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'We'll adapt and get on with it' - McCaffrey's view on football's rule changes

Footballer of the Year nominee Jack McCaffrey doesn’t feel the rules needed to be tweaked.

THE INTER-COUNTY football season will be neatly split into two halves in 2019.

The pre-season competitions and league will feature the GAA’s experimental rules, while the old order will be restored for the championship.

It means that in the year of Dublin’s ‘drive-for-five’ bid, they’ll have to redraw their handpass heavy game-plan for the spring before returning to the possession-based style in time for the summer. 

Jack McCaffrey during the recent All-Ireland final win over Tyrone. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We always take the league very, very seriously,” says Jack McCaffrey.

“I know that’s something people are having a bit of an issue with, that the league which is preparation time and for a lot of counties more important than the championship in some respects, is being used as the experimental period.

“I’d imagine we’ll put a lot of work into it and get to grips with it because we don’t want to go out and lose in the league, we don’t ever want to go out and lose.

“I hadn’t actually realised that it was going back to the normal rules so it’ll be a challenge. Now, there’s a nice little wash-out period between the league and championship to kind of get used to that again. That’s going to be for the management team to decide, I won’t be making the calls on that.”

If the rules prove a success in next year’s league campaign, they could be written into rule in time for the 2020 All-Ireland SFC. But was there really a need for such a drastic change to Gaelic football?

“No, I didn’t think it needed anything really,” says the 25-year-old wing-back.

“I’ve been at club championship games this year, I was up watching Portlaoise and Crokes the other day and it was a cracking game. There’s been some incredibly entertaining games throughout all levels. What you have to remember with new rules is that it’s not coming in and exclusively affecting inter-county football.

“They might make two or three inter-county games a year a better spectacle for spectators but if that comes to the detriment of the hundreds of thousands of people playing club football around the country it’s a no-brainer to not do that. 

NO FEE FOOTBALLER JACK MCCAFFREY TK MAXX SOCKSIE JB2 Jack McCaffrey has pulled up his socks again for Christmas Sock Day which returns on Thursday, 6th December 2018. Developed by labels-for-less retailer, TK Maxx, the campaign invites the public to sport their Christmas socks to raise funds for Enable Ireland, which provides vital support services for children and young people with disabilities across Ireland. Get involved by sharing your own #socksie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

“My perception of it was that football has been very defensive the last couple of years in some quarters but I kinda got the sense we were coming out the other side of that. There are very few teams that do drop everyone behind the ball and just soak up attack after attack.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing it and I find it really interesting to watch it as well. It definitely suffers when it’s held up against hurling, which is a different sport altogether. If you want 36 scores per team per game we’ll need a lot more rules in Gaelic football. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think it needed these. I didn’t think it needed anything really.

“I think what would be very helpful would be if the (Standing) Rules Committee or the GAA told everyone what they were trying to achieve with all the rules and what the ideal behind them is. I think everyone’s working off the assumption that it’s to counter mass defences and I think that maybe a couple of the rules, including the handpass one, are dealing with symptoms of having a mass defence as opposed to the mass defence itself. 

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“If you look at teams that handpass a lot, it’s usually because you’re trying to break down a well-set defensive structure. If you just cut out the handpassing, it doesn’t necessarily affect the root cause. But look, they’re obviously trialling them for the National League.

NO FEE FOOTBALLER JACK MCCAFFREY TK MAXX SOCKSIE JB5 Jack McCaffrey has pulled up his socks again for Christmas Sock Day which returns on Thursday, 6th December 2018. Developed by labels-for-less retailer, TK Maxx, the campaign invites the public to sport their Christmas socks to raise funds for Enable Ireland, which provides vital support services for children and young people with disabilities across Ireland. Get involved by sharing your own #socksie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

“They’re in now. Same rules for everybody. We’ll get cracking once we get a bit of clarity around what everything is and all the intricacies around them, we’ll adapt and get on with it.”

Dublin footballer and GPA chief executive Paul Flynn is set to meet with the GAA this week to discuss the player body’s concerns over the rule changes. After polling its players, the GPA opposed three of the five rule changes, but the GAA pressed ahead regardless.

While McCaffrey feels club players should also come into the decision-making process, he admits it was strange that inter-county players were asked for their thoughts and then largely not listened to.

“Well again, it’s every footballer in the country. I don’t think it would be fair to just listen to inter-county players because there are some differences between that game and the club game.

GPA CEO Paul Flynn speaking at today's GPA Reps Day GPA CEO Paul Flynn. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“But it’s not that we weren’t involved in the decision process, it’s that we were involved in the decision process and then overwhelming voted against certain things, that were then done anyway.

“So it actually would have been preferable if they just didn’t ask our opinion and did it. As opposed to asking our opinion, realising several people did want it but the majority of people voted against for example the handpass rule, and then it’s in. 

“That was a bit of a strange tactical decision on their behalf. I don’t know, who am I to decide the rules of Gaelic football? Just because I play for an inter-county team I don’t think I should have a say, I think straw polls of club and inter-county players would be helpful.

“But ultimately, someone does have to make a decision and it’s probably not feasible to ask everybody who’s involved what they’d like to do so someone’s going to make a call and some people are going to be upset. There’s a fair few people upset about this one I think but it’s done now, we’ll see how it goes.” 

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Kevin O'Brien

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