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GAA legends’ concerns at rules rumours

By John Campbell

Two of Ulster’s leading GAA personalities have expressed serious misgivings about any proposed rule changes to gaelic football.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and Crossmaglen Rangers ace Oisin McConville share the belief that speculation currently swirling within the sport is causing uncertainty and apprehension.

McConville, who has been involved with a rules revision committee, suggests there is more talk about rule changes than nearly any other topic related to the game.

“There seems to be never-ending discussion about what should happen to some of the rules as we know them and speculation about the bringing in of new rules. This exercises people’s minds a great deal and yet there is very little action on any front,” states McConville.

Having played senior football with Armagh for fifteen years and won a shoal of honours with Crossmaglen Rangers the 35-year-old marksman is better-placed that most to deliver a verdict on the ongoing debate on the playing rules.

“I would say that if the GAA authorities are intending to make changes then they should be made quickly and effectively. There is too much speculation going on at present which is getting us all precisely nowhere,” adds McConville.

Among suggested alterations to the existing rules were the introduction of a ‘mark’ for effecting a clean catch in the midfield area and a restriction on the number of consecutive hand-passes in any one movement.

Mickey Harte is a fierce critic of the ‘mark’ and he has also come out strongly against the possibility of a ‘tap and go’ free being brought in.

This would allow a player to take a quick free to himself, the purpose of such an innovation being to speed up the game. Opposition players would be expected to back off and if they didn't do so another free would then be awarded close to goal.

But Harte is adamant that the game is already “fast enough” and that no useful purpose would be served by such a rule change.

Though no formal move has been made to introduce the rule, it is understood to have been on the table recently for serious consideration.

“This is absolutely no advantage to our game,” insists Harte, “It should not be allowed in. I see no value in it whatsoever. What are we doing here? What is it about? Would someone tell my why is it supposed to be a good idea or what advantage?”

As for speeding up the play, Harte repudiates this theory strongly.

“How would that speed up play? Is speeding up play the be all and end all anyway? I think the game is fast enough,” maintains Harte.

“I think the referee has difficulty enough in keeping up with the speed that it is already.

“And how would they differentiate or decide if players are back far enough? What is the end of all of this?

“I think it has no part to play in our games. It's detrimental. It's absolutely off the wall.”

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