Sunday 19 May 2019

Billy Keane: Cure badly needed for epidemic of tactical sameness

Kerry have always been to the fore of change in the game of Gaelic football but now we’re falling into the trap of copying other teams. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Kerry have always been to the fore of change in the game of Gaelic football but now we’re falling into the trap of copying other teams. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

When we were kids everyone had his or her own place at the dinner table. And yes dinner was in the middle of the day.

The middle of the day is the best time for the dinner. Eating too late, as most people are forced to do, gives no time for unloading the ballast.

The great jockey, Charlie Swan, had his own diet when he was riding the likes of Istabraq. I was playing golf with Charlie one day and I asked him how he kept so fit. "I never eat after six" was his reply. Charlie ate all around him and he was no slave to the sauna where jockeys sweat their lives away.

We all had our own place at the dinner table when I was young. Dinner was served at lunchtime. The reason for our obesity crisis is Irish people eat too late and there's no time to exercise, unless it's in the bedroom.

But we are who we are from the rules, regulations and the epidemic of sameness. When one of us kids went in to the wrong seat, my mother would say "even the cows know their own place."


My Mam came from a farm and the cows were creatures of habit, The cows always went in to their own stall in the milking parlour. And you thought it was the swallows who were the ones with the homing instinct.

The cows were milked by hand. If you were told back then hundreds of cows would be milked by a machine, the farmers would have declared you to be both mad, and off the head as well.

You see cows often remind me of the First World War when thousands of people went into their places and died for want of shifting positions. If only today's tactics of the free-range corner-forward were in vogue back then, millions of lives would have been saved.

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Now, there is no way a war can be compared to a football or rugby game. Northern football is the worst of all for following the plan. Even Mickey Harte copies the bores. Mickey was the best of his time for thinking up new plans and a hero of mine on and off the pitch.

I was supposed to write about Munster and Leinster today and I was half- thinking of saying I refused to write as a protest at the lack of imagination in rugby.

Jonathan Sexton is in great form whenever I meet him and loves playing rugby even if it's only a kick-about in the back garden with his kids.

He has been accused of not playing with a smile on his face. Wouldn't you be some 'gom' if you played a game smirking and laughing? I gave him a new tactic as an antidote to the epidemic of sameness, and it was stick the ball up your jumper which has nothing to do with closing the game out Dublin-style.

So Conor Murray passes the ball. Two props as wide as level crossing gates stand between Sexton and the ball, behind the hindmost foot. These men block the sun. Sexton puts the ball up under his jersey like a woman pretending to be pregnant so she gets a seat on the Luas. He runs through unopposed to score a try. He never tried the brilliant and cunning plan. What's up Joe? Scared or what?

So I was going to write about Leinster and Munster. I didn't get to see the game but I'll bet it was the same as every other game. I can't look at the recording. I can't bear to watch Munster losing. It's the same with Mayo. I'm on my way home from Castlebar.

We are on the new M17 motorway. The motorways have made Ireland small. There's no sign of the N17 or a stone wall. Donal Ryan, the greatest writer of his or any other generation, is driving as I'm typing.

I slept it out. We were in Castlebar for The Wild Atlantic words festival. Senator Marie Louise O' Donnell was an excellent interviewer. Enda, the man who saved Ireland, is great company and his wife Fionnuala, the woman who saved Enda, is a dote.


Donal and myself had one or two in the residents' lounge. We had a great talk, not one word of which I remember. So that is why Billy is not at work today. This column is a sick note.

The main theme started out as why do sports teams keep on copying everyone else?

It's the easy way out, that's why. Kerry have always been to the fore of change in the game of Gaelic football but now we're falling into the trap of copying other teams. Please be brave, Eamonn.

It's a bit rich I know for me to be writing about doing same thing over and over again. And me here writing away in a car on the M17 with a hangover that would kill anyone else only me, who has a higher capacity for withstanding pain than a serial masochist.

Mayo always take their beating. We were treated so well in Castlebar. The Mayo people are recovered already and are looking down from Croagh Patrick on to the promised land.

Last night I told the assembled in Castlebar Library that it was all about the journey, not the destination.

Donal, will you stop soon? We need to break the journey. I need a cure. Same old, same old.

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