if only we could bring rugby on board for rules series in all stars a disgrace
Published 18/10/2010 | 05:00
The International Rules should never be regarded as either Gaelic or Australian Rules Football. Nor should there be any direct comparison between these two codes -- how could there be when there is a different shaped ball used in each game?
There are, it must be said, several primary skills common to both codes, such as high catching, kicking the ball and a form of tackle aimed at dispossessing the player with the ball, or at least preventing him from carrying out his original intention with the ball.
However, all these things also apply to other forms of football, most notably Rugby Union, where the similarities with Gaelic football grow more obvious with the passing years. There is much more kicking of an intelligent nature in rugby and in good Gaelic football than there used to be, for instance.
The high catch is probably a more productive way of gaining possession in rugby nowadays than it is in Gaelic football. And, of course, place-kicking is a crucial skill in both codes. So, in reality, it would make just as much sense for 'International Rules' games to be played between Gaelic football and Rugby Union as it currently does between Gaelic and Aussie Rules.
But in this country the barriers between the sporting ethos of rugby and Gaelic are still too far apart to even have discussions on such a radical proposal. What a pity, because that could pave the way for a tripartite 'international' game between the three codes of football and who knows what that might lead to.
Certainly a game between the Ireland rugby team and the All Stars team would be a huge crowd-puller if some enterprising charity promoter could overcome the barriers that still exist between the two sports.
So, as we get ready for the latest encounters between Australia and Ireland in International Rules, it is important to state what these games are NOT, as much as what they are.
I always sum them up as being a diversion for those who play both football codes, but they are never meant to measure one sport against another.
There will never be an amalgamation between Gaelic and AFL football, so by their very nature these Test matches are no more than ships that sail through the night. They come and go, but have no lasting impact.
Lots of people, of course, have blamed the influence of these games for changes made to the rules of Gaelic football, such as frees and line-balls kicked from the hands. But these changes were always on the agenda and were merely speeded up by observing Aussie Rules.
Bearing all that in mind, it is extraordinary that there is such interest among the general public in these Test matches between Ireland and Australia. The biggest reason for the interest is the nationalistic streak that permeates most Irish people.
Many GAA folk seem to believe that members of their organisation are actually better Irish people than members of other sports bodies -- I kid you not -- and, of course, the whole rationale behind the infamous Rule 27 that forbade GAA members to be involved in soccer, rugby, cricket or hockey was based on that very principle -- if you could call it that.
But what used to annoy the GAA diehards was that while these banned sports followers could support and cheer on Ireland teams, GAA fans never had that opportunity and had to rely on inter-county rivalry to satisfy their sporting fervour.
The arrival of the International Rules games has therefore filled a long sought-after desire for GAA fans in allowing them to shout "IRELAND, IRELAND" just like their soccer and rugby friends and wave the tricolour on high.
And there is no doubt the atmosphere created in these games is very different, even compared to big inter-county championship games.
With the exception of Dublin playing in Croke Park in summertime, few counties can muster 20,000 or more for GAA games, so crowds at Clones, Portlaoise, Castlebar or Killarney are usually split down the middle -- give or take a few neutrals. But when Ireland play Australia, we have had 70,000 people cheering for the SAME team and it is a marvellous occasion.
I remember as Ireland manager in 1987, there was an attendance of around 50,000 for one of the games and it was a shock to hear the volume of sound for Ireland even by comparison for the support of a team in an All-Ireland final.
So, even though the Aussie-Ireland games are only a diversion from the normal routine of GAA games or AFL games in Australia, they are still a very worthwhile operation and provide an interesting finale for each sport's season.
And the biggest benefit for both codes is that it allows many of the best players in each country to gain genuine international honours in a sporting contest at the highest level.
That far outweighs the sniping and sarcasm that often surrounds the games. Rampant violence this year will definitely finish the experiment, but, as always, it is up to the referees to enforce the rules fairly and that will prevent disasters like we have seen in previous years.
Lack of cork forward in all stars a disgrace
Although I am almost immune to complaints from All Star selection committees at this stage, I could not let the fiasco in relation to Cork footballers go unchallenged.
It is an absolute disgrace that no Cork forward was selected, while three Down forwards were.
Who actually won this final?
Daniel Goulding played THE most important role in Cork's victory and should have been an automatic selection because without him, Cork would not have won and that is the true test of a player.
I cannot recall an All-Ireland-winning team having no forward as an All Star and this decision is insulting.
Limerick's John Galvin should have got a midfield place, too, in a year when the midfield choices were wide open, unlike many other years.