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Maurice Deegan: 'New mark rule will stop melees'
By John Harrington
2016 All-Ireland Football Final replay referee, Maurice Deegan, believes the new mark rule will stop melees in the middle third of the field.
Under the new rule, which comes into effect at all levels from January 1st, players will be able to claim a mark when they cleanly catch the ball from a kick-out without it touching the ground, on or past the 45m line nearest the kick-out point.
Deegan has refereed two matches in Division One of the Higher Education League where the rule has been trialled in recent weeks and believes it can lead to more free-flowing football in the middle third.
What I think it will stop are melees around the middle of the field, like in the past when a ball breaks and four or five lads are there one lad will catch it but straight away he will have four or five around him.
What will happen now is when the free is given with a mark it will stop all that. So the ball will move on quicker. Basically what you dont want is to have five or six players all encroaching on top of each other because you are inviting trouble straight away.
Look, the important thing is that if we referee it right from the start and are consistent then there shouldnt be any issue. Its there to protect the high fielder in the middle of the field, basically. Thats the way Im looking at it.
Plus, look, you are bringing back a skill to the game, you are reintroducing high fielding which has sort of gone out of the game because of short kick-outs.
In the two third level matches that Deegan refereed the new rule didnt have a major impact because he found most players were keen to continue playing after they had caught the ball rather than call for the mark.
I found that you are looking at about six or seven marks per game, he says.
A lot of the players, from what Ive seen they want to play on more than anything else. College football is very open, well really see what its like once Division 1 of the league starts, then well know what the bones of it are going to be like.
Uachtarn Chumann Lthchleas Aogn Fearghail with Maurice Deegan, Brian Gavin and Conor Lane at the launch of The Referees Handbook at Croke Park in Dublin.
National Referees Development Committee Chairman, Sean Walsh, doesnt think the new rule will change how many teams play the game.
But he does believe it will make those players who have already mastered the skill of high-fielding even more valuable to their teams.
The impact will be how managers decide that they're going to use it, says Walsh.
At the end of the day, that's what's going to happen. If a team is playing to a system that there's not going to be a long kick-out then the mark is not going to really feature.
I would see where teams have the ability, where they have some very good midfielders, the likes of Clare and Gary Brennan would be a typical example for me.
They might look to go long with every kick-out to someone like him. It will depend solely on what way managers are going to operate, what system they're going to play with on any given day with any given team.
Teams that have a running game, it won't feature, teams that have a long game that's the only time it's going to feature.
"It absolutely has nothing to do with eradicating short kick-outs. If the goalkeeper decides he wants to kick the ball 13 metres from the player, he can do that, that will still be in place."