Former Dublin midfielder Ciarán Whelan believes the decision to introduce the mark to Gaelic football is “off the wall” and adds that proper consultation should have taken place in advance of its introduction.
Delegates at last weekend’s GAA Congress in Carlow gave their backing to the rule change which, if further ratified by Central Council in three weeks’ time, will come into effect from 1 January 2017.
It means that a player who catches the ball cleanly from a kickout on or past the 45-metre line without it touching the ground shall have the option of calling a ‘mark’ and taking a free kick, or playing on immediately.
Whelan’s involvement with a Dublin underage squad, where the mark has been trialled for the last three weeks, leaves him well placed to comment on its introduction.
Speaking to Game On on RTÉ 2fm, he said: “If I was looking at it in the context of the game from ten years ago I could probably see the logic around it as the game was a lot different then.
"The kickout hadn’t evolved. Every kick went down the middle. We saw All-Irelands where Tyrone's tactic was to let midfielders come down with the ball rather than getting the ball off them. In that context you can see the merit of having a mark."
"You now have half-backs that are options for kickouts and midfielders running into space"
However, the Sunday Game analyst adds that the kickout strategies now deployed by goalkeepers lessens the chances of seeing players take fight around the middle in their quest to pluck the ball from the skies.
"To come out with a very simplistic approach that the mark is going to re-introduce the skill of high catching back into our game is off the wall – it simply won’t," was Whelan’s blunt assertion.
"Yes, coaches will coach guys to try and field high balls but the modern day goalkeeper will try to find somebody in space - he will not be on the team if he's not good enough to find somebody in space.
"You now have half-backs that are options for kickouts and midfielders running into space. Things have evolved where the number five and number seven are not looking for breaking ball in that mid-sector any more.
"The amount of kick outs that go out long in a 50-50 scenario has reduced considerably. We have trialled this over the last three weekends and less than 50% of the kick-outs go into that midfield area."
"Even when a midfielder does win the mark and he's coming down into space, it's better to keep the flow of the game going - you want the player to move with the ball straight away. There will be a very limited advantage for bringing in the mark."
The two-time All Star is also disappointed that more stakeholders didn’t have their say on this latest rule change.
“We didn’t get any feedback from our group. Current players will feel aggrieved that they are been messed around by the stroke of pen with a rule that has not been thought out.
“Even the concept of the player calling the mark and then the referee blowing the whistle is difficult. The player has five seconds to take the kick. That five seconds goes fairly quick and all of a sudden it's a throw ball and that counteracts the benefit of the mark in the first place.
"We can't live in the past and bring old traditions back into the game."