Wednesday 26 October 2016

Colm O'Rourke: Galway have played good football but it's losing football

Mayo are not likely to be knocked off their Connacht perch yet

Published 14/06/2015 | 13:00

Galway manager Kevin Walsh
Galway manager Kevin Walsh
Mayo still have men like Cillian O’Connor who have not just played at the highest level, but have performed there too

The fallout from Dublin's demolition of Longford continues with many wild and wonderful new systems for running the championship being touted. A man cannot go about his daily business anymore without someone coming up with a new idea on a fairer championship structure.

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Quite a few could be the work of an African witchdoctor but at least the debate rages on. As someone with skin in this game, so to speak, I have been keeping a close eye on proceedings. The one which looks to have the most potential for further investigation came from Jim McGuinness last week.

The only problem I have with the system he has proposed is that it is still based on the provincial model, but if you work on the basis that Ulster will always say no then there is room for discussion. This attachment to the provincial model was clearly demonstrated by a survey which showed that many county board representatives could see no further than their own province, despite the fact that this same provincial system has helped to ensure that the weak remain weak.

Most county boards would not budge because they say the provincial councils are good at giving them money. They do not seem to realise that a system which could give many home games to counties at the right time of year has the potential to yield a multiple of the money handed out at present. The system is called self-help.

Anyway, it is what it is for now, and so the provincial championships are hotting up. The problem is it is either a feast or a famine. Today, three of the serious contenders for this year's All-Ireland take the field - Kerry, Mayo and Donegal. Why could the GAA not arrange to have these counties out on different days instead of some of the muck of the last few weeks? The director of scheduling needs to have a look at his grand plan and make sure there is one - and probably only one - big football match each Sunday. The Cavan man told me it would leave room for pray, play and tay. Someone very rude suggested something else could fit neatly into this schedule.

Kerry are kings and set out to win another bad All-Ireland. Everyone seems to think it is an easy All-Ireland when Kerry win it. If it is anyone else then it is just a brilliant year. Envy or admiration?

Today, or for the foreseeable future, Tipperary will not roll over. The future of Tipp is football. They should forget about the hurling and ambitions of winning a provincial title - one of those things again - are real. Maybe not this year but the wind is at their backs.

We will probably have to look west for the best game today. On the face of it, Mayo v Galway looks like a free-flowing open game, but the romantics are a bit out of date even with this one. Galway road-tested the plan for Mayo in the win over Leitrim. It made for a bit of a mess of a match and Leitrim officials did not row in with the usual niceties after the game. They basically said Galway were entirely cynical in their approach. The analysis was spot on.

Galway have tried different systems under new manager Kevin Walsh after playing some lovely football last year, but it was losing football. Now they are the same as everyone else. Extra defenders, slow up the opposition attacks and foul well away from goal. The north wind has blown a plague to all corners. When Down go this road there is no value in tradition or style. Football is not a game of contrasting styles anymore - it is uniformly bland. Unless of course the few teams who have more than half a dozen class players can vary the theme.

Mayo are one of the more interesting teams this year. Maybe every year. I wonder did the new management team of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly make the bold decision to ride out the league and not worry about it at all or did it just work that way. It would be both brave and sensible to do that. They have a lot of players who have been on the road too long for both a spring and summer campaign. There is no great injection of new talent so the old war horse will be wheeled into battle again today and some of them are great warriors.

There are many in Roscommon and Galway, and to a lesser extent Sligo, who feel that their hour has come, that the old order is about to change and one of the pretenders to the throne will push Mayo aside. It would take a fair leap of faith to think that the end of Mayo is nigh. Have any of the rest got players as good as Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, the O'Shea brothers or Cillian O'Connor, players who have not just played at the highest level but performed there too. I will believe it when I see it.

Donegal are from the same stable of hard knocks as Mayo. There were some who thought about shooting the pack horses last winter but Rory Gallagher realised that you only do that when there are other mules to carry the load. Teams need players with character and Donegal have a lot of those. Forget about style, that is horrible most of the time, there is a lot of substance there too. The McGee brothers, Karl Lacey, Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher are similar to their counterparts in Mayo. Anyone beating these players individually, or more importantly collectively, will earn their passage.

Armagh and the rest of Ulster wait for the McGeeney revolution to take hold. He never made it in Kildare. It was a case of always close, but no cigar. Not even a Leinster Championship from six attempts, although it was the era of Dublin. Of course Armagh could still have a big summer, even after losing today, while the reverse is unlikely to happen. A defeat for Donegal and it would take the world's greatest motivator to get them back on course.

In a way that suits Donegal perfectly. They will look on this as a knockout championship and they cannot countenance defeat. That brings out the best in players while Armagh probably feel subconsciously that while they are walking the tightrope, there is a safety net underneath.

Armagh have come out of the third tier of the league and are progressive, but there is still a huge gulf in standard between the first and second divisions, never mind first and third. Most of the time league form holds true for the simple reason that if you are in a lower division then that's what you are. Against Tyrone, Donegal at times played really well while their lows in that game were very low and Armagh are probably better than Tyrone. Yet I expect that Donegal will progress in a game that will be very much worth watching, with plenty of action off the ball, even if there is little football played.

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