The GAA have released a new graphic to clarify the new ‘mark’ rule ahead of it being officially introduced to Gaelic football on January 1.
The move was brought in to encourage the skill of high fielding, rewarding catches made at distance from the kick out. It was passed at Congress in February with support of 68 per cent, and is similar to the measure in Australian rules football.
From the New Year, any player who catches the ball cleanly from a kick-out, either on or beyond the 45-metre line, will be giving the option of either playing on immediately or calling a mark to take a freekick.
It relates to either the teammates or opposition of the keeper kicking the ball out. Over the past two months it was trialled during the Higher Education GAA Senior Football League, and has thus got a number of clarifications from Central Council.
Both feet of the catcher must come down on or past the 45m line, and the catcher will have to indicate to the referee that they wish to take a mark rather than just stopping. The referee will blow his whistle when the player has qualified for the mark.
The player will have to kick it within five seconds, and it must be to a team mate at least 13m away from them. If it takes longer than five seconds the player will concede the mark and throw the ball in, or if it is kicked to a player too close a free-kick will be conceded to the opposite team.
Central Council also said that a player may touch the ball more than once in the act of controlling and completing a mark, but it must not have been touched by another player.
The rule will be explained in the GAA’s new referee’s handbook, and all referees will be trained on the use of it this month.
Inter-county refs will give presentations to county panels and clubs still involved in provincial and All-Ireland competition.
President Aogán Ó Fearghail said: “The education plan in relation to the mark is ambitious but I am very confident that referees, players and officials at all levels will be prepared for its implementation come 1 January.”
Since the GAA released the graphic on social media some followers have expressed their feelings on the new rule. Some asked for the game ‘to be left the way it’s always been played’, whereas others thought it would be ‘interesting’ to see in reality.
Corkonian Brendan Anthony said: “I think it’s a great idea bringing back a superb skill. It doesn’t slow down Aussie Rules.”
But he later stated that there was no point in allowing opposition players to crowd the free-taker afterwards as teams would just allow themselves to concede the kick-out in order to crowd the player once he got back on the ground.
It was also pointed out that teams would not be able to benefit from having their best free-taker go straight for a point from the mark unless they were the ones best suited to catch the high ball cleanly, as it must be that player who takes the free-kick.
Last week playing rules committee chairman Jarlath Burns said that its introduction would ‘incentivise’ teams to master the skill of high-fielding.
“This is an attempt to nudge coaches in the direction of the advantage of having a big midfielder in the event perhaps that you might have an option in the middle of the field,” Burns told GAA.ie. “When we surveyed our members, they said the second thing after a great score they find most entertaining is a great catch in the middle of the field. It would be remiss of us not to try do something to reward that skill rather than penalise those kicking the ball short.
“Until now a team might have a big catcher in the middle of the field and when the ball goes out to him and he catches it, no-one makes any attempt to stop him because instead when he comes down he’s swarmed and he loses the ball or is penalised.
“That’s a terrible reward for somebody who has gone out of his way to perform the art of catching. So, in our game, we reward fouling. We don’t reward the skills, we reward fouling.
Incentive to perform
“Because if you foul, the play stops and it allows people to get back. But now if you get a mark you can take an unopposed free or else you can play on unimpeded because you have that option. So now you have the incentive to perform that skill.
“That’s where we’re going, we want to incentivise people to perform one of the most significant skills in Gaelic Football.”
But earlier on this year Marty Clarke, who contested the All-Ireland with Down in 2010, and who also played Aussie Rules in Australia, said that there may need to be more than five seconds allowed for it to be implemented properly in Gaelic football.
“I don’t think there are going to be very many marks during a game. If you have Player X takes two marks at the start of a game, any opposition is going to prevent that from continuing to happen, especially with so many of the kickouts going short.
“But at club level, I think it will be significant because you might be able to target a player or two out the field with kickouts.
“I personally think five seconds is way too short. It should be at least 15 seconds if they’re going to reward you for it. If you’re skilful enough and able to kick it out to a certain trajectory and someone catches, then you have your 15 seconds and that’s the reward.
“To me, catching it, rushing back, trying to find an option, the five seconds is gone. If you don’t use it in five seconds, by the time the referee gets it, gets boys organised and hops it, that’s more than 15 seconds.”