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O'Rourke: Football becoming more like bastkeball

LOUTH boss Aidan O'Rourke has reiterated his opposition to the 'black card' and claimed that a rule designed to stamp out cynicism has actually turned football into a version of basketball.

O'Rourke's latest blast came on the same day that GAA director-general Páraic Duffy saluted the rule's positive contribution to a more open, high-scoring game this spring.

In stark contrast, the former All-Ireland winning Armagh defender predicted a negative flip side this summer, with a return of the massed defence.

"I'm very interested in looking at the PR in all of this. It's been portrayed as a fantastic success and that is the perception," said O'Rourke, speaking at yesterday's launch of the Leinster GAA senior championships in Farmleigh.

TOOLS

"I hear this repeated that scores are up, therefore we have a better product. We have taken away the tools of the trade for a defender. I would feel we've handicapped defenders considerably.

"I do agree with the ethos where the black card was going with trying to get rid of cynical play. I would agree with that entirely. But I just feel we're at a basketball stage, where it goes up and down the court to see who scores the most. I understand why the people involved in the PR of the game would want to push that. But the game is about tackling and defending as well; we have to have the capacity to do both.

"Players are reluctant to make the tackles that they would have naturally made in the rest of their careers to date," he expanded. "That doesn't mean grabbing them by the neck or dragging them to the ground. It just means they stand off and don't make contact.

"It's a physical game. As many people – or more – come to see the physicality as the capacity for scores or wonderful attacking play. That is part of our game and part of our heritage. So to try and fundamentally adjust the mindset at the whim of somebody, is fundamentally flawed, in my view."

O'Rourke speculated on a return of massed defences. Citing "evidence" from recent challenge match circuits, which have been "fairly low-scoring", he added: "In the games we've played, there's been a huge number of players in defence. The reality is (with) the lottery of refereeing, can you afford a one-on-one with a quality forward inside your '45'?

"I'm not sure you can, if players aren't inclined to tackle. Again, I think that's the way it's going to go but the championship will be the proving ground."


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