Pat Spillane: Gaelic football needs a hero like Andy Farrell to save it
GAA herd-mentality of safety-first approach is killing all the joy
I’M not a party-pooper. Nevertheless, we do need a sense of perspective on the Cheltenham racing festival and the Six Nations rugby.
The vast majority of Irish people wouldn’t know Honeysuckle from Mr Ed. And ITV’s coverage of Cheltenham didn’t help.
For the second year in a row I felt at times like putting my fist through the TV screen while watching it. It was so over the top, politically correct and lacking any sense of objectivity – it was farcical.
Take the so-called contest between Ireland and GB as to which had most winners. Ireland won again – and here’s why.
The majority of those Irish-trained winners are actually owned by wealthy English people, who follow the big prize money our government hands out.
Whisper it, but in 50 years’ time there will be no national-hunt racing. It will have been banned.
And for the rugby, the Irish team have been brilliant all season, but here’s a dose of reality.
Like the All-Ireland hurling Championship, there are only six or seven top-class teams in rugby in the world.
Until Ireland, at least, reach the last four of a World Cup, they will always be underachievers.
Keep the champagne on ice until we see what happens in France in the autumn.
Meanwhile, my beloved game lurches further into the abyss.
Here’s a selection of statistics from last weekend’s matches which underlines the crisis.
Galway v Armagh
The second-best team against, arguably, the sixth-best side. Surely, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a quality game. The joke was on those of us who endured it.
It was 0-1 to 0-0 after 19 minutes. Galway’s first point from play came in the 26th minute. Armagh got two points in the second half, with a 36-minute gap between the scores, and lost at home.
Kerry v Roscommon
Roscommon got their first point from play in the 27th minute, yet they could have sneaked a draw, which underlined how timid Kerry were.
Monaghan v Tyrone
Monaghan got one point from play, and none of their starting forwards scored from play. No wonder when one of their best forwards Jack McCarron kicks the ball back to goalkeeper Rory Beggan from the Tyrone 45m line.
Donegal v Mayo
Donegal got three points in the second half – two from play – and they had a miserly 18 shots on goal in the entire contest.
Believe me, I could fill the rest of the column with other damning statistics.
What drives me mad is the perception that we must accept this dross. It is touted as modern-day Gaelic football, the product of innovative coaching techniques.
Like hell it is. The herd mentality has taken over GAA coaching – they’re acting like sheep, aping whatever is trending.
All is not lost. Remember Ireland’s last rugby coach Joe Schmidt.
Under him Ireland played a joyless brand of rugby, featuring safety-first tactics, with the players programmed to within an inch of their lives once they crossed the white line.
Andy Farrell has opted for a less rigid, player-led approach. He trusts his players to do the right thing on the field.
As a result of that, Ireland now play an attractive brand of rugby; the players have a smile on their face and they’re winning matches.
We need an Farrell-type figure to save Gaelic football.
The worshipping of our last so-called messiah Jim McGuinness and his approach has to end. What we are seeing at the moment is not Gaelic football. It is some kind of ugly-duckling version of the game.
Mark my words, fans will start voting with their feet and stop going to games because watching Gaelic football is becoming damn hard these days.
What is needed is a coaching revolution. Players have to be trusted again.
They must be allowed to play off the cuff and adopt to changing circumstances. Otherwise our great game will just become unwatchable and unenjoyable.
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