Jack McCaffrey Maintains Advanced Mark Is A Terrible Idea

A Gaelic football on a pitch, new Gaelic football rules come into effect in 2020 including the advanced rule which will see forwards award a mark for a clean catch of the ball from a kick pass that travels over 20m without touching the ground

After been trialled in last season’s league, the advanced mark is now a permanent rule, but it’s struggling to find even one ardent supporter among the players.

Dublin defender Jack McCaffrey has spoken about it a number of times and this week maintained he thought it was a terrible idea.

“I still haven’t seen it in action, the advanced mark, and I still maintain it’s a terrible idea. But I suppose we have it now and we’ll deal with it,” McCaffrey told the Irish Independent.

“It’s going to have to change, as a defender, how you approach pretty much everything. It remains to be seen, I’ve been wrong before, but I’d be very nervous about what it will do and I still haven’t really figured out what it’s for and what the problem is that it’s addressing.”

The last two decades of football and in particular the majority of the last ten years has seen the game ruined as a spectacle due to teams employing the dreaded blanket defence.

But there seemed to be a shift away from those tactics in 2018 and 2019 but the advanced mark could very well have the knock on effect of teams returning to packing their defences to avoid giving away easy points.

Jack McCaffrey is also worried that that’s exactly what will happen with this new rule.

“I’m assuming it was something to do with blanket defences – to counter that. Well, I think, A, their day has kind of begun to pass anyway. And, B, the more I think about it the more I think it will encourage them because, as a defender, you have to prevent your man catching the ball cleanly because that’s a guaranteed score essentially at inter-county level.

“You’ve to avoid over-committing to the ball because he’ll turn you and score a goal, and the easiest way to do that is to have two people marking him – one in front and one behind. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of people making their way back.”

Now some might say that as a defender of course McCaffrey wouldn’t be in favour of the rule, but forwards from Mayo and Kerry speaking at this weeks 2020 Allianz National Football League launch outlined their concerns about the new rule.

2019 Mayo captain Diarmuid O’Connor voiced his concerns about the new rule and said he was disappointed to see it coming in and also stated that he doesn’t know if forwards should be award for catching a ball.

“I was disappointed to see it coming in,” the Ballintubber man said at the launch of the 2020 Allianz National Football Leagues in Croke Park.

“I didn’t think there was a need for change. But listen, it’s in now, it is what it is and we just have to get on with it and practise it and make sure you’re good at it when the time comes. I was disappointed but we just have to get on with it.

“Most of the lads I’ve talked to really didn’t see the need for change. I don’t know if we should be rewarding forwards for catching a ball, but as I said, it’s in now and we just have to try and ensure we’re the best as can be at it.”

Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien also had some reservations about the advanced mark including teams becoming ultra-conservative due to the new rule or good forward play disappearing and the game becoming a free taking competition.

“It might promote a bit of kicking and I’m not necessarily sure it needed to be made said O’Brien. I think if you receive a good kick-pass like that the scores are on a lot of the time anyway.

“Maybe it helps break down blanket defences, but maybe it could make things ultra-conservative as well And I think it takes away the battle of a forward against his man, which sometimes is the most exciting thing.

When a fella gets a good ball and he is lined up one on one, and I think the defenders relish that as well, whereas now it’s a free-taking competition a lot of the time. It remains to be seen the impact on it.”

Although it remains to be seen what impact the advanced rule is going to have on the game this season there is a genuine concern that it could completely ruin the game.

On the surface it’s a ludicrous rule and it’s difficult to see how it improves the game at all. Why should forwards be rewarded for executing a basic skill of the game just because it’s in a certain area of the pitch.

This rule has the potential to not only make the game completely stop/start, but also take all the excitement, atmosphere and spectacle away for spectators.

How many midfielders are going to converted into forwards in the coming season and passages of play becoming no more than lumping the ball towards a six foot plus former midfielder to catch, take the mark and have a free shot at the posts under no pressure.

Questions have to be asked of the committee who put this rule forward. What was their reasoning to introduce this? what benefit will it bring to the game?

Their answer will be to point at stats collected about a drop in kick passes into forwards and yes those stats are probably correct, but the reason for that was blanket defences, no team will just aimlessly kick a ball towards a forward surround by three or four players with a low percentage chance of winning the ball, never mind having the space to create a scoring opportunity.

And as stated above this advanced mark may very well encourage a return to teams parking the bus in their own half and there will be even less kicking into the forwards.

Another question to be asked of the committee is why they feel the continued need to bring in new rules what seems every year, hurling certainly doesn’t feel the need to do so and it hasn’t affected that game.

Yes sports evolve and sometimes to keep up with that evolution some rule changes are required, but only if they actually enhance the game, rule changes for the sake of rule changes are counterintuitive.

It will be interesting to see how the advanced mark works out this season and what if any positives it brings to the game.