Refereeing in the GAA is a tricky business. Not only do rules change on a fairly regular basis, but even the well established laws within the game can be left largely down to interpretation.
The tackle is a prime example.
It is an area of the game that is incredibly difficult to referee, with the laws around that particular action ambiguous at best. It is often left down to the officials to define what is legal and what is not, a definition that can change over time.
At the moment, the 'choke tackle' is something that is becoming increasingly prominent in Gaelic football at the highest level.
It involved the ballcarrier being bottled up by two or three opposition players, often becoming trapped and having nowhere to go. Whereas officials used to often adjudge this as a foul, in recent seasons decisions have favoured the defensive teams with increasing frequency.
As a result, many supporters are wondering why it has been allowed to creep into the game.
I don't understand the rules of football anymore! 🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️ Can anyone infinitely wiser than me please explain? @SportTG4 @CahairOKane1 pic.twitter.com/KVxAlcmH34
— Mary K Burke (@MKBurke1) March 5, 2023
In todays game, Spike woulda been best pulling/volleying on the ball with his foot rather than going down on it. Once you come up, it’s always an overcarry. Do we still coach to get down on the ball to be met with 2 players & blown for overcarry? pic.twitter.com/YqZOX9y5vf
— Shane Rice (@coachshanerice) January 11, 2023
It's clear that defending teams are putting an emphasis on this part of the game, something that should not come as a surprise when it is allowed by officials.
Oisín McConville says inter-county teams perfecting 'choke tackle'
Oisín McConville says that is clear that inter-county teams are now working hard to make the choke tackle as effective as possible.
Speaking on The GAA Social, the Wicklow manager said that watching any county team warmup will tell you all you need to know on the matter.
There has been a definite change in the psyche in terms of what is being dictated to referees and what is expected of referees.
If they get the second and third man in there, he's not going anywhere. As long as there is no pulling or dragging in there, it seems to be (allowed).
If you watch the majority of inter-county warmups, it will probably involve one man with the ball and three lads around him not letting him out. It's something which is being practiced.
From a coaching point of view, it's something that teams are starting to perfect that little bit more. That's why it's so important for the player in possession to shift the ball a little bit quicker.
It definitely seems to be a focus. If that's a focus, then it's obviously coming from on high.
It is difficult to blame teams for targeting this area, although it is not an aspect of the game that contributes to the spectacle on show.
The GAA would perhaps be best served by minimising them as much as possible.