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UUJ president cries foul over attempt at 'mark' trial

By Declan Bogue

Published 17/11/2015

Up for cup: the University of Ulster team at the launch of the Sigerson Cup, which will take place at Shore Road next February
Up for cup: the University of Ulster team at the launch of the Sigerson Cup, which will take place at Shore Road next February

The president of University of Ulster Jordanstown, John Farrell, has said he will strenuously oppose attempts by Central Council to use next February's Sigerson Cup as a forum to experiment with the Australian Rules-style 'mark.'

In a few months' time, the showpiece GAA event for third-level education arrives on the Shore Road, with 14 teams taking part in the competition over the weekend of February 19 and 20.

However, during chairman of the higher education GAA Gerard Tully's address, he mentioned that it is strongly expected that the competition will be used as a trial for the mark, something that had Farrell shaking his head in disbelief.

"That's the first I have heard of it," admitted Farrell afterwards to The Belfast Telegraph.

"I am not in itself against the 'mark', but I am very much against dropping something in, into a knockout competition, without giving players and managers a chance to actually experiment with it beforehand."

With UUJ's playing schedule hectic in the pre and post-Christmas period, the Burren clubman made a suggestion that such an experiment might have been better at a more suitable time.

He said: "We will be playing after Christmas and our first three matches will be in the McKenna Cup. Imagine trying to adjust from normal rules in two weeks' time from not having a mark, to having a mark. I think it is most unfair on players.

"I would have thought it would be better to have been played in the McKenna Cup, or even in the Ryan Cup leagues if we had have had it. But to bring it in for a Championship match?"

He confirmed that he would be resisting the measure - which was trialled as recently back as the 2010 National Football Leagues, when catches from kickouts between the two 45 metre marks were rewarded with a free-kick - at administrative level.

"If I am asked, I will be recommending they don't," he said. "I am not against the mark, per se, to try it out. But I just think it is in the wrong format, in a Championship knockout competition.

"Most of the time in the past when they have had experimentation with the rules, it has been in the leagues, when you get a series of matches to try it out."

UUJ were previously part of a rules experiment during the 2014 Sigerson Cup finals, when they played UCD and the 'hooter' was used. It had been voted in at Congress and was expected to have been in place for the 2014 All-Ireland Championships.

After some confusion over what passed for a time stoppage and what did not, the GAA announced a month after the competition that following a meeting of Central Council, they 'decided to defer the implementation of the clock/hooter until the 2015 hurling and football Championships.'

From that point on, the GAA wound down the momentum to implement a time-keeping system independent of the referee, scrapping it entirely before the 2015 Congress.

Jordanstown are staging the event for the first time since 1993 after the chance to be host came up at the higher education council's AGM last April.

Meanwhile, Ulster Council President Martin McAviney, has stated that colleges should have first-pick of their players in January's Dr McKenna Cup.

A number of county managers have been opposed to this, leading to the appointment of Joe Kernan as a 'mediator' between the managers and colleges ahead of the 2014 tournament. Relations have improved between counties and colleges since.

Belfast Telegraph

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