In many ways the GAA is the perfect reflection of Irish society.
It’s good fun, a bit chaotic and often gets by on a ‘sure it’ll be grand’ mentality. No one gets bogged down in the small stuff and rules aren’t exactly rules, they’re more guidelines for other people to think about following.
Rules have been central to most of the big debates around Croke Park so far in 2019 - hand-pass limits, offensive marks and sin bins have dominated the news agenda.
But while the Association constantly tinkers with playing rules, those that they already have in the book are often ignored.
Look at Evan Comerford’s penalty save for Dublin against Mayo at Saturday night. The Dubs’ keeper got down low to his right well to stop Jason Doherty’s crisply-struck effort, but by that stage he had broken the rules.
In Gaelic football a goalkeeper is allowed to move along his line before the penalty is struck, but he is not permitted to advance forward until the ball has been kicked.
To quote the GAA’s Official Guide Part 2, The Rules of Football, Rule 2.4: "If a defending player fouls before the ball is kicked and a goal does not result, the referee shall allow the penalty kick to be retaken."
As Doherty made his run-up towards the penalty kick, Comerford tip-toed off his line and was a good metre forward by the time the ball was struck. Referee Barry Cassidy should have awarded a retake, but all that Mayo got was a ’45’.
That isn’t to single Comerford and Cassidy out though. This sort of thing happens all the time in hurling and football.
Did you know that there are only two fair forms of tackle in Gaelic football - the shoulder-to-shoulder charge and a slap or punch directly aimed at the ball? Everything else is outside the rules and should be penalised as a foul.
Again, we’ll refer to the Official Guide: "A tackler may use his body to confront the opponent but deliberate bodily contact such as punching, slapping, arm holding, pushing, tripping, jersey pulling or a full frontal charge is forbidden.
‘I think there is a big danger that we are going to take one of the excellent skills out of our game’ – The panel look at the refereeing of the handpass rule pic.twitter.com/sm82nuYmZq— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) February 2, 2019
"The only deliberate physical contact allowed is that in the course of a Fair Charge one player only with at least one foot on the ground, makes a shoulder-to-shoulder charge on the player in possession."
In other words, the rules on the tackle are virtually never applied in Gaelic football. And don't worry, hurling - we’ll get to you yet.
How often in a game is a player slapped, punched and mauled while in possession? How many arm-holds and split-second jersey tugs, enough to play player down, are let go?
The four-step rule in both sports is negotiable. Are you going for goal? Extra steps allowed. If you’re being fouled while in possession, a few extra paces are permitted too. Two wrongs make a right, after all.
Ger Aylward’s goal for Kilkenny against Galway last summer is a perfect example, when he had the ball in his hand almost as long as it takes the Tory party to decide their stance on Brexit.
In hurling the ball is thrown as often as it’s correctly hand-passed, even though Hurling Man would rather you believe that players’ hands are so fast these you just can’t see the clear striking action.
Then there’s the subtle holding of the near hand that makes a pass almost impossible to execute and the not so subtle taps and belts on the arm and hand, all of which are fouls and few of which are punished.
Of course, the real problems arise when one of these fouls is called on a big occasion. When this happens, all we want is consistency the injured party cries and rarely is there an admission that a foul is a foul.
The GAA represents the best and the worst of us as a society. Rules are rules, but only when it suits. Sure don’t worry about it, it’ll be grand.