The brawls at the end of game in Salthill on Sunday showed up the weaknesses in the GAA rulebook. 

It wasn't pretty to see and or a great advertisement for our game. I'd agree with those who say there were no straight red card offences in any of the melees but that, in my view, highlights the deficiencies in the rulebook.  

As a player, you're always willing to push the rules to the limit and teams want to make a physical statement that they're going to dominate the opposition. 

And every player knows that if there's a couple of men pushing and shoving then you can easily get involved once you make sure to keep your fists by your sides. 

I played compromise rules one year out in Australia and it's very clear that the third man in is the one that gets punished in their game. 

It's a problem in the rules and I'd be always keen that we should look at other sports to learn from what they do.

I played compromise rules one year out in Australia and it's very clear that the third man in is the one that gets punished in their game. 

I think that's a rule the GAA could definitely look at.

The third man really is the one who escalates the problem. Those ugly scenes that take hold in games are triggered once the third man enters the picture.

The scenes in the closing stages of the Galway-Mayo League game in Salthill

I know from playing against Australia that once the third man went in, it tended to become a free-for-all. 

Because that's just something the Aussies don't do. It's become ingrained in their game that once you're the third man in you're going to be punished for it. 

It's a rule we need to look at in our own games to help avoid situations like what happened last Sunday. 

This isn't to pick on Mayo and Galway because this is a regular theme. The same thing probably happened in other games around the country last weekend. But this game was televised and so people are naturally talking about it. 

With the level of physicality in the game, it's next to impossible for one referee to see everything that's going on around him. 

I wouldn't envy a referee's job in a game like that. It's very tough on referees trying to manage games where there are off-the-ball incidents occurring all around him.  

He's relying on umpires and linesmen to help him make a call. Linesmen are much more involved than they were in the past. But umpires are a different story. As a supporter you can see things going on on the pitch and umpires seem to want to ignore them.

Maybe it's the time to look at possibly having two referees at this stage. At club level, that's probably an impossibility. 

But certainly at county level, it's something we need to look at. With the level of physicality in the game, it's next to impossible for one referee to see everything that's going on around him. 

The objection to the two referees proposal is we'd have a lack of consistency in decisions. But from one week to the next, most people would say we get inconsistency in matches anyway. 

Ireland's Michael Murphy with referee Matt Stevic and referee Maurice Deegan and Austrailia's captain Daniel Wells at the 2013 International Rules 

I think it would be a positive for the game and make referee's job that much easier. 

Players obviously have a tough job trying to perform but referees have an equally tough job trying to manage a rulebook that isn't as clear and defined as it should be and which leaves a lot open to interpretation.  

Players can help matters here. When I was playing, you're always trying to influence referees and you always want to manage his view of the game.

That's a natural instinct. Games are so close that a decision here or there can have a big impact on a result. 

But I think sometimes, in fact probably a fair few times, players go over the edge in the lack of respect they show for referees. 

In rugby, the players talk in the proper manner to the referee and they know that the captain should be the one talking to the officials. 

But it's a two way street as well. Rugby referees have a certain level of respect when talking to the players and it's all mutual. 

We're probably missing it on both sides in the GAA. Certain referees don't show a level of respect towards players. But ultimately, it's down to players to lead that change. 

Again, the lack of respect is partly down to the fact that we let so much go in the game. One of the black card rules is that you can't verbally abuse a referee.

Virtually no player has received a black card for that offence and yet it's clearly in the rulebook. And we can see in pretty much every game, players are speaking in an aggressive manner to referees. Referees need to start helping themselves and implementing those rules. 

The up-and-coming sides

As far as the form guide is concerned, everyone is looking to see who are the team that are coming out of the pack to challenge the big three of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo.  

I've been banging on about Galway being an up and coming team for a year now and they've kept letting me down!

Galway have always been a team that have been very easy on the eye from an attacking point of view but defensively they now look a lot more organised. 

But what they've done in the League so far has been a big bonus for them.

They've a Tyrone man, Paddy Tally, who coached us to win the All-Ireland in 2003, involved in their backroom team. He managed St. Mary's to the Sigerson Cup last year as well when they were major underdogs. 

His ability to organise a team has been clear in every side he's involved in. And you can clearly see his influence on their performances. I'm sure Kevin Walsh has had a big say in their revival. 

Galway have always been a team that have been very easy on the eye from an attacking point of view but defensively they now look a lot more organised.  

They are one team who've put their hand up to make a step forward and challenge the big three. Strangely, the one other team capable of doing it is the team sitting at the bottom of the table, Donegal.

Declan Bonner shakes hands with Jim Gavin after Saturday evening's League clash

Despite the fact that they've lost three games, they've been very impressive. 

There's a clear change in how they're trying to play football. We've seen a lot more attacking intent and they certainly seem to be on the right road. 

Obviously, they'd like a couple of wins to keep them in Division 1 but they seem to be building something that'll work for them come championship time on the drier ground. 

At the moment, you'd be looking at Galway and Donegal as the most likely to break into the top three.  

But with the important caveat that it's the League and it's February, the wrong time to be making calls about who is going to be winning the All-Ireland.