McNamee admits mark rule forces defenders out of comfort zone
By John Harrington
Tyrone full-back Ronan McNamee believes the experimental new offensive mark rule in gaelic football means backs will now have to play more ‘on the edge’.
Quite often defenders will allow an opposition forward to win the ball before standing him up and forcing him to turn back out the field rather than risk being caught flat-footed or out of position by aggressively contesting for the ball.
But now if a forward cleanly wins a pass delivered from outside the 45 that travels 20 metres or more he’ll have an uncontested shot at the posts, so their markers have no option other than to start defending outside of their comfort zone.
“Absolutely,” said McNamee. “Everyone is going to have to change the way they defend. At times if you knew there was a good chance you'd be beaten to a ball you'd let him get possession and then just stand him up.
“But now you have to maybe play on the edge because if you stand him up and give him a free catch then he's going to have an unpressurised kick out of it which is going to benefit him and his team.
“It's definitely going to make it more difficult to defend against, but I suppose we're just going to have to adapt to it and adapt our bodies to playing on the edge a wee bit more and play outside of our comfort zone.
“I suppose it leaves the game more open too because it encourages the long ball in early. It's definitely a good advantage if you have a strong physical presence in your forwards or a nippy forward who can get out in front.
“Life has definitely gotten more difficult for defenders.”
It might have made McNamee’s life more difficult as a defender, but he can see too that the new offensive mark rule can present opportunities for those teams who master it quicker than others.
Monaghan certainly made good use of it in their victory over Dublin on Sunday, and McNamee believes every other team needs to implement it into their attacking strategy.
“Absolutely. It's only going to be a matter of time before every team is taking advantage of the new rules and implementing systems around them that will benefit teams.
“Inside marks are probably the most efficient way of doing that at the minute because it gives you that advantage of having a free shot and the time to settle yourself to kick it.
“It just makes it that wee bit harder though for defenders and it's never been that easy anyway.”
McNamee found out the hard way against Kerry on Sunday that it can take some time to get your head around the new rules because he was one of a number of Tyrone and Kerry players who was penalised for kicking a sideline kick backwards.
“The new rules, sometimes they just go completely out of your head,” he admitted. “I got caught for one of those sidelines, I just wanted to get the ball going as quick as I could. I kicked it in and then I realised the whistle was blown and I still didn't realise what it was for until he told me I'd passed it backwards.
“Kerry were caught for it too themselves a few times and that's because the new rules can go out of your head because you're not used to them.
“Focus needs to be number one, but it's not easy when you have everything else to focus on, so you might be forgiven for them going out of your head once or twice.”
Tyrone’s 0-11 to 0-7 defeat to Kerry stung McNamee and his team-mates because they felt they contributed to their own downfall with some uncharacteristically sloppy play, particularly the frequency with which they surrendered possession through inaccurate passing.
He’s hopeful they can make amends when Mayo visit Healy Park for Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 clash.
“The beauty of the League is you don't get much time to rest on your laurels or feel disappointed, you just have to get back on the horse again and get back at it,” said McNamee.
“Mayo are coming up to Omagh next Sunday, we need to get the points and they're coming off a good win against Roscommon.
We should be in for a good, hard game of football. I've never experienced anything other than a good, hard game of football against Mayo, to be fair.
“We'll be looking for points, and, fingers crossed we can get them if we get our performance right. We need to right the wrongs of the Kerry match as best we can.
“It won't be easy because Mayo have a good track record in Omagh and won't be too worried about playing up here because in the last three or four years they've gotten a couple of wins up here.
“But if we get our own house in order we hopefully won't be too far away.”