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Roy Curtis - Managers are ruining Gaelic football

GAABy Roy Curtis
Roy Curtis - Managers are ruining Gaelic football

WHILE they are at it, they might as well commandeer the Book of Kells and place it in the Croke Park dressing-rooms: To be employed as toilet paper.

Cultural vandalism is now the default mindset of the Gaelic football coaching herd: An arrogant, nihilistic thought process has delivered the thrashing of a national treasure. The barbarians are at the gates.

What unfolded at Croke Park last Saturday was, in all truth, not so different from those ISIS philistines ransacking the great museums of Assyria and mindlessly destroying artefacts that are thousands of years old.

It is the sledgehammering of something priceless in pursuit of empty victory: A philosophy that would excuse the spray-painting of ‘Blanket Defence Woz Ere’ in 200-foot lettering across the Cliffs of Moher if it helped a team win their next match.

Mercifully, a people’s movement is fighting back; the first rumblings of a sporting anti-austerity alliance could be heard in the communal terrace booing last Saturday. Even neutrals yearned for Dublin to escape the suffocating, depressing siege of Derry.

It will get worse. People will stop attending, refuse to cough up prices that rise to €80 in September for what amounts to a brutal assault on the senses.

‘No way we won’t pay’. If the masses won’t bear the expense of water they are hardly going to cough up for shite.

Pretty soon the only place there will be a sizeable crowd is at the defensive end of the pitch.

Here is a sample tray of the despair felt by football’s equivalent of Aosdána: Poets of yesteryear railing against the dumbing down of the game they love.

“If something isn’t done, more Irish people will be watching cricket than football.” − Larry Tompkins.

“I call it footballing myxomatosis. Jim McGuinness introduced it in 2011… what’s happening now is that it is spreading through the land. It’s a race to the bottom… it’s destroying the ethos of the game. The reality is that it’s muck.” − Joe Brolly.

“Derry v Dublin tonight at Croke Park. The death of Gaelic football.”  − Jarlath Burns.

“It was an utterly shocking game of football. Something must be done by the powers that be to stop this nonsense.” − Bernard Flynn.

“That was a pile of shite daddy, wasn’t it?” − Brolly’s eight-year-old son.

The legislators have a role to play in eradicating what amounts to sporting leprosy.

All of the following are urgently required.

A ban on serial hand-passing, a rule which demands at least four players remain at all times in the opposing half, an end to short kick-outs, two points awarded for a ‘point’ from outside the 45m line, the eradication of back passing to the goalkeeper.

But the real problem is not the rules. It is that mindset. A joyless, hard-boiled disdain for the game’s history and the paying customer; a win-at-all-costs obsession that fails to recognise that sport is vitamin for the psyche, medicine for the soul.

Without the promise of something uplifting or the thrill of elation, stripped of ambition and adventure, what is the point? And please, no more of that tiresome bombast about the players being amateurs.

Firstly, that has no relevance to the spectator who still pays their hard-earned cash to gain admittance to the theatre.

Secondly, elite managers and players do not own the game’s history, they are mere custodians with a responsibility to the next generation.

And this repulsive rot – players get sheepish when asked what they think of the trend toward all-out defence, some will privately admit they hate where the game is going – is hardly presenting kids with a compelling argument to abandon the PlayStation.

Mickey Harte took coaching condescension to new levels after another grim night at Croke Park four weeks ago when he announced: “I don’t think the people in the crowd were very disappointed at all. I think they must have been very happy.”

And perhaps the three or four who had neither fallen asleep, left at half-time nor vomited up their dinner were indeed spinning cartwheels. But then the masochistic society will find ever stranger ways to amuse themselves.

On Saturday last the Derry manager Brian McIver actually announced that this is not how he liked to see football played.

He said this, as if he was an innocent bystander, a bemused spectator, rather than the author of the grim narrative, the man who had set up his team to kill the game.

If you don’t like football played that way Brian, then don’t play it that way.

Mickey Harte

Simple.

Some commentators absolved McIver on the basis he was merely being pragmatic. But Derry reached the league final last year playing open, swashbuckling football.

Now enslaved by suffocation syndrome, they are relegated with a game to spare. Peculiar pragmatism.

Derry scored four points in a fixture they needed to win by a big margin to have any chance of staying in Division 1. Their lack of ambition damned them.

I have spoken to people from Tyrone and Derry. It was not a scientific sample, but every one of them admitted they are embarrassed by the approach. And it is not like negativity is delivering magical results.

Derry are relegated. Tyrone will join them unless they defeat the All-Ireland champions Kerry today by at least two points.

It is hard even for those of us who regard ourselves as Gaelic games obsessives to care.

The plan today is to travel to Clones for Monaghan against Dublin; but part of me wonders if it would be more fun to just head for Trinity College to take a look at the Book of Kells before it too, like the game of football, is flushed down the pan.

THIS PIECE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE APRIL 5 EDITION OF THE NEWSPAPER