Potty proposals need to be slapped down at Special Congress

The GAA yesterday unveiled two sets of proposals – relating to on-field discipline and player burnout – which will now go before a Special Congress on 4th October.  If the proposals are accepted, they’ll come into effect from the New Year and, if they do get passed, we’ll never hear the end of it because both, while no doubt well-intentioned, are deeply flawed and downright stupid.

Let’s start with the discipline issue, where the proposal is that six types of fouls which have been specified as “highly disruptive” (details here in this morning’s Indo) will incur a yellow card for a first-time offence.  It is furthermore proposed that a yellow card will (as was the case on an experimental basis for part of the 2005 NFL) result in the player in question taking no further part in the game but a replacement will be allowed on instead.

The lads who came up with this proposal – the Disciplinary Task Force – have justified it on the basis that the six specified fouls are seriously damaging the flow of the game and so by adopting a zero tolerance approach to them (and, one assumes, all other yellow card offences while they’re at it), they hope to change player behaviour sufficiently to stamp out this kind of carry-on.  Nickey Brennan (who has repeatedly cooed about the ‘manliness’ of our games) claims that the proposal won’t blunt the physicality of hurling and football and that “players who foul while making an honest effort to play the ball” won’t get targeted.

What I’m puzzled about is why this proposal has emerged at this point in time.  There hasn’t been any great problem this year with on-field skullduggery, certainly not of the kind that would warrant such a draconian step-change in the rules such as this.  There has, for sure, been an increase in aggressive Chelsea-like challenging of referee’s decisions (mainly by the lads in Green and Gold) and, of course, we had the Aidan O’Mahony blow-me-over-with-a-feather-duster incident but surely the way to deal with Kerrymen fecking around in this way is just to throw them out of the championship?  Seriously though, where is the evidence that these fouls are “seriously damaging the flow of the game” and why do they merit the introduction of a rule that’s already been tried and has shown not to work in practice?

Nickey Brennan’s claim that players making an honest attempt to get the ball will be given the benefit of the doubt strikes me a bit naive.  As things currently stand, many refs dole out yellow cards like confetti, often for the most innocuous incidents and, frequently, they do so in the wrong.  If this proposal gets passed and you end up with a fussy official like, for example, David Coldrick, it’ll be down to seven-a-side before the seventy minutes is up and there’s no guarantee that the most cynical players will be the ones kicking their heels on the sidelines either. It’s also the case that, if this rule is passed, decisions on the use of subs will no longer have any tactical dimension but will instead depend entirely on who gets ordered off.  I cannot see how this kind of chaotic coming-and-going, at the sole behest of the ref, will do anything to “improve the flow of the game”.

The second set of proposals relate to player burnout and contain a number of elements concerning when collective training can take place, who has first call on players and so forth (full details here).  However, the main talking point here is that yet another attempt is being made to kill off the U21 grade but this time the proposal is that it be replaced by a new U20 grade.

This makes no sense whatsoever: the current U21 grade represents a significant step up from minor and the way in which U21 is such a fertile nursery for senior (in a way that minor often isn’t) means that it’s an important grade which should be retained.  Instead, the GAA is proposing to replace it with an untried U20 category (having already tried and failed earlier this year to conflate the minor and U21 grades) and to introduce a whole load of unworkable rules about who will and won’t be allowed to tog out at U20.

In doing so, the GAA has made no serious effort to explain how the replacement of U21 with U20 will do anything to improve matters with regard to player burnout and the whole proposal strikes me as fiddling for fiddling’s sake.  It’s yet another example of the absolute contempt with which U21 is held within the GAA and it’s diffcult to know why this grade is so unloved, given that, in football at least, the U21 championship often provides the most attractive and open kind of football played all year.  Instead of trying to kill it off, the GAA should be doing more to increase the profile of U21 and, while they’re at it, they should also start looking at some proper proposals to alter the utterly unworkable senior championship structure that we’re saddled with.

In summary, these proposals are stupid, unnecessary and unworkable and they deserve to be treated accordingly on 4th October.

9 thoughts on “Potty proposals need to be slapped down at Special Congress

  1. WJ, in making changes at least the GAA acknowledge that all is not well and I applaud that. At least they are trying but I do agree i doubt the changes will work. For me if they allowed the pick up off the ground( as they did in sucessfully in the league way back) and allowed a “mark” between maybe the two 50’s most of their problems will be solved. Remeber defending players are less likely to foul inside of their own 50s anyway. As for lip to the ref….all we have to do is look at our rugby cousins. Its more physical than any sport but there is no lip to the ref. Capt is the only player allowed question a refs decision within reason and it works brilliantly. these are simple changes that we know work. with the suggestions the GAA made they are hoping they will work rather than knowing and that is frustrating.
    As for the U21 grade, it would be a shame to see it go. It is the grade that best indicates what lies ahead for the senior team. HOWEVER alot of U21s are now playing senior also( for club and county) and then of course there is the colleges. burnout is a problem and something has to give and maybe U21 is the answer. I dont know. thats one i would need to think more about.

  2. The rules are fine. Its the clots that enforce them thats the problem. One refs free in for being blocked is another idiots free out for charging. Honestly I am amazed at the pathetic standard of refereeing and we as a county have suffered more than most. If we look at how a ref will cover the likes of Meath, tyrone and Dublin and then look at how they handle the Mayos, Limericks and Kildares of this world we would se a marked difference. Some of the referees in the championship have been poor and its them not the rules that need refreshing.

  3. honestly ontheroad which do you think would be easier changed. if a ref is an eejit there is nothing you can do about it. if he is influenced by the crowd/players he is not going to change. Simplify things for them and the players its the only way.

  4. “Second yellow and straight red card offences will be dealt on the same basis as at present”… to quote the Indo…just wondering how do you get a 2nd yellow if you are sent off the pitch on the 1st…or will there now be 2 types of yellow card offences, one nor ‘normal’ fouls and one for the 6 named offences ? am i missing something maybe?
    Generally I would have no issue with moves that can reduce the amount of fouling that goes on in many matches and often ruins a game. But I would worry about the greyness of some of the definition of the 6 fouls – leaving it “open to interpretation” is always the weak spot for the GAA and has all the signs already of happening under these proposals.
    I have no time for the soccer type barracking of referees and for the good of the game the decision once made (even when it’s wrong) has to accepted – I have never seen a challenged referee change his mind !!! A yellow card and off you go could sort that one out. But that only adresses half the problem because that assumes the referee is always right we all know that’s not so. Now he has even more power to back his decision. Do the GAA have to apply a bit of balance here and doi some proper reviews of referees? Maybe the players would leave the ref alone if there was a more open procedure to complain and appeal against bad referees?

  5. I’m colour-blind so naturally I’d favour the option of having two types of yellow cards!

    I’m with you, ontheroad, in that I think we need better refereeing rather than new rules. Currently, there’s no consistency from one ref to the next and I don’t think that giving them the kind of draconian sanctions proposed will make this better. In all likelihood, it’ll make things far worse and, just like the last time it was tried, it’ll get canned once the inevitable brouhaha occurs midway through the league.

    I think something does need to be done about players ganging up on the ref and the whole area of contesting decisions (even if some of these decisions are dumb). Kerry are the worst offenders in this area – you’d think with all those All-Irelands they have that they’d be a bit more laid-back!

  6. I do think something has to be done about the burnout issue but I don’t think reducing the U21 to U20 and leaving minor the way it is solves much of anything.
    If you had an U17 grade instead of minor with the accompanying rule that U17 players aren’t allowed to play senior, as well as this no U17 players would be playing for colleges either.
    Then have an U20 grade alongside this and you might be going somewhere. Then 18 yr olds won’t have to play minor, U21, senior and college football.

  7. Kev, there is no “burnout issue”. I cant name one player that ever had a problem playing and put it down to “burnout”.
    Players stop playing because they want to stop. Its a life style choice that players make. Being a serious GAA player after minor means having little or no social life during the football calender. Some players find that too much of a sacrifice.
    This whole issue of “burnout” had been blown out of proportion and used in the media way too much. Can anyone name 3 players in Mayo, club or county, that “burnt-out” because of to much football or hurling?
    Alan Dillon and Shane Ryan are two classic examples of players that played for several teams in one season while in college. They played some part if not all of the following; college freshers, Singerson, County Minor, County U-21, County Senior, Club Minor, Club U-21, Club Senior and perhaps interfirms. I also know that Shane Ryan played hurling which doubled his schedule. Keith Higgins is another example of someone who has not had a problem, although there was some blunders with fixtures clashing.
    None of the aforementioned are blaming burnout for anything.
    My point is not ignoring that players need to be maintained on an individual basis regarding having a heavy schedule. The utmost respect should be shown and wishes granted to players who want to opt out now and again. But I think that the whole idea of burnout and refixing or rescheduling whole under-age structures and competitions is gone crazy. Its just my opinion though! 😉

  8. While I have some sympathy for AbbeyGaels misgivings on the prevalence on ‘burnout’ the blazers have decided it needs to be tackled and they are the boys to do it. The exception that would allow some weaker counties to field up to five U21’s is completely contradictory as it’ll naturally be the best U21’s finding themselves pressed to service. It is these elite players who suffer most from heavy schedules as they are the ones in most demand from teams anyway. This strikes me as a concession that was granted to increase the proposals chances of success- albeit at the expense of the original principle.

  9. I agree that most players don’t burnout but having to play for many different teams is one of the reasons they don’t have a social life. Also getting advice from 5 or 6 different managers and God knows how many different coaches is to my mind one of the reasons so few players come through from minor to senior.
    I’d say it does also contribute to injuries especially later in their careers. Maybe the fact that we see feck all over 30’s playing is that they gave it their all from the age of 17 till 25 and after that they are only winding down.

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