Sean Cavanagh concerned the mark may add 'another layer of complication' to Gaelic Football

The Tyrone captain is entering his 16th season of inter-county football

Sean Cavanagh concerned the mark may add 'another layer of complication' to Gaelic Football

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Sean Cavanagh has expressed his concern at how the introduction of the mark may cause an adverse effect on Gaelic football.

The mark will officially be added to the game from January 1st 2017 and is aimed at promoting high-catching. A player must fetch the ball on or outside of their own '45 for it be a legitimate 'mark'. They then have the option of either taking a free or carrying the ball unopposed for four steps.

The proposal of adding the mark has been largely rejected by players and speaking in Croke Park on Tuesday, the Tyrone captain outlined his reasons for believing it will cause problems in the game.

"I obviously played with the mark in international Rules," he begins. "It’s difficult to officiate. It’s just not as simple as someone saying, 'yeah, you can catch the ball freely'.

"And that gives you time. Whenever someone half gets up and gets a touch on it then it’s not a mark when you catch it, whenever you half catch it and it drops down and then you catch it, some referees, even in International Rules, may call that a mark, some won’t call it a mark.

"To me it adds just another layer of complication. In my mind we need two referees because one referee isn’t enough to cope with everything that is going on in our game at this moment."

Cavanagh went on to say that interpreting the rule, could present additional challenges for both players and referees.

"There’s going to be an awful lot of mistakes, there’s going to be an awful lot of mistakes made, there's going to be an awful lot of players even I know myself playing International Rules, it probably took me four or five games playing International Rules even to sort of understand how to make runs to get a mark, how to take a mark, what to do when you get a mark, so there's going to be an awful lot of that, an awful lot of learning on both sides for the referees and the players."

Tyrone's Conor Clarke exhibiting some high-fielding

"It is just going to make players look to break the ball more and more and that is just going to make the game more scrappy, because sometimes, teams are just happy to give up possession and defend. But now if you are given a free kick, you will probably see less catches because the first thing that players will do is not catch the ball, but smash it."

"I am at a loss as to how exactly it is all going to play out but it does frighten me to a certain extent because it is a pretty significant change. And there may be as many negatives as there will be positives."

Cavanagh also reiterated the divided reaction to the mark within the GAA community which could make adjusting to the change more difficult.

"Probably the most disappointing thing is that I am not even sure if players are behind the mark. It is a fairly big change and it is going to take time. In International Rules, you make a catch and take a mark and you are now saying in GAA that you have the advantage, you can play on as well. But knowing when someone can tackle you or not, they are talking about a five metre protective zone but that is going to be crazy."

Sean Cavanagh believes that interpreting the 'mark' might add to the complications involved in refereeing a game.

"There might be a couple of balls that you think should be a mark but someone might have got a touch, someone might tackle you. To me, it is going to cause an awful lot of confusion and it is going to change the face of our games next year."

The proposal to add a second referee to officiate GAA games has also sparked discussion in recent years, with many arguing that the game has become too difficult for just one person to officiate.

Cavanagh believes a second referee would help the situation:

"Why not? I always wonder why not. And you don't necessarily have to stop the game for a TMO job but whenever there is that many cameras around, I don't understand why a referee can't be sitting in the stands and reviewing the off the ball stuff and even making a decision a minute or two after something has happened and being in the referee's ear on the pitch. Why not?"

A TMO would be a welcomed addition to GAA matches says Cavanagh.

"If it is something that is not going to slow our game down, why not have it, a bit like the Hawkeye. Why not have it? Things like that make a lot more sense than bringing in a mark and tinkering with the rules of the game."

Cavanagh tweeted a few weeks ago that he will be committing to another year with the Tyrone seniors, bringing him into his sixteenth season after making his debut in 2002. The three-time All-Ireland winning player confessed that not winning the All-Ireland this year partially motivated him to continue for another season, while the fear of facing retirement was another factor behind making the decision.

"If we had of won the All-Ireland probably yeah (I would have retired). Everyone has that fairytale thing of trying to go out on a high but it doesn’t happen to virtually anyone in sport but I had it in my head that if we were to get success this year I probably would have walked away but because it finished on that sour note (losing to Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final) If we had own that game and lost the semi final I probably would have come to the same conclusion to come back too."

"It’s something that I’ve thought about for the last couple of years and you are not sure what really does come next (after retirement). Going to training on Tuesday and Thursday night has been your life for 16 years or whatever at county level it will be really surreal whenever it does happen that that’s not there. It would be an interesting documentary for somebody to do, to follow guys during that initial stage of walking away. I’ve no doubt it will be difficult but yeah that’s probably part of it, that I’m almost afraid to walk away.

Central Council ruled over the weekend that the upcoming National Football League will not have semi-finals and that finals will be brought forward by a fortnight. These changes are intended to reduce gaps between competitive games and ultimately tackle burnout issues with the game. Cavanagh predicts that players will enjoy this new format but is unsure what impact it will have on burnout. 

Image: Dr Pat O'Neill delivering a talk on burnout in 2008. 

"I’m not sure whether it will tackle burnout, but I’m sure the players will embrace it, because it’s a bit strange whenever you have the gaps in the League, you are sort of caught between, you sort of go back to the club for a week or two, and you sort of come back to the county and you are not sure how you are training with for those weeks."

"It will probably streamline the whole thing. But at the same time you know you will probably still end up playing the same number of game. It probably makes sense that there are not as many gaps there for players."

Sean Cavanagh was speaking at the launch of the GRMA (Go Raibh Maith Agat) card at Croke Park. All members of the GAA are eligible to apply for this card which gives them access to exclusive discounts, special offers and the opportunity to earn points for going to games. All applications can be made through the GAA website.