From the beginning of January, Gaelic Football will head in a different direction as a plethora of rule changes approved at April’s GAA congress in Derry will come into play, affecting the game across the board, including the likes of the Sigerson Cup.
Over the coming weeks, the GAA at all levels will begin to understand the scale of what lies ahead. The changes are significant and it will take time and patience before they will be fully understood.
The main aim of the new rules is to eliminate cynical play which, during this summer’s championship, we saw plenty of blatant examples of.
The main focus is the introduction of a black card for cynical fouls which will result in serious punishment for consistent culprits. This rule passed with an 82 per cent majority, an unusually high percentage for any major change at a GAA congress.
Any offence which involves tripping or dragging down a player, as well as deliberately colliding with a player in an attempt to take them out of the game or disrupt the flow of the game, will result in the offender receiving a black card.
Any player who gets a black card will be sent off and will consequently miss the remainder of the game.
Teams are allowed three substitutions for any player dismissed as a result of the black card being issued, but should more than three players on a team receive a black card, the team will be down a player.
As well as this, if one player receives three black cards across the season, it will result in a one-match suspension.
The existing yellow card system will stay in place and this could make deciding between deliberate and accidental fouls a real challenge for referees. It could also cause some serious frustration with players.
The difficulties will be more prominent at club level than inter-county level. While there is no shortage of substitutes at inter-county level, it could be detrimental for smaller clubs struggling for players.
Other new rules introduced from January include a change in the number of substitutes allowed, definition of the tackle, the introduction of a clearer advantage rule, and a rule that will also allow for a player in possession to score a point with an open handed hand-pass.
While it seems like a genuine attempt to keep Gaelic Football as free-flowing and fast-paced as possible, it remains to be seen how well this initiative will work out in practice.