Watching some of the games that have taken place in recent weeks, it is difficult not to be concerned about the future of Gaelic football.
After a move away from defensive play over the last number of years, many teams now seem to returning to a turgid, risk-averse style that is very difficult to watch.
While there have been a number of rule changes in the sport in recent seasons, few have done much to battle this issue. If two teams come face to face in defensive systems, as happened in the recent Ulster final between Derry and Donegal, the action that unfolds on the pitch can be difficult to stomach.
Joe Brolly suggests radical rule changes
While Joe Brolly was delighted with the result in that game, he wasn't all that thrilled by how the match went. Both teams continually passed the ball around the halfway line unchallenged, with the opposition happy to allow them to do so as they packed the defence.
This may be the best way for some teams to approach the game in search of a result, but surely something can be done to improve the sport as a spectacle?
Speaking on Comhrá Le Tomás with Tomás Ó Sé, Joe Brolly said that the rule-markers in the GAA have had their priorities wrong when it comes to looking at the health of Gaelic football.
It's the rule-makers' fault. I've been arguing it for many years, as you have, the problem is that the rule-makers have is that they have not focused on the correct principle. The correct principle is 'make the game a spectacle', ensure that it's a spectacle.
Forget about what a manager thinks, forget about the concept of winning, which are now the principles that dominate the game. We have let these managers, particularly Jim McGuinness and what has come from that, to dominate the game without the rule-makers taking any steps to change that.
We need to do what happened with rugby and basketball.
Rugby has brought in a number of laws to encourage more attacking play, with the 50/22 rule the most recent example. As for basketball, the NBA are consistently altering laws to ensure a higher scoring game, with TV audiences growing to a huge extent over the last couple of decades as a result.
Brolly feels it is now time for the GAA to do the same.
While it may prove to be unpopular with managers, he has suggested four drastic changes that would make Gaelic football far more exciting to watch.
There are a number of simple things.
The ball should never be passed to the goalkeeper under any circumstances. The goalkeeper can win a ball if it comes to him from another team, but you cannot pass it to him. That immediately encourages the opposing team to press up and it stops teams from killing the game from just playing the ball to the goalkeeper, moving the ball around.
Second rule is you must kick the ball out beyond the 45'. I don't care if you say it's a skill to kick the ball short and hold and retain possession, it must be a contest. You enforce the contest. The rule makers should say 'I don't really care what you think about that, kick-outs must go beyond the 45'.
Thirdly, the ball can't go back over the halfway line.
The fourth thing, and this would be relatively easy to do because they've done it in aussie rules, is instead of having a highly trained referee deciding whether the ball is gone over the sideline on each side, you put one in each half and zonal defending is out.
There is no sweeper. As soon as a man drops off and into a space in front, it's a 21-yard free in front of the goals. You enforce the spectacle.
There are a number of other things you would do in relation to cynical fouling. I don't know if you watch the NBA, but they completely changed the game at the end of the 70s and start of the 80s and continue every year to make it more of a spectacle. They don't care about winning. The rule makers should care about the spectacle and enforcing contests.
While these would be massive changes, they would certainly add far more jeopardy to the sport.
In summary here are the four rules Brolly would like to see introduced:
- The ball cannot be passed back to the goalkeeper.
- Kick-outs must go beyond the 45'.
- The ball can't go back into your half after passing the halfway line.
- Put an official in each half to ensure no sweepers are played, with a failure to follow the rule resulting in a 21-yard free for the opposition.
It would be interesting to see rules such as these ones trialled as they would certainly shake up the sport.
However, you can't imagine such a massive shift in the tactics required in the sport would be welcomed by many of those currently coaching and playing at the top level.