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Joe Kernan: New rules provoking debate but can we return to square one?

When the National Football League is over, the Annual Congress will take place at Newcastle where a decision will be made as to whether or not the experimental rules should be retained for the Championship.

While the rules are currently evoking heated debate and even controversy, they will be in situ until the end of the competition.

Yet should Congress decide to dispense with the rules, how easy will it be for players to return to a game in which the hand-pass is legal again, the ‘mark’ is obsolete, the penalty-spot is 13 metres rather than 11 from the goal-line and no player is allowed in the small square before the ball? I believe players will have difficulty becoming acclimatised again to the game as we knew it prior to the implementation of the rules.

Up until now and for the remainder of the league, players will continue to be schooled in the rules with special emphasis on the fisted pass. And that’s fine in so far as it goes.

Yet when the Championship — the most important competition in the entire calendar — dawns, players will be expected to suddenly adhere to the ‘normal’ rules once again.

Some of the refereeing decisions, particularly in relation to the sounding of the full-time whistle after the ball had gone out of play, occasioned resentment last weekend, notably in the Meath v Armagh match.

While the committee which drew up the new rules clearly see them as helping the flow of play, perhaps they did not bargain for the fact that players would deliberately kick the ball out of play so that the referee would have to sound the final whistle.

And there is an ongoing outcry in relation to the fisted pass that could see the rules binned for the Championship. And that would all leave us back at what might prove to be a very uncomfortable square one.

Belfast Telegraph


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