Cian O’Neill admits that he is excited to see how the new rules in football fair out in this year’s O’Byrne Cup, with the Leinster pre-season competition offering the first taste of huge potential changes to the dynamic of the game.
There are five proposed new rules that will be trialled this winter, and they may be used in the league in the spring of next year if the GAA passes them through.
There has been plenty of debate around the new rules, with many claiming that they will further extrapolate some of the problems within the game, with the restriction of teams only being allowed to have three handpasses in a row the most contentious one.
O’Neill is happy to test out the new rules however, though there were problems in the way they came about he claims.
“I think how it has come to be is unfortunate; not only did the rules change before they even got to that congress meeting, but even on the day they changed again,” stated the Kildare manager.
“It was the third iteration of some rules that was voted on so it was kind of strange. The fact is now they’re in, I’m really looking forward to it. I think two things are going to make teams more successful than others; one is the quality of coaching, what coaches can do to adopt their style of play to the rules.
“More importantly is the adaptability of the players, and I think one thing that all Kildare players should pride themselves on is they’re good footballers. With the panel we have here, they are all very smart, clever players. I think the teams that adapt to the rules best will have the most early success. I think it will normalise over time when everyone gets used to it.”
The big thing for managers around the country now is whether or not they commit to developing their style under the proposed new rule changes. O’Neill says that his team will prepare for the O’Byrne Cup by building their gameplan around the new rules, and that would certainly give his side a lift if they are sanctioned for the league. The Lilywhites will have three training sessions on the pitch before their opening game against Carlow on December 15, which hardly gives them a huge amount of time to get familiar with the changes.
“It's an Irish solution to an Irish problem, isn’t it,” he said about the whole uncertainty of whether or not the new rules will be in place for the league.
“The way we’re preparing – and I’m sure a lot of counties are the exact same – is that the rules are in now for the next competition and we want to give everyone exposure to this competition, so we’re going to train with these new rules and create our gameplan around that. If they stay for the league, well then we have a head start. If they don’t stay for the league, it doesn’t change what we’ve been doing for the last number of years. From a coaching perspective and an organising perspective, it’s not good.”
Kildare will arguably be one of the teams who are quite suited to the new rules. The Lilywhites have traditionally played an expansive style of football under O’Neill which involves plenty of kick-passing, while the deployment of Kevin Feely to full-forward on numerous occasions means that there is a good man at the edge of the square to claim offensive marks.
“I think it suits the style of play when we do have the ball,” agreed O’Neill.
“What will be interesting is how teams play against that rule, so are they going to almost allow a team to have a third handpass and then have a strategy to pounce and group tackle. Are they going to put them under pressure on the second pass and force a third? I agree that it doesn’t hugely impact how we like to play most of the time, but I think it will be how other teams play against it will be the most interesting thing and how we cope with that.”
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