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Confusion over mark ruling is cause for concern

Managers and players were united in their call yesterday for further clarity to be brought to the concept of the mark, which is under experiment in the pre-season provincial football competitions and the forthcoming National League.

Despite last week's clarification from Croke Park, confusion still reigned at some venues over the weekend as to the interpretation of the mark or free-kick, as it's officially known, when a player catches a kick out cleanly between the two 45s.

When Croke Park hosts a gathering of all inter-county managers next Tuesday, which will cover all issues relating to the playing of games and the running of teams, the confusion over the mark looks set to generate much debate.

Under current rules, a referee is the sole arbitrator as to whether a player can play on or not after taking a mark. But most managers and players contacted yesterday, and who gave post-match reaction over the weekend, would prefer if the player had that option.

A referee must blow his whistle for a free-kick when the ball is caught between the two 45s but, if a clear advantage is evident — in other words, if a catch is made in plenty of space — then the referee is allowed to let play continue.

This was the message delivered to the players of Longford and Meath prior to their O'Byrne Cup first-round match in Ballymahon on Sunday by referee Sean Marron.

But in Newbridge, Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney revealed after his side's victory over UCD that referee Fergal Kelly had indicated to the players beforehand that they must stop when they hear the whistle.

“We didn't have an option. When the referee blew, he wanted the player to stop. That was the message we took from it,” said McGeeney.

McGeeney — who is against rewarding skills in isolation as he feels the mark does — and Kildare forward Ronan Sweeney both concurred that giving the player the option at all times to stop and take a free-kick or play on was the only way forward for an experimental rule already in trouble.

“The mark would probably be a good idea if you could play on,” Sweeney said.

“If you make a mark when you're on your own, it doesn't make any sense to have to stop.”

Belfast Telegraph