The football season is shaping up nicely. The Dubs relentless march towards five-in-a-row might be unstoppable but we're intrigued by those chasing them, however futile it might be. We enter the Super 8s with the assured Mayo madness ahead, the continued improvement of the flying Tyrone, the potential for an explosion of the potential of a young Kerry team and with Donegal ready to take another real shot for the first time since 2014.
With the looming Tier 2 winter of discontent notwithstanding, there's a general acceptance that a so far enjoyable championship is set to get better over the next month.
There is one aspect of the game though that is starting to gnaw at football fans around the country. It was on display in full force across the four Round 4 Qualifiers last weekend. It's the phenomenon of the new cynical foul in the GAA. The illegal stopping of a counter attack has become ubiquitous over the last couple of year. A little tug or an illegal tackle that stops the play long enough for the defence to get set. It goes unpunished beyond the free so long as it doesn't meet the strict criteria for a black card.
So far, it's something referees and the GAA have been happy to ignore, but there was a sense during the Galway vs. Mayo game on Saturday night that fans were getting fed up with it happening on almost every phase of play.
On this week's Three Man Weave, Balls.ie's twice weekly GAA podcast, Maurice Brosnan, Mick McCarthy, and Mark Farrelly talked about how prevalent this kind of foul has become.
Maurice: This new dawn of cynical fouling isn't pulling a man down when he's through on goal. The new dawning is when he's breaking inside his own half and you don't pull him down, you don't stick your foot in, you just wrap him up with two hands. It's a two handed tackle, it's probably not even a booking and..
Mick: It stops a counter attack.
Maurice: Oh every single time. Over and over again. The best example was Coen in the second half where he made no attempt to play the ball, but he put two hands in to hold him up. It's a blatant free but that's all it is.
Mick: I don't want to unfair on Mayo here. I think every team does it. I must of seen it 40 times this weekend. That's just what happens now. You'll notice that teams aren't even stopping for the free anymore because they know what it's for. They just have it taken. They don't give out to the ref of anything, they just take the free. Every team does it. Mayo are just better at it than everyone else. Ultimately, the GAA needs to fix it. It needs to be a tackle count, it needs to be a foul count. You need to getting a yellow card on two or three fouls, and then it just stops.
Mark: Or just like rugby, where a random person gets a yellow card for persistent fouling from the whole team. But it's not Mayo, by any stretch of the imagination. You're almost praising them in what they're doing, because every team should be doing it until they're stopped. It's up to the GAA to do it, and a lot of the times, it's that teams aren't cute enough to do it is almost the criticism of them.
With football more and more becoming about a 15 man attack and 15 man defence, it's a natural consequence when teams need to make up ground to get set defensively. However, in soccer, any player purposely stopping a counter attack with a foul is given a yellow card. It's still happens and sometimes it's the accepted cost it. In the GAA, there appears to be a lot more reluctance to keeping these punishments for more serious challenges.
You can download the full Three Man Weave episode here. where we look in more detail at the Mayo win over Galway, Cavan's collapse against Tyrone, Laois's magic win over Dublin and much, much more.