In the modern game, high-fielding has become an often useless skill, one that more often than not results in a free against the fielder once that he lands down and finds himself smothered by five opposing players. The inevitable free for over-carrying is greeted with despair in the stands but what can be done?
Congress, typically a conservative entity, adopted a dramatic remedy to change things over the weekend. However, others see it as an impotent move.
Ciaran Whelan is one of the few who has seen 'the mark' in operation in Gaelic football. He's been coaching the Dubs in the minor league where the rule has been trialled.
And, speaking on RTE 2FM's Game On this evening, he says that believing the introduction of the mark will foster high fielding is 'off the wall'. He has been unimpressed with its application at the level he's been coaching.
Jarlath Burns, who spoke in favour of the mark at Congress while accompanied by a romantic montage of Willie Joe Padden, Dermot Earley and Anthony Tohill soaring through the air, launched a defence of the concept re-asserting his belief that it will incentivise high-fielding and curb short kick-outs.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) February 29, 2016
Whelan regards such thinking as quixotic and fanciful. Ten years ago it might have worked. But the game has evolved in such a way that the rule will have no impact in fostering high-fielding. It's only effect will be to slow the game down.
You have to weigh up the pros and cons and I just think with the modern game, and I've seen it closely in the minor league trial over the last few weeks, having changed so much, I think to come out with a simplistic approach and think that is going to introduce the skill of high fielding back into game is off the wall, in my opinion, because it simply won't.
The modern day goalkeeper now tries to find the someone in space. The modern day inter-county goalkeeper will not be playing if he's not going to find someone people in space.
The amount of kick-outs that go out long in a 50-50 scenario has reduced considerably. We've trialled this over the past three weekends and I'd say that less that 50% of our kick-outs are going into that area.
Generally when the midfielder does win the mark now, he's coming down in space so to keep the flow of the game you want him to keep the ball moving.
Whelan is especially frustrated that the GAA did not consult with the players and management who had witnessed it in operation over the past few weeks. He added that referees are struggling to hear marks called and are finding it difficult to officiate.
There will be a very limited advantage to bringing it in but the fact that they didn't look to say 'let's pilot this, let's get feedback from the group that's been using this over the past few weeks.
Whelan is not the first ex-midfielder to criticise the change. Roscommon co-manager Fergal O'Donnell and Galway manager Kevin Walsh - both well content after victories on Sunday - sounded very sceptical about the new rule in post-match interviews.
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