The GAA’s Central Council gave the green light for the proposed five rule changes in Gaelic football for the early season competitions in 2019 as well as the Allianz League.

Here is further detail on the incoming changes and the objections they have met.


Rule: The hand-pass will be restricted to three in succession before the ball must be kicked

Why the proposed change? Since 2011, there has been an increase of more than 100 hand passes per game (251 v 359) at inter-county level. This year’s All-Ireland football final saw 75% of all passes made by way of the hand pass.

What the GAA says: We are moving in the direction of 80%, maybe more, of passes in a game of inter-county football being a hand pass. Those views were reflected both in our own meetings and at Central Council meeting on Saturday, but on balance, when we looked at it, we felt there was merit in it.

Opposition to the rule: Documents seen by RTÉ Sport revealed that in a player survey conducted by the GPA, 96% are against the restricted use of the hand pass. Some critics believe that in some cases after the third pass a player may simply turn around, or sideways, to a team-mate nearby for a simple foot-pass to begin the sequence again.

"Teams aren’t going to start just throwing the ball up for grabs because they’ve used three hand passes up," Kieran Donaghy told RTÉ Sport.


Rule: A black card offence will see the offending player spend 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

Why the proposed change? A total of 92 black cards were dished out during last year’s 111 Allianz League games, while the average increased during the Championship, with 64 cards in 68 games.

What the GAA says: "The current assessment is that the black card is having a positive impact, but greater consistency is required," David Hassan, the chairman of the playing rules committee (SCPR) said, arguing the introduction of the sin-bin will assist in behavioural change and discourage foul play.

Opposition to the rule: There appears to be fewer dissenting voices to this particular rule. 63% of inter-county players surveyed by the GPA were in favour of the rule, but there have been some question marks in the execution of the rule change. The 10-minute penalty runs through injuries and altercations, which could see teams exploiting this before a player returns to the field of play.

Last month Dublin forward Paul Mannion suggested teams could go ultra defensive in light of the rule change. "You could have situations now where teams will completely shut up shop for ten minutes and do everything they can to just waste time and it’ll turn out to be worse again," he said.


Rule: All kick-outs to be taken from the 20-metre line and travel at least 13 metres.

Why the proposed change? In 2011, 86% of all kick-outs went long (beyond the 45-metre line), as opposed to just over half (53%) in 2018.

What the GAA says: The original proposal stipulated that all kick-outs had to clear the 45-metre line, but following trial games and consultation, it was felt the distance stipulation would be a negative for the skill which has been perfected by the likes of trail blazer Stephen Cluxton. 

"In simple terms, the original proposal didn't work on a consistent basis," SCPR chairman Hassan said. There were also concerns about underage goalkeepers not being able to kick the ball past the 45m line

Opposition to the rule: The GPA was opposed to the original kick-out proposal (63% of members surveyed gave it the thumbs down), but there is expected to be less resistance to the amended version.


Rule: To extend the application of the mark to the clean catching of the ball inside the 45m line from a kick in play from on or beyond the opposing 45m line. The ball must travel a minimum of 20 metres.

Why the proposed change? The average number of kick passes per game has fallen by almost 15% since 2011. Seven years ago there were 127 foot passes per game as opposed to 110 in 2017.

What the GAA says: They have argued that if something isn’t done to tackle the current trend towards hand-passing, by 2023 and the next SCPR experimental proposals, the average number of kick passes in inter-county games will be between 90 and 95. GPA surveys finds more than half its members (54%) are in favour of the rule change.

Opposition to the rule: Another of the proposals which has been broadly well received. The policing of it however could become an issue. Some observers say it increases pressure on referees where the kicks are in and around 20 metres, but the GAA insists that early feedback from officials has been positive.

"We spoke to referees, and in the trial games we spoke to the referees," Hassan said. "They have said on the whole that it isn't a big problem for them."


Rule: The ball must be played in a forward direction from the kick, except where the kick is inside the 20m line of the opposing team.

Why the proposed change? Of 10 games analysed in last year’s championship, 45% of all sideline kicks went backwards. This increased to 52% when looking at defensive half kicks in isolation.

What the GAA says: "People generally are sceptical of change," Hassan said. "I would encourage people to approach it optimistically and positively. Let's see how they work in practice."

Opposition to the rule: The GPA have voiced their displeasure with this one, with 63% of their members surveyed not in favour of the change. DIT coach Stephen O'Meara, whose team were part of trial games last month, believes it will see teams flooding players back on opposition ball.

"It just encourages the other team to put everyone behind the ball," he told the Irish Times.

"If you can’t go backwards with the ball, why wouldn’t the other team just overload the patch of the field you can see in front of you? Straight away, they’re favourite to create the turnover."