Hand Pass Has to Be Given the Boot; Dying Breed: (L-R) Kerrys Maurice Fitzgerald, Peter Canavan of Tyrone and Galways Michael Donnellan Were Foot-Pass Masters

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Byline: DONAL KEENAN

IT HAS been quite a sight in recent months to observe the traditionallystaid and orderly officers of world rugby bicker and squabble over proposedchanges to the playing rules of their game. Rugby Union used to set the exampleof how to make changes seam-lessly, modifying rules from time to time to meetchanging needs.

Soccers authorities have also embraced change with a degree of regularity, evenif they have still failed to make sense of the offside rule. There was a timewhen the GAA liked to change, or at least experiment, with rule changes. Infact, they got so fond of playing rules changes that they introduced amoratorium of five years between changes or experiments.

So while rugby union gets itself into a right tizzy over what are admittedlydramatic proposals for change, the GAA must wait another two years before itcan address some outstanding issues in relation to Gaelic football.

As we look forward with a fair degree of enthusiasm and excitement to anotherchampionship season, now happily just a week away, there is also a slight senseof unease. The championships of recent years have been fairly decent andproduced their share of memorable games. But there is something not quite rightabout football at the moment, just little things that are spoiling the sport asa spectacle.

Some critics point to an overemphasis on speed, strength and stamina duringpreparation which leads to a neglect in other areas, especially in relation tothe skills of kicking and fielding. That is true in many cases. But there arealso a few problems with the rules, some old and some new, which arecontributing to the problems.

The use of the hand to transfer the ball short, medium and sometimes longdistances has become so common nowadays that it is time for a restriction to beimplemented. This is not a new suggestion but it is being made at a time nowwhen football needs a change more than ever before.

We have too often in the modern era seen instances of the ball being moved fromone end of the field to the other without leather touching leather. It allowsmeandering and swarming that is ugly to the eye. There is no great skill in thehand pass; it is too convenient an alternative for the less skillful player whodoes not work on his kicking.

It is also an escape route for the coach who might not have the requisite skillhimself to improve his players kicking skills, be that in passing or shootingfor scores. …