Pat Spillane: It's time we sat down for the Boys in Green

Pat Spillane
Pat Spillane

PERHAPS my total immersion in the culture of Kerry football is why I didn't buy into the hype surrounding Ireland's perfor­mances at Euro 2016.

Don't get me wrong. As a proud Irishman I support all teams that represent our country, regardless of the sport.

However, in Kerry success in sport is judged solely on whether you win trophies.

Failure to achieve success means being ridiculed as a failure. So, I've never celebrated moral victories, near misses or hard-luck stories.

This country went bananas simply be­cause we qualified for the last 16 of a major competition. What exactly did Martin O’Neill's team achieve?

We finished third in a group of four, fashioned one victory over an Italian B team which had already qualified and were outclassed in the second-half by a far more skilful French team.

Of course, the players represented their country with pride but the bottom line is that when you fail to go even close to securing silverware in a competition then the campaign is a failure – full stop!

Sadly this culture of mediocrity exists at inter-county level in the GAA as well.

Teams set up defensively, which makes them hard to beat, and they gain kudos for being gallant losers. Sorry, I don't buy into that mentality.

There was plenty evidence of this think­ing in Croke Park last weekend.

Meath, in particular, looked hell-bent on stopping Dublin from scoring goals and set up accordingly but by doing so they asked no serious questions of their opponents.

They conceded every kick-out to Dublin as their players retreated en bloc to their own 45 and hoped some crumbs would fall their way when they occasionally counter-attacked.

Meath scored three points in the sec­ond-half, which is an indictment of their approach. They looked like a bunch of players happy to accept their fate. They showed little desire to take the fight to the Dubs.

I wonder what former Meath warriors like Mick Lyons, Gerry McEntee or Liam Harnan thought of their attitude.

Luckily for Meath, Dublin appear to have adopted a policy in this year's Leinster championship of going through the motions.

Not alone did they fail to score a goal in a Leinster championship game for the first time since 2010, they never created a goal chance.

They are doing enough to win comfort­ably without dishing out the kind of ham­merings which would have their critics demanding the abolition of the Leinster championship or splitting Dublin into two.

The less said about the Westmeath v Kildare clash the better.

As they did in last year's semi-final against Meath, when Westmeath found themselves trailing early in the sec­ond-half, they upped the tempo and decided to give it a lash.

They reaped the rewards by se­curing back-to-back Leinster final appearances for the first time, as well as a first championship win over Kildare for 56 years.

However, the game itself, particular­ly in the first-half, was dire, with all the worst excesses of modern-day tactics on display.

It reminded me of a slow bicycle race at the local carnival – nothing much happened.

This was the worst per­formance I have witnessed from a Kildare team in the championship in my lifetime.

They displayed no hunger or passion, there was no leadership and they had no discernible attacking plan. But then they had nobody playing up front for long spells.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Appar­ently, after losing to Clare in the Division 3 final manager Cian O'Neill decided to introduce a defensive system.

It takes a long time to perfect such a sys­tem. Donegal, probably the market leaders in this area, spent the best part of two seasons perfecting their system.

There was one chink of light for those of us who demand that teams show ambition, courage, commit­ment and a will to win.

I'm referring, of course, to the victory of Iceland over England at Euro 2016.

Iceland hadn't the slightest interest in chasing a moral victory. They believed they could win and set out to do so.

Now that's a message that all inter-county managers and players ought to take heed of!