Sunday 22 July 2018

Eoin Liston: Resources required to help weaker counties compete

Kerry's Stephen O'Brien
Kerry's Stephen O'Brien
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Hammerings such as the one Kerry dished out to Kildare last Sunday will always occur in sport.

And I'll have no problem with that in Gaelic football - so long as the GAA do everything possible to make sure every team has a chance to fulfil their potential.

That clearly isn't happening at the moment and it has allowed a huge gap to develop between the top six counties and the rest.

I touched on this subject earlier in the summer when I was talking about how Tipperary could make the jump from winning Munster titles at minor and U-21 level to winning them at senior.

I'm going to expand upon it now because I feel it's time that the GAA and GPA acted to ensure that lop-sided scorelines like we saw in Croke Park last weekend don't become more and more commonplace.

Kildare were competitive in the first 20 minutes against the Kingdom, with their two inside backs, Ciarán Fitzpatrick and Ollie Lyons, doing well initially and playing Kevin Murnaghan as sweeper.


But then Kerry started kicking the ball to Murnaghan's man, who was free, and Stephen O'Brien got four points in the first half, proving that Kildare aren't able to play the sweeper system properly. They left space at the back and they weren't aggressive enough to force turnovers.

By contrast, Kerry never left one-on-one or two-on-two situations to develop; everyone knew what their job was in defence - and it was never just to fill space. That takes time, effort and organisation.

In 2009, Donegal were hammered by Cork in an All-Ireland quarter-final. Two years later they were competing for an All-Ireland title and 12 months after that they won Sam Maguire. This shows what's possible.

Something needs to be done to help every county bridge the gap. Now, I know every county won't be competing for Sam, or even winning provincial titles, but the resources have to be made available to them in order to allow them to fulfil their potential.

This is where the GAA centrally and the GPA come in because it starts at the top. A properly staffed committee has to be assembled with the task to put together a blueprint.

Everyone, and not just the elite counties, has to have access to the best and most up-do-date coaching techniques, the best nutritional advice, GPS equipment and all of the other knowledge that is available now.

Structures have to be put in place right across the country to ensure that every young player is being given access to the best coaching - and I'm talking at club level here, long before they ever get to a development or county underage squad.

Most counties now have full-time secretaries and they have a big role to play in this. They have to be held accountable to ensure that these plans are put into action.

It will require money because not every county has the ability to do what Donegal did, which was raise an awful lot of cash to help back their team. This is another job for the GAA, the GPA and individual county boards to tackle.


People talk about how Kerry players can all kick off both sides, have all the basic skills and that not all county players from elsewhere have this. This is true and it goes back to tradition.

Football matters deeply in Kerry. It hurts deeply when we lose and everyone in the county loves winning on the big day in Croke Park.

It matters in schools, where teachers give their time to coach youngsters, and it matters in clubs. The knowledge is there and there are plenty of people willing to pass it on to the next generation of players.

I'd say it happens in nearly every house that balls are being kicked up and down the halls or in the backyards between parents and children nearly as soon as they can walk. That comes down to tradition.

But there's no reason why the same can't happen in every county in the country.

And if it does, along with all the right resources being made available across the board, there's nothing to stop every player fulfilling their potential.

Donegal to edge potential game of the season

I cannot wait to watch the Mayo-Donegal game at Croke Park on Saturday evening.

These are two of the best teams in the country, two of the biggest teams in the country, and it promises to be ferocious.

Donegal proved, as I believed they would, that they weren't finished. People were quick to write their obituaries after the Ulster final defeat to Monaghan even though it's a game they could have won.

They remain a brilliant team and they aren't overly reliant on any one individual. Odhran MacNiallais has stepped up this year, Martin McElhinney is another, Paddy McBrearty can still explode with 1-4 and the two McHughs bring such energy - they're like the Duracell bunny.

Colm McFadden is playing like a young fella, his kicking is beautiful, and, of course, they have their captain Michael Murphy. Murphy has been awesome this year and I think after their win over Galway last weekend we'll see him close to goals more often.

Mayo have shown great hunger and ruthlessness this year, they have strengthened their attack with Aidan O'Shea and their midfield has great mobility.

Donal Vaughan adds a bit of steel on the edge of the square, but it means that the middle third has been weakened without him.

I think Mayo too could be a little undercooked after a routine Connacht campaign and I'm giving the nod to Donegal, who have the two McGees to nullify the threat from O'Shea and Cillian O'Connor.

I think Monaghan will win the first game, beating Tyrone. The only concern is what will happen if Conor McManus is held.

They are an excellent team with an effective game plan and they know that losing another All-Ireland quarter-final won't be good enough reward after winning two Ulster titles in three years.

Irish Independent

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