A ‘Fresher’ look at the game

Two new rules are being experimented with at university Fresher level in the GAA. Michael McMullan went along to see ATU Donegal in action against Queen’s and got the thoughts from both camps.

THERE are two new rules relating to both kick-outs and the direction of the play from a set piece.

The kick-out rule is simple. All kick-outs must clear the goalkeeper’s own 45-yard line before it can be played by anyone in his team.

If a player on the defending team touches the ball before it crosses the 45, it will be deemed a foul and play will restart with a hop ball on their own 21-yard line.

As happened in the Queen’s v Ulster University game the previous week, if there is a wind strong enough to prevent the ball going past the 45, the referee uses his judgement before allowing kick-outs to be taken as normal.

The rule with the forward pass relates to sidelines, frees and either a mark or advanced mark – all in the area of the pitch between both 21-yard lines.

The ball cannot be played back and if this rule is broken, play will restart with a hop ball where the indiscretion took place.

Niall Jackman (QUB manager)

I am not a big fan of the kick-out rule. I assume, like all the new rules they are trying to implement, that it is there to try to improve the spectacle of the game. I don’t see that happening. I just see the quality diminishing and it becomes a bit of a free for all.

It wasn’t as prevalent tonight, but we had a game against Jordanstown (Ulster University) last week and there was a gale force wind blowing down one half of the field.

Our ‘keeper could get the ball past the 45 so the referee let that run, but it became a complete lottery.

The Jordanstown ‘keeper couldn’t get the ball past the 45 in the second half. The referee decided to bring in discretion so he could kick as normal and they could get short kick-outs away.

It doesn’t make a pile of sense to me. I don’t see it adding any value to the game.

The forward pass rule, I just see it making it a bit messier from 21 to 21 with every free having to go forward. It might make it a bit more exciting, but in terms of the quality, it is not there.

We have only had three weeks to adapt to the rules but I don’t think my opinion is going to change. I see it as another failed experiment.

Ronan Cassidy (QUB forward)

I think the rule about passes going forward can be good sometimes and there are benefits to it but, to be honest, it slows the game down.

I think it is very easy for the defensive team to get back and there are not many options for the man taking the free. I don’t really agree with it.

There are benefits to it but, so far, in our games, we are not used to it and don’t have any real tactics in how to deal with it.

It could improve the forwards’ movement and it could make the game more exciting with forward passes throughout a match.

There could be benefits to it but, so far in our two games, it has been tough enough because we are not used to it.

In terms of the kick-out, James (Gribbin – QUB goalkeeper) had a gale force breeze last week (against Ulster University) and the ball was just hanging up in the air, so it is a lottery.

On a dry and calm day, maybe it could be different but coming into the winter, with the conditions, it makes it a lottery once the ball goes out beyond the 45.

There are benefits to both the rules with the forward pass one maybe better, but it is tough.

James Gribbin (QUB goalkeeper)

I wouldn’t be a fan of the kick-out rule. We can only aim for a 50 per cent success rate. With big boys in the middle, it is very hard to find space so you have to pick a side and overload.

It is easy for the opposition to set up for it. They don’t have to press up; there is no point in them pushing right up to the edge of the ‘D’. They line out and pick zones along the 45 and it is 50-50 all the time.

Usually, so much of training is about preparing for kick-outs but with this rule there is only so much you can do about it.

We haven’t done any kick-out plays or prepared any strategies towards it compared to what we would’ve done at club level. It is something I don’t think will stay.

With the forward pass rule, there is a lot more movement up front but it limits the amount I am involved in the game.

I had very little touches out there tonight. Usually, if there is a sideline back around the 21, it can be popped back to me and I am in play again.

When you are out of it and having to come in front of the man taking the free kick, they (opponents) are going to push a man up on me.

There was a bit more movement up front for the long ball in and we definitely got a few chances from it. I don’t know how some of the forwards are feeling about it, but I think it has created a bit more movement up front.

Luke Barrett (ATU Donegal manager)

By definition, GAA is an invasion sport and it is different to any other sport. You can go anywhere, you can attack with everybody.

From the kick-out point of view, there were a couple of examples tonight where it created a contest. There were a couple of people caught with the ball in a break and were just swallowed up with all the bodies under kick-outs.

With Freshers, you only have them for three weeks and by its nature, you don’t do very much tactical work anyway. From a Freshers’ manager point of view, they are very similar games to last year. It’s (the Fresher game) a different style of football.

Would it work when you were playing a game and the stakes were a bit higher?

Well, if it was a championship game…knock-out with something at stake you’ll adapt yourself and make yourself very difficult to beat. By doing that, invariably, it could make the spectacle a lot worse.

After half time, we started with the bunch and break plan that worked (referring to ATU winning four of their first five kick-outs in the second half). There are other situations where you have it man on man and you have to battle for it

The one thing that is a disadvantage to us, our biggest man is 6’1” and Queen’s had bigger men.

If you look at the standard of goalkeepers, Shaun Patton, Niall Morgan or a Rory Beggan… that makes it redundant being outside the 45 if they want to go long (over midfield) so it will be interesting.

The forward pass rule is not the worst rule I ever saw but if the stakes were higher it could be different.

I am not a big fan of the kick-out rule, there are too many bodies around the middle of the field and it is a mess.

At senior level, it will be more of a mess because players are much more physical here and there will be more contests.

The forward pass, I am not sure if it is something that will stay or not. I think it will be something they can look at.

The Freshers is a bad place to trial it because there is a brand-new set of players every year and there are no systems with players going out and having a cut at it

We have a lot of Donegal players who will want to play senior club and Donegal u-20s next year. It’s their opportunity to test themselves.

If you are playing in the McKenna Cup and it is a dirty, wet evening with the wind howling, I don’t know if it will work.

We won tonight and Queen’s won’t lose any sleep no more than we would’ve lost any sleep if we were beaten.

The big thing for those boys is that they can have a social bond, so they can go and play in the Sigerson next year. That’s the aim for us.

Damien McGowan (ATU Donegal goalkeeper)

I think the kick-out rule is a good initiative and it gets rid of the short kick-out. It is not as bunched in around the 21.

From a goalkeeper’s point of view, there is less chance of winning the kick-out because it is all about breaking ball and it is about overloads.

It is hard to make space as well because they are all clumped.

After half-time we won more of our kick-outs and it turned the game in our favour.

From the point of view of the forward pass rule, the movement was unreal and they were able to make space for each other.

The forwards were top class and our own man, Paddy (McElwee), must’ve kicked 10 or 11 points.

His movement was top class and that’s what you need with this new rule.

Patrick McElwee (ATU Donegal forward)

The new forward pass rule is good for forwards. The kick-out rule is also better for us because we don’t have press up on the short kick-outs like you do for your club.

We had a few strong men around the middle and it means your kick-outs have to go long so makes a big difference.

I don’t think the new rules will stay.

I would like them in speaking as a forward, but I don’t think the kick-out one will stay.

The forward pass one is difficult to pull off as you see in the senior championship, a 13-yard free played backwards to get the play going again so I don’t think that one will stick.

Referee view

Gaelic Life asked a referee his opinion after taking charge of a recent Fresher game. Here are his observations…

Kick-out rule: It is easy enough refereed and a simple rule to apply. It’s all about positioning to catch the foul in a congested midfield area and also make sure you can see if the ball has crossed the 45 before the defending team touches it.

Set play going forward: I felt it brought a competitive edge and the art of accurate kick-passing will need to be focused on.

It also produced a number of turnovers which brings excitement to the game.

I can see where difficulties arise with this one from a refereeing perspective, but difficulties that can be overcome.

Don’t let it pay to foul: We make sure players are noted and carded appropriately.

If not punished appropriately, the offended against team are at a disadvantage as they can only kick the ball forward, whereas from open play they can go any direction.

Slowing play-up: Teams tend to want to take the free quickly. If having to note and in particular card a player for the foul, the referee may need to delay the restart to document accordingly.

This gives the offending team time to set up.

Positioning and fitness: For games where refs are on their own, they will need to make sure they are in position to make sure the ball has gone forward.

And, now with the longer kick pass coming into play, they will need to move efficiently up the field to get up with play.-

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