublin in 1927, but reverted to Kerry for the four-in-a-row.

8 CLUBS, 8 COUNTIES

He is the only player I know of who played with eight different GAA clubs and in eight different counties. What’s more he was legal in all cases. Even Dan Dwyer would be stumped by that remarkable feat. Russell was a member of the Garda Síochána, so he was stationed all over the country.

His winning clubs and their respective counties were Dr Crokes (Kerry), Garda (Dublin), Dungarvan (Waterford), Kilconnell (Galway), Killevin (Monaghan), Smithboro (Cavan), Oldcastle (Meath), and Rockfordsfordbridge (Wexford).

Some strange names in that eight. I wonder how many of these clubs still exist?

Russell was also a fine sprinter, taking on the best in the All-Ireland athletics, often held in the Garda Sportsground.

He was just 19 years old when he became the first secretary of the newly formed East Kerry Board as we know it today. Dick Fitzgerald was the organiser and its first Chairman in 1925.

THE TWO PAULS

In 1925, Kerry beat Cavan 1-7 to 2-3 in the All-Ireland semi-final played in Tralee, but were subsequently disqualified for using an illegal player.

Russell had some great duels with Paul Doyle, the prolific Kildare half-forward in that age of the great Kerry v Kildare rivalry, 1926-1931. Kerry’s four-in-a-row depended on Russell keeping Doyle, Kildare’s most dangerous forward, to a minimum of points. It went into folklore as the Battle of the Two Pauls. The late Paddy Kiely from Woodlawn wrote these lines:

 

And wherever Doyle (Kildare) did roam,

His star was always clouded,

By the boy (Russell) from Beauty’s Home.

 

In 1926 they beat Kildare after a replay 1-4 to 0-4. In 1929 Kerry just edged out Kildare 1-8 to 1-5 and seal the first of the four-in–a-row for Kerry and for Paul Russell. In 1930 they had a big win over Monaghan 3-11 to 0-2. Kildare were back in 1931, but Paul Russell stemmed the tide once more to keep the winning Kerry momentum going, 1-11 to 0-8. He won his sixth medal in 1932 when they beat Mayo 2-7 to 2-4.

He ended his intercounty care in style in ‘32. There were just four minutes left in the semi-final game and Dublin were leading by a goal. Paul Russell gained possession from a Paddy Whitty free and sent one of his trademark drop-kicks into the Dublin goal. The ball hit the ground in the middle of the square and careered off the mud into the net. Half-back Russell was credited with the goal. Kerry added a point in time added on for a 1-3 to 1-1 victory and so to a win over Mayo in the final 2-7 to 2-4. Six All-Ireland medals and Paul Russell was still just 26 years old.

 

DUFFY

Paul Russell continued to play club football all over the country and again he made his mark.

When he was stationed in Dublin, his Garda boss was Eoin Duffy, who became the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, the police force of the new Irish Free State,. Later Duffy led The Blueshirts. Duffy saw the opportunity to build an All-Ireland team of gardaí and got Russell to play for the Garda club, and switch his allegiance to play for Dublin. Russell was very reluctant to turn his back on Kerry, but in those days the Commissioner gave you no choice if you wanted promotion.

He thought very seriously about leaving the gardaí, but Dr Éamonn advised him to stick it out. He also won a Dublin County Championship with Garda.

Russell was the hero of club teams he played with when he was stationed in 8 different counties. He switched to hurling in 1938 and trained the Wexford hurlers to win that All-Ireland. He also played for the football team.

He was revered in Meath and as Paddy O’Brien, that great Meath full back, was quoted so often: “We would have won no All-Ireland only for Paul Russell; being around the team had a huge effect on us. He knew about winning All-Irelands and letting him train the team was very important. He brought something new to the county”.

When he went to Oldcastle as a Garda sergeant he was the catalyst for success. Meath nearly did it in 1939 and had to wait until 1949 to win their first All-Ireland with Paul Russell still their guiding force. To this day they talk about the Kerryman who showed them how to win All-Irelands.

WRITER

He was assistant trainer to Dr Éamonn in 1953 when Kerry won 0-13 to 1-6 v Armagh. Many contend that Kerry should have won in 1950 and in 1951.

Strangely enough although he was great friends with Dr Eamonn, the two fellow Croke club members took opposite sides in the public debate on the Ban, which came before GAA Congress in 1962. Since they were well known public figures in the GAA they made headlines in The Kerryman. That was prior to the founding of the Killarney Advertiser. Such was his high profile that when he finished playing he became a Gaelic games writer for his weekly column in the Sunday Review and also wrote for The Kerryman newspaper. He was a controversial writer and won no favours with the top brass in the GAA while arguing his viewpoint that Rule 27 (the controversial ban) should be abolished. He stood out on a limb in that controversy aided by Tom Woulfe, a fellow Kerryman, whom I knew in Dublin.

In 1965, although he was gravely ill, he asked to be taken to the National League final to see his beloved Kerry play Galway.

He died shortly afterwards and was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin on June 9, not far away from the grave of Éamonn Mac Gearailt, a former Kerry All-Ireland winning teammate of his in 1931. The latter went on to represent Ireland in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, just edged out of a bronze medal by one inch. Gold medallist Dr Pat O’Callaghan, who worked in St Finan’s Hospital, said that the Castlecove man would surely have won gold only for his injured ankle. A cortisone injection brought him so close.

Éamonn was the forgotten Olympian until the late Weeshie Fogarty got the Kerrymen’s Association in Dublin to erect a monument to a great Kerry and Irish

Paul Russell’s achievements are well known throughout Ireland, but I often wonder have we forgotten about Paul Russell, the Mangerton View garsún, the high achieving football star and sports writer?

 

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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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