Wednesday 7 December 2016

Carr believes football will outgrow safety-first trend

Published 14/04/2015 | 02:30

12 April 2015: Ciaran Kilkenny, Dublin, in action against Monaghan players Ryan McAnespie, 19, Dessie Mone, Ryan Wylie, 4, and Paul Finlay. Allianz Football League Division 1, Semi-Dublin v Monaghan (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)
12 April 2015: Ciaran Kilkenny, Dublin, in action against Monaghan players Ryan McAnespie, 19, Dessie Mone, Ryan Wylie, 4, and Paul Finlay. Allianz Football League Division 1, Semi-Dublin v Monaghan (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)
Tom Carr

On Saturday afternoon in Croke Park, the Hogan Cup final provided another stark reminder of the direction football has taken.

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At the throw-in, Roscommon CBS immediately flooded numbers behind the ball and looked to play on the counter-attack, often leaving just one man up front.

You could hardly blame them as it was a tactic that had brought them to a surprise appearance in a national 'A' schools football final but it served to show that the defence-first outlook has infiltrated many levels of the game.

Twenty four hours later at the Jones Road venue, there were more examples of the negative tactical approach that has caused a growing unease in football circles.

The debate has raged in recent weeks after Dublin and Derry produced an alarming example of how badly things can go when the game is played that way. In the ensuing discourse, the death of football was heralded.

Boredom

Tom Carr wouldn't go that far but admitted there is an element of "boredom" creeping into the game. "Overall, I think football is in a good place, but I think it can depend on the teams who are playing," says the former Dublin, Cavan and Roscommon manager.

"But there is an element of boredom creeping in. You can nearly write the script in some of the games now. It's like rugby in that it can be very structured in how it plays out.

"Gaelic football used to be an intermittent, frenetic game where anything could happen and kick-outs were hit long. But now possession is king."

Things will improve, Carr insists, and he regards this as only the latest step in the evolution of the game. The problem, he says, arises when teams set up defensively but can't add the nuance required to attack and score sufficiently.

"There are teams playing that way now but when they have the ball they can't make the transition from defence to attack quickly enough. Whether it is by hand or foot, they don't move the ball fast enough. And pace is key when you are playing that sort of game. They run out of ideas because they don't have the footballers who can do the right things at the right time.

"They don't have the players to put the scores on the board so that's why I think things will change. Teams are going to realise that while they can defend, they aren't scoring enough at the other end to win games. So they will change.

"They just don't have the forwards. And when you are playing this type of game you need some very good forwards."

Carr also notes that despite the tactical shift, little has changed in terms of competitiveness.

He points out that it's still the traditional powers Dublin and Kerry who are considered the market leaders in the race for Sam Maguire.

"Monaghan played very open against Dublin in Clones and they lost. They went defensive at the weekend and while they got closer and they lost, albeit by a point.

"Going back to the Derry game, they stayed in it for a long time but they still lost the game. I think teams will evolve from that.

"They'll realise that while they can be hard to beat, they aren't playing football that will win you games. You still have to have to score to win games."

The problem has been magnified too by Dublin and the inevitable focus on them.

Carr reckons every team that meets Jim Gavin's side will adopt a safety-first approach, given their forward power and the success Donegal had against them last year.

And while he doesn't think a rule change is required to combat this latest trend, he'd like to see any point scored from a free arising from a black-card offence be worth two points.

"Players are still going to pull someone down late in the game as it is but if were worth two points I think it would add to the deterrent.

"But overall football is okay. It's well-attended and well-marketed at the minute and I think what we are seeing now is a trend.

"It will evolve from here."

Irish Independent

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