Long-serving Down forward Benny Coulter is preparing to renew his acquaintance with Donegal against what he describes as “a background of confusion” in relation to some of the new playing rules.
changes Hands on: Down’s Benny Coulter, who is preparing for his team’s Championship tie with Donegal on Sunday, wants to see players consulted on a much wider basis in future when playing rules are being amended
And now Coulter, who has won a string of county championship medals with his club Mayobridge as well as remaining a key forward in the county side for a decade and representing Ireland in the International Rules series, is urging that the GAA should consult properly with players before any future rule changes are adopted.
Coulter points to the continuing controversy in relation to the handpass as a blight on the Championship to date and stresses that had there been meaningful player involvement some of the current difficulties might well have been avoided.
“The blazers in Croke Park are changing rules without proper consultation with the people who matter most in gaelic games— the players themselves,” he said.
“Do they honestly believe that that slowing down the handpass
will increase the number of kicked passes during a game?
“I don’t think so,” raps Coulter, now a full-time GAA coaching officer and one of the most respected players of his generation by virtue of vital Championship goals in particular which have made him a lethal marksman.
Even prior to the Championship Coulter had expressed some serious concerns about the application of the handpass rule in particular.
Now as Down gear up to take on a Donegal side they have already beaten in the National League, their marquee forward is hoping that the problems that were in evidence during the Derry versus
Armagh game in particular will not be manifest at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey this weekend.
“Obviously we all want uniformity and consistency. It’s maybe proving difficult to achieve this but it has to be done for the sake of the game,” insists Coulter.
“I know that there can be no more rule changes for the next five years but I think that in future the players themselves should have some say before decisions are finally taken.”
Considerable weight is added to his point in relation to the handpass by the fact that this week Donegal manager John Joe Doherty is bringing in leading referee Jimmy White to inform his squad in detail what is acceptable and what is outlawed in practice in relation to the new handpass rule.
Sligo’s Martin Duffy will take charge of the Donegal versus Down game on Sunday and he is noted for his strict policing of the new rules particularly the handpass law.
The GAA hierarchy are concerned that a free was awarded virtually every minute during the Derry versus Armagh match although this ratio was much lower in the Antrim versus Tyrone fixture on Sunday when there were very few contentious calls in relation to the handpass.
But Coulter remains convinced that clarity on this issue is required to prevent the handpass becoming a major issue as the Championship unravels.
“There is evidence to suggest that players are being bottled up more easily and that referees are then blowing for more frees,” states Coulter.
“This is clearly having a detrimental effect on the flow of games and this detracts from their appeal as sporting spectacles.”