Sport

Gaelic Football needs saving

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Jarllath Burns tweeted 'Death of Gaelic football' after Croke Park debacle
Jarllath Burns tweeted 'Death of Gaelic football' after Croke Park debacle

Ex-Armagh captain Jarlath Burns was so distraught after watching the Dublin v Derry League tie on television last weekend that he couldn't sleep that night.

Burns, who is Chairman of the GAA's Standing Rules committee on Gaelic football, tweeted  'Death of Gaelic football' immediately after the game.

However, in an interview with Morning Ireland he said he doesn't blame Derry or other teams for adopting negative tactics and it was up to his committee to come up with a solution.

'You don't condemn Brian McIver (the Derry manager) at all. 'He is looking at his team and he realises the next match he's going to have is in June at home to Down in the championship. The team is already slightly demoralised so he doesn't want to go to Croke Park and take a hammering like they did last year.

'It's not the managers that we should be looking at, it's up to ourselves and the association to protect the skills of the game and I suppose that's what our standing committee on playing rules is going to be doing and we do know that we've a fairly complex job ahead of us if we're to change this trend that exists in Gaelic games at the moment.

'It's not just a simple as other rules changes. If you remember 20 years years ago, everyone was complaining that the hand pass goal was ruining the aesthetic of the game and it was very easy to just bring that out. A couple of years ago we got rid of the square ball rule, that was fairly simple.

“This is a mindset and if you talked to ten different people, they’d give you 10 different solutions to this.

“I would just ask for cool heads on this. I feel that two years ago, there was an opportunity for us to move away from this type of football when Dublin won a fantastic All-Ireland by playing brilliant, outstanding, free-flowing football but then Donegal brought it to a new level last year when they beat Dublin in the semi-final using those tactics.

“We all know what the problem is but trying to solve it is going to be a difficult task indeed without making radical changes to the game and nobody wants to do that.”

Burns said he re-watched the game just to be sure that he hadn't exaggerated when he sent out his original tweet 'Death of Gaelic football'

“It is a big statement but I felt very strongly about it. Believe it or not but I tossed and turned on Saturday night and got up to watch it again just to see if I was in bad form when I watched it because I was just after coming back from Armagh where I’d seen a really dull game there as well.

“The thing is, one of the things that we have to preserve are the skills of Gaelic football. A skill is something that, if you’re watching it, it makes you involuntarily get up off your seat. We’re talking about a high catch, a brilliant score, a block even.

“People are saying we’re trying to get rid of the art of defending but we’re not. A skill is something that one or two players will go and practice by themselves for hours on end.

“You’ll never see someone practicing the art of running from the half-forward line to the half-back line to try stop a player getting into space, that’s not a skill.

“Hand passing maybe 15-20 times in a row, or hand passing backwards, they’re not skills.

“They’re strategies employed to try prevent skills from taking place and we have to try do something that brings the basic skills back into the game.”

Curiously, however, Burns did not contribute to the debate at the recent GAA Congress when delegates overwhelming voted against motions to restrict the hand-pass.