Tuesday 26 September 2017

Blame championship structures for ruining football, not the rules

Derry get men behind the ball in their defeat to Dublin at Croke Park
Derry get men behind the ball in their defeat to Dublin at Croke Park

Ger Gilroy

If these are the real Dublin fans then give me the summer Hill-dwellers any time. As Derry led Dublin into the break three points to two at Croker on Saturday night, some in the crowd decided to boo the teams as they came off the pitch.

I assumed, wrongly, that the Dubs were booing their own team. That's their prerogative: it's moronic, but they can boo their own team if they want.

However, it was clear when Derry re-emerged to a chorus of boos, that the Dubs fans were booing Derry. Who did Derry think they were, coming here and leading? Didn't they get the memo that teams are supposed to roll over for Dublin? Morons.

Let's just wind back the clock to the 'startled earwigs' who lost to Kerry in 2009.

Dublin under Pat Gilroy were never so stupid as to approach the opposition on equal terms again: they worked harder, defended in massive numbers and hit teams on the break.

Eventually it was enough to win an All Ireland. No booing then. A couple of years of attacking football under Jim Gavin has blanked the memory of these 'fans'.

Derry were similarly thumped by 15 points at Croker last year. This year they narrowed the gap to just four points missing some key players. So it's not pretty but it's pretty effective. It's unlikely Derry will go on and win an All Ireland but they won't be hammered again and they have a base-camp established.

The wider point about the game dying is not just vastly overstated, it's wilfully ignoring the real problem. Every Leinster county has to play defensively because they can draw Dublin in the Championship. Dublin will rout you if you don't defend in numbers.

The real problem the game has is not the rules, it's the structures. Waterford, Clare, Tipp and Limerick must learn a defensive structure because if they don't they'll get beaten 20 points by Kerry or Cork.


Ditto Leitrim, London and probably Roscommon and Sligo. The same goes for Antrim, Cavan and Fermanagh at least. That's 19 counties before you start.

Pit these teams against each other and tempt them by promotion to an intermediate or senior grade and they might at least try and attack to win.

That's the massive throbbing lie at the heart of Gaelic football. Barely a quarter of all counties competing have any chance of provincial silverware each year.

No-one wants to be humiliated and that dictates tactics. Change the rules but it's like giving the game plastic surgery when it has cancer.

Irish Independent

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