Gaelic football is ‘devastated’ and needs a change to save it

Former All-Ireland final referee Tommy Sogrow fears Gaelic football is “dying on its feet” and has called on the GAA to implement a series of rule changes in order to revive it.

Kerry’s man, who took charge of four of Ireland’s top-ranking finalists, including the 1992 final between Donegal and Dublin exactly 30 years ago this week, believes the game has been ‘ruined’ by short passes, short kicks and an advanced mark.

Speaking on The Time Out podcast on an episode dedicated to Donegal’s participation in the 1992 final, Sugrue admitted he’d rather watch football now and claimed it would take a ‘total jolt’ to recover the big ball game.

Among the changes Sugrue favors is the rule that shots go beyond the 45-meter line, that the ball cannot be played backwards into the 21-meter line and the advance mark is canceled.

“There has to be a rule that the ball will pass 50, it will cancel out a lot of short passes and kick the ball out and hardly go over 21 and then pass across the field and come back through No, he’s really dying on his feet,” Sugro said.

“It’s no longer attractive to watch. (The ball) also shouldn’t fall behind 21. You see, if you look back in ’92 in Ireland, it was pure football, it was all up and down the field, there was nothing like Pass the ball across the field or back or something like that, it was pure, clean football, push it up the field and let your man win the possession afterwards.

“It’s really ruined, unless they take a really serious look at some of the rules and in some matches and things like that, they’re going to have to change them all.

“It really needs a complete makeover to make the game attractive again because it’s hard to watch at the moment. There’s no skill, the skill is gone in the game. You see guys standing on line 21 in front of the opponent’s goal and then suddenly making their way to the corner mark, or passing it.” Back to one of the two corners, he’s winning at all costs now. They’re under too much pressure and some people won’t take that responsibility (to shoot).”

Sujru officiated both the World Cup finals that tied and reruns between Meath and Cork in 1988, and the 92nd and 94th Finals meeting Down and Dublin.

The retired Safir also expressed his displeasure with the current implementation of the black card rule, referring to the “mockery” of teams that run sarcastically around the clock when a player is sent into the sin chest for 10 minutes.

“I can’t understand why if there is a pause in play (during that period) and the referee doesn’t raise his hand and the fourth official runs a stopwatch for 10 minutes,” Sugro said.

“In every other sport it happens like this. Rugby is a classic example, when the referee stops playing the person who takes care of the type of sin also stops the clock and the person spends (the whole) 10 minutes in it then, not three or four minutes as it happens because guys pretend Injuries and things like that.”

Sugro, who has ruled at various levels for more than 30 years, said he still watches matches but finds the fling is more fun in a head-to-head confrontation.

“It’s a pity the way it is now because you’d rather watch the toss game than the football match,” he said. “I hope they have some meaning in Croke Park and some people out there on the rule boards and everything like that will find some meaning. It wouldn’t take much to really change it, a few little things would make the game more interesting for people.”

*The full interview with Tommy Sugrue on the final episode of The Time Out podcast can be heard here