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Former All-Ireland winning boss suggests a 'change in attitude' and an open mind with new football rules

John O’Mahony says that teams should give the experimental rules a chance as he prepares to take over as manager of The Downs club in Westmeath.

John O'Mahony says teams should give the new rules a chance.
John O'Mahony says teams should give the new rules a chance.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

FORMER ALL-Ireland winning manager John O’Mahony has suggested that teams should keep an open mind in relation to the new rules that are being trialled in Gaelic football.

Five rules were introduced ahead of this year’s pre-season competitions, four of which will be experimented further during the Allianz National Football Leagues.

A controversial handpass rule was scrapped following a meeting of the Central Council at Croke Park over the weekend, while rules regarding the sideline kick, the advanced mark, the sin-bin and the kickout have all been retained.

O’Mahony, who has recently been appointed as manager of Westmeath club The Downs, says that while new rules can benefit the sport, ‘a change of attitude’ is also required to give them the best chance of success.

“The handpass was controversial,” he told The42.

I would always have an open mind that they [the rules] were put on display for genuine reasons.

“As much as a change of rules, a change of attitude in teams [is needed]. The game has changed so much [and is] very defensive.

“The challenge at inter-county level in particular is that clubs at all levels copy it and the fact that there’d be blanket defences at U12 competitions is outlandish to be honest.

Martin McMahon The handpass rule came under scrutiny during the pre-season competitions. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I think the burden on the referees with the handpass [rule] was huge in the sense that they had to be counting and counting [passes] and watching what was going on behind them so that was a difficult one.”

The former Leitrim, Galway and Mayo boss added:

I initially thought the mark wouldn’t work but I think it has been a good development for the game so I think you should always give them a chance.

“When new rules are introduced, I think if everyone can decide to take a step back and let them work through the system, [they can work].

“I realise the concerns of inter-county managers. For some teams, particularly the weaker teams, the National League is actually the most important competition where you can go up a level.

“Maybe the fear was that if there was confusion or misinterpretation of that handpass rule, that’s why there was so much opposition.”

There has been a mixed reaction to the ticket price increases which have been confirmed for the 2019 season, with rates set to rise for tickets during the National League and championship campaigns.

GAA president John Horan has defended the decision on the basis that clubs should benefit from the revenue, while former Monaghan footballer Dick Clerkin has also voiced his support for the new measure.

John Horan GAA president John Horan has defended the ticket price hikes for the 2019 season. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I would imagine it’s an attempt to get people to buy their tickets in advance and the increases wouldn’t be huge for them then,” says O’Mahony.

“The only thing is that it can be quite expensive.

“The message that’ll be taken from this is that people get their tickets early and if they had more season tickets available, that would be a help as well.

“It’s done now but the danger is there has been a contraction of reduced attendances at football [matches]. I’d say they’ll be watching very closely to see what happens.”

O’Mahony takes over The Downs having previously worked as a selector with Leitrim for the last two years.

John O’Mahony O'Mahony during a Connacht FBD league game with Leitrim in 2017. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He also helped out with his local club Ballaghaderreen last year and is looking forward to taking charge of the Westmeath side, where he will add another chapter to a decorated career in management.

Guiding Leitrim to an historic Connacht SFC title in 1994, along with delivering All-Ireland crowns for Galway in 1998 and 2001 are among his greatest achievements, and O’Mahony is focused on the opportunity that awaits him with The Downs.

They last won the Westmeath SFC crown in 2005 and have reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the competition in the last two seasons.

O’Mahony has been linked with the club since 2013 when he came in as a guest coach and will be joined by selectors Tommy Kelly, Brian Murtagh, and Marc Cunningham as they look to bring county title success back to the club.

“I have a lifelong involvement [in management] and I’ll keep that going as long as I can,” says O’Mahony, who was confirmed as The Downs manager on Sunday.

Coaching is the closest thing to playing that I get a lot of satisfaction from working within the GAA because you’re trying to draw all the strands together and maximise the potential of a group of players. That has always appealed to me and I enjoy it.

“It’s not easy and it gets more complicated as time goes on but I still enjoy it. It has been my hobby all my life.”

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