OpinionPat Spillane

Finally Brolly sees that this is GAArbage

Watching paint dry: Michael Darragh McCauley of Dublin in action against Derry's Mark Lynch
Watching paint dry: Michael Darragh McCauley of Dublin in action against Derry's Mark Lynch

TWITTER went into meltdown during the Dublin versus Derry league tie last weekend.

Jarlath Burns’s “Derry v Dublin tonight at Croke Park: The death of Gaelic football” tweet caught the mood perfectly.
 
The anonymous keyboard warriors went into overdrive as well, with the majority of the comments are unrepeatable. They did share a common theme: Ulster GAA coaches are to blame for the current malaise in the game.
 
One wit suggested that the northern teams ought to join the All-Ireland rugby league, where all the players are obliged to be behind the ball! Such is the frenzied nature of the debate that I have to invoke what I call the ‘George Hook’ rule.
 
When things got really hot and bothered on RTE’s rugby panel George would shout: “Stop, stop, time to back up the caravan.” So let’s reflect where we’re at! We may well have reached the Apocalypse Now era in Gaelic football. But I’m not surprised. For the best part of ten years I have been warning that this was where the game was heading.
 
Any time I articulated my fears about the future of Gaelic football I was branded a gobshite; an anti-Ulster moaner; a dinosaur; out of touch with the modern game or a bitter ex-player jealous of modern-day football! Now the vast majority of GAA analysts have came around to my way of thinking.
 
Joe Brolly is the leader of the revisionist movement! Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus pales in comparison to the volte face that Joe has performed.
 
For years he preached to us all about the effectiveness of the modern game being perfected in Ulster. He scolded anybody living below a line south of Tyrone. We were all so out of touch, he thundered.
 
Joe virtually hero-worshipped Donegal manager Jimmy McGuinness and the ultra-defensive style of football with which he indoctrinated his Donegal team.
 
Remember the personal attack he launched on ex-Armagh boss Paul Grimley for not adopting a blanket defence when his side were trounced by Cavan in the Ulster championship a couple of years ago?
 
Now Joe has flip-flopped and become the self-appointed cheerleader of the revisionists, who say they are disgusted with modern football. Methinks Joe has a future in politics.
 
 
Of course, this issue is much bigger than one individual. Furthermore, while the blanket defence might have originated in Ulster, the contagion has spread nationwide.
 
Anybody who thinks that what they witnessed in Croke Park last weekend is as bad as it gets are delusional. Obviously they don’t see many club games. Here we have the spectacle of players who possess less skill than their inter-county colleagues and are not as fit attempt to play this style of football. I’ll be charitable and say that the end product is not pretty to watch.
 
I also feel that former English rugby coach Clive Woodward (right) is to blame for the woes of Gaelic football. Let me explain. His infamous ‘analysis by paralysis’ 
approach when guiding England to victory in the 2003 World Cup was based on studying the opposition’s strengths. He came up with a defensive game plan to nullify their strengths and combined it with a safety-first approach to attacking play. Sounds familiar!
 
The GAA’s ‘innovative’ coaches decided that Woodward’s template could be applied to Gaelic football. In fact, it was easier to defend in Gaelic football than in Rugby Union and they had a secret weapon – the hand pass – when it came to safety-first tactics.
 
There are other reasons why this crude form of football has become fashionable. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Once one team achieved success using these tactics others felt free to follow suit. The herd mentality dominates. Only Corofin’s Stephen Rochford is prepared to go against the grain and follow his instincts.
 
Ultimately, though, the safety-first system always comes unstuck. Think of last year’s All-Ireland final between Kerry and Donegal. The system does not require a high skill set from players. Technical ability is not a major priority; instead fitness is the key. From a coaching perspective it is the equivalent of painting by numbers. Little original thought is needed by the manager.  
 
As managers keep reminding us, it is perfectly legal, which reinforces the view that rule changes are needed to deal with it. It is anti-player as it doesn’t reward risk taking, individuality or innovation. I’d love to know what Michael Murphy or Jamie Clarke really think about their current roles.
 
Finally, I don’t go along with the argument that GAA teams are not in the entertainment business. So long as punters part with their hard-earned cash at the turnstiles to watch a game they deserve something in return.
 
I will leave you with a few random statistics gleaned from last weekend’s games: All-Ireland champions Kerry kicked one point from play in the second-half; Down hit 15 wides and only one of their starting forwards scored from play; Carlow kicked 19 wides and scored one point from play; Westmeath managed four scores in 70 minutes and just one from play!
 
The atrocious weather can only take the blame for so much. Gaelic Football RIP! But I’ve been saying that for years.