Monday 26 August 2019

Colm Keys: 'Brody error reignites risk/reward dilemma'

 

Graham Brody makes a foray upfield during Laois’s defeat against Westmeath in the Division 3 final. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Graham Brody makes a foray upfield during Laois’s defeat against Westmeath in the Division 3 final. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Graham Brody's inclusion among the list of All-Star football nominees last year was no token gesture.

Despite Laois not making the 'Super 8s', Brody's performances, particularly in the Leinster final against Dublin in Croke Park and the fourth-round qualifier against Monaghan in Navan, carried enough weight to merit inclusion in the last three.

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That second day he made six saves to thwart Monaghan goal chances.

He was a bystander as the debate raged over Rory Beggan's preference ahead of Stephen Cluxton. But no one could dispute that Brody did not merit making that final cut.

The other string to his bow that caught the attention was his regular forays outfield.

These weren't just ordinary forays, tentative incursions beyond the 20-metre line and even closer to the 45-metre line as an outlet when the opportunity presented itself.

They were more daring and much more penetrative, designed to give opposition defences something more to think about by tempting them to change their shape.

The contingency plans always ensured there was cover in the event of something going wrong.

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And, sure enough, something did go wrong last Saturday night when Westmeath turned over the ball as Brody miscued a free in midfield and swiftly counter-attacked to devastating effect.

Ger Egan got on the end of that move to apply the finish for the game's only goal, ultimately the difference between the teams.

Naturally, the focus switched to Brody and his position on the field when the ball was turned over.

But the fact is there were plenty of defenders back to thwart the move even as Brody scrambled back.

As Egan closed in there were four Laois defenders converging on him.

It should have been prevented and the risk of their goalkeeper pressing up should have been minimised. In truth, Brody was unlucky.

There'll be a degree of 'told you so' smugness among those opponents of a tactic that is being deployed more and more in the last few seasons.

Beggan has been a strong proponent, regularly pushing further upfield to put his range of passing skills to good use.

In back-to-back league games earlier this year Tyrone's Niall Morgan went further, scoring points from distances of around 50 metres.

You could argue his equaliser against Roscommon to salvage their first point of the campaign turned their season around as they subsequently won all four remaining games.

More and more the goalkeeper in Gaelic football is becoming an outlet for his team-mates.

When a motion from the Clane club in Kildare went before Congress a few years ago, calling for a goalkeeper in receipt of a 'pass back' from a colleague to play the ball away by kicking it, the architect of the motion analysed 10 games and found that there was an average of three passes back per game.

Analysis of double that number of games during this year's league has found that the pass back number to goalkeepers has more than trebled to 10 per game, mainly from frees and the return of short kick-outs.

The goalkeeper's role in these plays could be the focus of rule-change analysis in the years ahead if that trend continues, in an attempt to create more contests.

But the role of 'fly goalkeepers' is sure to come under scrutiny again after last weekend, especially the balance between risk and reward.

It was brought into sharp focus in the last round of the league when a miscommunication between Galway full-back Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh and goalkeeper Ruairí Lavelle was exposed by Mattie Donnelly who was able to intercept and kick to an empty net from 25 metres with Lavelle stranded.

Tyrone kicked on comfortably from that moment and Galway were denied a league final place that may have been denied to them anyway.

Such incidents may be isolated but when they happen the impact can be far greater than the value of the score they lead to.

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