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Managers in Ulster are divided over new 'Mark' rule

By Declan Bogue

The introduction of the Australian Rules-style 'Mark' into Gaelic football - following Saturday's Annual Congress - has been met with a mixed reaction from some of the highest-profile managers in Ulster.

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte was withering in his assessment. He said: "I'm disappointed with all the tinkering going on in our games, and with the idea that you have to introduce this 'Mark' and the theory being that it's going to increase the percentage of high fielding."

Part of Harte's opposition surrounds the limited nature of the rule, which only applies at kickouts and between the opposing 45-metre lines.

"You can still kick the ball out short anyway - so how is that going to increase high fielding?" he asked.

In stating he would have been in favour of a trial period in pre-season tournaments such as the Dr McKenna Cup, Harte explained: "There are a lot of fine details we don't know. How would it increase high fielding if you can catch the ball on your chest? You can even dive and take it as long as it doesn't hit the ground. How is that going to increase high fielding?"

The motion to implement the 'Mark' - last seen in action during the 2010 National League campaign - was carried by 68 per cent of the vote at the Wolseley Hotel in Tullow, Co Carlow and has not found favour with Donegal manager Rory Gallagher either.

Gallagher said: "I think it was clear that a lot of people wanted to push it through over the last number of Congresses."

In pointing out the quality of play between his side and Mayo in Sunday's win in Ballybofey, he added: "They should leave well enough alone."

Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath professed himself to be happy with the change.

He said: "I do think that it's going to open the game out and I do think it's going to protect people who have got that skill to win a high ball.

"I think it will change the complexion of the game and it's going to do away with this horrific situation where a man gets the ball and he's surrounded by eight people pushing and shoving and he's penalised.

"I think it will be a positive rule change and a very interesting change to what we've been looking at in recent times, particularly in that middle third where we get too much crowding and so much swarming."

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney was also positively disposed to the change, which could be introduced in time for this summer's All-Ireland Championship.

He explained: "Like in most cases in life, I think you're looking to see what you end up with. What game are we looking to see? I think that should be our starting point.

"If we stop for a catch, the impact remains to be seen. If you stop and take the free, even though you've five seconds to take it, it gives players more time to filter back so it'll be harder to kick pass the ball, which we're trying to do."

If anything, McGeeney would extend the rule to every area of the pitch. He added: "If it works out, great - I'll be all for it. You would think if it deserves a platform, should a corner-back or corner-forward catch the ball, it should be allowed because you're going to get more scores."

Belfast Telegraph


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