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'The feedback is very positive' - Top referees welcoming proposed rule changes

Cork ref Conor Lane thinks it’s all positive and is embracing the challenge.

Lane in action in the All-Ireland final.
Lane in action in the All-Ireland final.

LEADING REFEREE CONOR Lane says that the reaction in refereeing circles to the proposed new rules in Gaelic football has been “very positive”.

The 2018 All-Ireland SFC final man in the middle hasn’t been involved in any of the trial matches thus far but says that the feedback has been optimistic.

Recently, the GAA’s standing committee issued five proposed rule changes to be considered. These include a restriction in handpasses, a plan to have all sidelines kicked forward, the introduction of an attacking mark, the implementation of a sin bin and a new kick-out rule involving zoning.

They’ve been trialed in some Thursday night college games with Lane mentioning that David Gough, Cormac Reilly and Brendan Crawley have taken charge.

“The feedback is very positive,” Lane said at the launch of the GAA’s Referee Development Plan in Croke Park this morning. 

“I was chatting to the lads and Pat Doherty about it this morning. The feedback has been good.

“I haven’t been involved because they’ve all been in Kildare and Dublin. I’m from Cork so it would be too much of a trip for me to travel up on a Thursday. It’s positive, yeah, the feedback has been positive.”

While there has been some uncertainty around the proposed changes from top inter-county players, Lane welcomes them from a refereeing point of view. 

Darren Hughes, Paul Mannion, Aidan O’Shea and Brian Fenton are four players to have voiced their opinions on the matter, their views coming as mixed. 

Conor Lane Conor Lane (file pic). Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Hughes slammed them as “embarassing”, O’Shea and Fenton were much more reserved but shared their uncertainty while Dublin and Kilmacud star Mannion most recently said that his “initial thoughts were just that they were pretty bad ideas.”

Lane thinks otherwise on a personal level though.

“Positive for me,” he continued. “Hurling would be my first love. From refereeing hurling in Cork when the defender gets the ball he’s trying to get it up the field as fast as he can.

“Football at the moment is just a bit slow, so, for me, the quicker we get the ball up the field the more attractive it is for the fans and the more attractive it is for everyone.”

It’s also been said that more rules my be too onerous for referees, adding to their load. But Lane firmly disagrees with that. 

“Look, it’s like every year, what we’re given we’ll just go out and perform and do what we’re told to do. If it’s hand-passes we’ll do it, if it’s an extra mark we’ll just have to buy into it and do it.

“I’d be positive. Whatever we’re told to do we’ll just do it. It won’t be an extra work-load for us, no. It’s just another challenge that we’ll embrace. I’m looking forward to it.”

Sean Cavanagh is shown a yellow card by Referee David Gough Cavanagh being carded by David Gough in 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The introduction of a second referee is something that’s also been called for of late, namely by former Tyrone star Sean Cavanagh. 

And obviously, the possible introduction of new rules has heightened that debate and increased those calls. Again, Banteer/Lyre clubman Lane disagrees, saying that one referee can handle it with ease.

“No, I was involved in the Australian Rules last year and we had the six handpasses rule in it. It was very easy to get it into it.

“It’s all about the players buying into it as well. We can all be negative and moan about stuff, we just have to get on with life. It’s all positive for us really, we love the extra work-load.

“I think one referee is more than enough. Loads, yeah. I wouldn’t be shouting for two referees at all, to be honest.

“I don’t think our game is fast enough for it. The ball is going back and across a lot. One is plenty for us at the moment anyway.”

The GAA’s national match officials coordinator Doherty stayed more coy when asked at the same event if referees feedback to the proposed rule changes had been positive.

Pat Doherty Pat Doherty (file pic).

“Quite honestly, they haven’t fed back hugely,” he said.

“Their attitude to things like that are, ‘Well, we’re here to referee the games, we referee the games and if the rules change, they change and we’ll do our best to referee the changed rules.’

“As you probably know, the Standing Committee of the Playing Rules have a couple of third level games organised on Thursday evening – challenge matches. So, some of the lads will be involved in refereeing that. They will have a better view on it then.

“We cannot be saying, ‘This is great’ or ‘This isn’t great’ until we see them in action. That would be the attitude of the referees — whatever is in front of us, we’ll do our best to referee.”

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Emma Duffy

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