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25 Jul

Defining the Tackle in Gaelic Football – A Dangerous Game

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Posted by David Keane in Features | Jul 2013
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The Conundrum of Defining the Tackle in Gaelic Football

As the Gaelic Football Championship progresses, one of the most frequent refrains from the average punter is the call to “define the tackle”. While the status quo in the rule book is certainly not ideal, having seen several attempts at a more rigid description of just what should and shouldn’t be permissible for a player attempting to turn the ball over, I believe we are delicately poised in what is a very dangerous game.

Throughout this piece, keep in mind the definition proposed by the Football Review Committee and adopted at the recent GAA Congress:

The tackle is a skill by which a player may dispossess an opponent or frustrate his objective within the rules of fair play. The tackle is aimed at the ball, not the player.

The tackler may use his body to confront the opponent but deliberate bodily contact is forbidden (such as punching, slapping, arm holding, pushing, tripping, jersey pulling or a full frontal charge).

The only deliberate physical contact can be a fair charge, i.e. shoulder-to-shoulder with at least one foot on the ground. More than one player can tackle the player in possession.

People calling for the tackle to be defined for Gaelic Football while simultaneously bemoaning the loss of physicality in the game are labouring under the misapprehension that there stands but a few strokes of a pen between the current set-up and neatly outlawing fouls while legitimising the “fair tackle”. The fact of the matter is that the current propositions for a defined tackle will very quickly lead to a complete loss of physicality from the game.

Taking a Cue from Our Neighbours

The major world sport where the tackle is well defined and focussed on winning the ball without physical jostling is soccer, where the clear definition of what constitutes a foul has led to a situation where any time the defender touches the attacker without first touching the ball he has automatically committed a foul.

We see this played out to its inevitable ludicrous conclusions every week during the EPL season when Gary Neville and whichever cardboard cut-out they have alongside him analyse in super high definition, super slow motion whether or not the slightest graze of contact occurred between a defender’s boot and his opponent’s shin pad, because if it did then boom, we have a foul, end of story.

This has landed soccer in a situation where players are regularly penalised for the tiniest collisions, which would in no way whatsoever impede the player on the ball if it weren’t for the fact that he knows this irrelevant contact is an invitation to fall over and take the free. Under the rules of the game and the tackle defined therein he is perfectly entitled to do so. Soccer can be a great game to watch, but far from helping it, the strict application of the tackle definition has led to the biggest annoyances for fans and players alike – diving and injury feigning.

A player who has been grazed in an almost imperceptible fashion and wishes to show this to the referee in order to win the free kick he’s entitled to will feel obliged to hit the deck in a manner theatrical enough to suggest that real contact has occurred. Behaving as though this contact has left one in genuine anguish is the icing on the cake for the amateur thespian/professional soccer player.

Continue reading on the next page.

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