PAUDIE KISSANE: 13-a-side and bonus point wins

THERE is plenty of excitement off the pitch at present with the managerial merry-go-round but what is it that could be done to make things on the pitch more exciting for players and spectators alike?

I might enjoy watching one team’s ability in breaking down a packed defence, creating space and more scores, but at the same time understand that’s not what many spectators want. Teams are entitled to set up with extra defensive cover and I don’t think the idea of restricting the number of players in certain areas of the field is realistic either, so what else could be done?

Firstly potential changes to the rules of Gaelic football need to be workable for officials and suitable for club and county alike. The games are getting faster and referees already have a lot on their plate so changes need to be minimal.

My first potential change, while radical for some, would be reducing numbers to 13-a-side. Yes, teams could still drop the whole team inside their own half, but overall from both attack and defence perspective there is more potential space as there is fewer players on the field.

I would always hear positive things from players who played 13-a-side at underage level. This was common for small clubs or when taking part in secondary competitions. It is not so common these days as more clubs amalgamate when short of numbers.

To make the game more attractive, we need a greater reward for attacking play. Groups of four teams are common now for club championships in many counties and players like this format. Similar to what we see in rugby, could we add a bonus point, for example if a team scores three goals or more than 12 points?

In Cork, as in many counties, relegation is at stake so all group games are important as it is but this extra scoring incentive would encourage better coaching and an emphasis on attacking play.

Adding another layer to this, teams could be rewarded with two points when shooting a long-range point. Similar to the three-point shot in basketball, this would require a new scoring arc line on the field, maybe 35 yards out from the goal. Whether this was feasible on all club pitches on a consistent basis may rule out this extra change being seriously considered but I like the concept of it.

You would have to admire the development of the goalkeeper’s skill-set over the last number of years where we see many keepers coming out the field to provide an overlap, switch the play or in some cases score from distance.

Nonetheless, I would prefer if the ball was not allowed to be passed back to the goalkeeper once a team gains possession after a turnover or wins a kick-out.

Naturally enough this would make it more difficult for teams in possession as it will not be as easy to hold possession or go backwards. Secondly, it will encourage more teams to press up as they know the ball can’t go back to the goalkeeper. This will create more potential turnovers and scores while also encouraging a more attacking mindset from defensive players when in possession.

The last change worth considering would be once a team brings the ball outside inside the opposition half they cannot go back into their own half again with the ball. You could argue the merits of whether it should be the halfway line, 65-yard line or 45-yard line considering this needs to be suitable to officiate at club level. Overall though, I would like to see it trialled in some format. Looking at other present rules in the game, I think the hop ball scenario is a bit of a mess and needs reviewing while also you must ask could a greater punishment be in place for cynical fouling. Teams naturally will do what they can to win and right now cynical fouling is very much part of our game, slowing down the team in possession.

I am not the first to mention the ideas above but in my opinion these are changes worth considering. Like any changes, they need to be minimal, trialled first and measured to see what is actual difference they make.

It’s not all doom and gloom as the club championships are hotting up. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I still enjoy watching the action our game provides at present.

Paudie Kissane Performance

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