Belfast Telegraph

Oisin McConville: Proposal to bring in the 'mark' is totally unnecessary

By Oisin McConville

Have we lost the run of ourselves altogether? The question is prompted following the possibility that the much-debated ‘mark’ may be trialled in the 2016 Sigerson Cup competition.

While this may be viewed by some as a visionary move, I for one find it difficult to concur with what I believe is an unnecessary tampering with the rulebook.

Indeed, it totally baffles me how a sport which is already being played at a pedestrian pace on numerous occasions because of a preoccupation with lateral passing can be prepared to embrace another innovation that will, clearly, further impact upon the fluency and intensity of a game.

The fact of the matter is that the entertainment value in gaelic football has become much more limited with the passage of time and for GAA chiefs to believe that the introduction of the ‘mark’ — that is, to reward a player who takes a clean catch in midfield with the bonus of a free-kick — smacks of further restricting the amount of time the ball is actually in play.

Already gamesmanship is rife within the sport. Just take a look at the over-elaborate preparations in which some free-takers engage before they actually decide to kick the ball in the direction of the opposition posts.

They bounce the ball a few times, wipe their hands, in some cases fix their hair, adjust their footing perhaps more than once — on occasions, it’s like a sideshow removed from the actual game itself.

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton is a past master at time-wasting yet he never seems to be penalised, referees invariably showing a willingness to permit him to amble up half the length of the pitch before he takes a pot-shot from a free.

No extra time is added on and Cluxton has played his part more than once in taking Dublin over the line in potentially tricky situations by his ability to turn the clock to his side’s advantage.

While I am not in favour of the mark, I am certainly all for introducing new rules that are designed to speed up play and thus provide better value for money from the fans’ perspective.

What about granting two points instead of one for a shot which goes over the bar from play from 50 metres? Or perhaps moving a free 13 metres closer to goal immediately if an opposing player positions himself close to the free-taker with upraised arms? Every advantage should be given to the attacking team as is normally the case in rugby.

You can be sure of one thing. If the ‘mark’ is sanctioned for the Sigerson Cup, the first thought that will occupy the minds of coaches will be — now how do we get round this one?

I will provide the answer. They will ensure that a player is not allowed to take a clean catch in the first place by crowding, buffeting or impeding him — and you can imagine what the exchanges will be like in the midfield area if this proves to be the case.

There is no doubt that some of the current playing rules require amending — the number of consecutive hand-passes permissible, for instance, and an edict that only the captain should be allowed to approach a referee to seek clarification of a particular decision — but the introduction of the ‘mark’ will not enhance the quality of the product we cherish.

Certainly, it was in evidence in yesterday’s International Rules contest when players who executed clean catches were permitted to take frees as a reward for their fielding skills, but I cannot see it becoming part and parcel of gaelic football.

The Rules Review Committee recently let its findings be known on various aspects of the sport and several of their recommendations found favour with the vast majority of GAA followers, but I honestly don’t believe that the introduction of the ‘mark’ will enhance the aesthetic value of the game.

Obviously those charged with determining just how the game should be played must make big decisions as part of their brief, but maybe they can make their own mark in a different way.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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