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gaa talking point The integrity of the league is being called into question - there's no such thing as joint-winners

Home advantage for knockout games, and finals that won't take place, creates a mess

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15 May 2021; Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal during the Allianz Football League Division 1 North Round 1 match between Tyrone and Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

15 May 2021; Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal during the Allianz Football League Division 1 North Round 1 match between Tyrone and Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Neil McGee of Donegal in action against Conor McKenna of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 North Round 1 match between Tyrone and Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Neil McGee of Donegal in action against Conor McKenna of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 North Round 1 match between Tyrone and Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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15 May 2021; Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal during the Allianz Football League Division 1 North Round 1 match between Tyrone and Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

There was a lot more safety- first and possession football in Round 3

My TV sports odyssey continues. The last couple of weeks threw up a couple of real gems.

Phil Mickelson's victory in the USPGA proved that, even at the age of 50, it is more important to possess a razor-sharp golfing brain than being able to lump the ball for miles.

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KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 23: Phil Mickelson of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort on May 23, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 23: Phil Mickelson of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort on May 23, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 23: Phil Mickelson of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort on May 23, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Dan Martin's solo ride to win a mountain-top finish at the Giro d'Italia and the first 21 penalties being scored in the Europa League final provided memorable moments as well.

Alongside the highs, there were, alas, real turkeys as well.

The European Rugby Champions Cup final between Toulouse and La Rochelle was nothing more than a contest between 30 bulked-up players, trying to knock each other into submission.

Penalties aside, the Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal was shocking. There were three shots on target in 130 minutes.

Then, in the Champions League final, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suffered the same fate as many inter-county GAA bosses.

He over-analysed the opposition, with fatal consequences.

City had the grand total of one shot on target. They deserved to lose.

For sheer neck though, it is hard to beat the crazy decisions of the International Olympic Committee.

They insist that the Olympics go ahead, even though most of the Japanese people want the Games either postponed or cancelled.

This is typical of major sport organisations: profit takes precedence. It is wrong, wrong, wrong.

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There were also times in the last few days when I thought that I was too harsh on hurling in this column a couple of weeks ago.

On reflection, actually, I wasn't.

A word of warning to the hurling pundits. By continuing to deny that their game is heading south they are pressing the self-destruct button.

This neatly brings me to my specialist subject - Gaelic football.

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30 May 2021; Luke Connolly of Cork in action against Ciaran Russell of Clare during the Allianz Football League Division 2 South Round 3 match between Clare and Cork at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

30 May 2021; Luke Connolly of Cork in action against Ciaran Russell of Clare during the Allianz Football League Division 2 South Round 3 match between Clare and Cork at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

30 May 2021; Luke Connolly of Cork in action against Ciaran Russell of Clare during the Allianz Football League Division 2 South Round 3 match between Clare and Cork at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

After just two rounds of the Allianz League we were being reliably informed that the greatest field game in the world was evolving before our eyes.

According, to a lot of experts we were entering a golden age of Gaelic football.

And guess who was leading the charge - my old friends in Ulster. It's akin to Vladimir Putin embracing democracy!

The stats don't lie. The 34 points scored in the Donegal v Tyrone game were the most ever notched in a league game involving two Ulster teams.

The scoring rate is higher in this year's league, the sweeper has become an endangered species and forwards are operating as forwards. What next, I wonder?

Lo and behold, coaches have discovered that the ball travels faster and longer when kicked, as opposed to being hand-passed.

My thanks to all the stats team for giving me that valuable information.

Better still, some experts have discovered who is responsible for Gaelic football's version of the Arab Spring.

Take a bow, Jurgen Klopp. According to some of our 'leading' pundits Klopp's 'gegenpressing' tactic is the reason why Gaelic football is being transformed.

Gegenpressing is the 'high press', which means that the nearer to the opposition goals you win the ball, the better chance you have of scoring.

Feck it, I never knew that. I mean you couldn't make up some of this.

So, let me gently remind everybody - and I've probably bored you to death for the last 25 years by repeatedly writing this - that the basic principles of Gaelic football have never changed.

Meanwhile, the snake-oil salesmen, masquerading as coaches and experts, told everybody that Gaelic football had evolved - and not for the better, I might add.

The basic principles are still the same - and here's a fool's guide to them.

When your team has the ball, everybody is an attacker; without the ball, everybody becomes a defender

You are primarily responsible for marking your own man.

Unfortunately, in the era of the zone and swarm defence, your opponent can score six points, and nobody will point the figure at you.

As I alluded to earlier, the closer to the opposition's goal your forwards get on the ball the better chance they have of scoring.

And here's the final piece of shock news.

Despite all the focus on defensive-system sweepers, swarm defences and whatever you are having yourself, the team who scores most still wins the game.

Forget all the jargon and the deep-dive analysis.

There is a very simple explanation why we witnessed all this open, attacking football in the first two rounds of the league.

At a basic level, it was a case of youthful exuberance.

All these players were away from football for so long that they played with a degree of abandonment on their return.

Furthermore, coaches didn't have enough time to implement defensive strategies.

Firm pitches, good weather and being able to introduce seven substitutes helped as well.

Don't get carried away. Sure, there was a lot of positive football played in the first two rounds, but I detected a return to type last weekend.

For instance, the Tyrone v Monaghan tie was a typical cagey Ulster clash.

Donegal hand-passed the ball to death in the first half against Armagh - they even kicked a 45 backwards for good measure.

Cork have become the kings of recycling. The ball goes backwards and sideways, more often than it goes forward - all via the hand.

In a nutshell, there was a lot more safety-first and possession football in round three of the league compared to the promise of the first two rounds.

Sadly, it might prove to be a false dawn. Let's wait until after the championship before we pontificate on what way the game is evolving.

The concluding phase of the league, which begins next weekend, is a fiasco.

We know for sure there can be no Division 2 or Division 4 finals played - there will be joint-winners declared.

A Division 1 final can only be played if it is Tyrone versus Dublin.

The integrity of the league is being called into question. There is no such thing as joint-winners in a team sport. Who gets presented with the trophy, for example?

All this was avoidable. There were 14 counties involved in preliminary-round provincial championship games, so it was inevitable that league finals would have to be shelved.

Furthermore, all the knockout games ought to have been played at neutral venues - instead, only four of the 15 games are being played at neutral venues.

Armagh and Down have an added advantage - their fans will be allowed into their home games at the Athletic Grounds and Newry.

Meanwhile, Tyrone must travel the length of the country to Killarney for their Division 1 semi-final against Kerry.

It's completely unfair and all this ought to have been foreseen when the regulations were drawn up.

Worse still, three of the counties - Cork, Monaghan and Down - who broke the Covid-19 training ban have home games.

It doesn't sit well.

The hurling counties agreed to a three-week long official pre-season. The football counties ought to have done the same, which would have provided the extra week needed to finish the competition.

Alternatively, the semi-finals could have been this weekend. All the counties will be training, and the majority will be playing challenge games.

Even allowing for Covid-19, it is a very unsatisfactory end to the league.

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