Saturday 21 April 2018

Happy 80th Mick - and you're right

O'Connell: “When I’m watching the game now I don’t mention football. I call it ‘Gaelic’ because of the preponderance of handpassing.
O'Connell: “When I’m watching the game now I don’t mention football. I call it ‘Gaelic’ because of the preponderance of handpassing." Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Enjoy the day, Mick. Today marks a special occasion for Mick O'Connell as the Kerry legend celebrates his 80th birthday.

Regarded as possibly the best midfielder in football history, the game he loved so much and played so well in three decades (1950s,'60s,'70s) is, of course, vastly different nowadays, a situation that won't be influenced by the introduction of the 'mark' for kick-outs caught cleanly outside the '45'.

It came into effect last Sunday and will get a first outing nationally next weekend in the opening round of pre-season games.

The 'mark' would have suited O'Connell's high-fielding style but then he did well enough under the old system where his perfectly-timed leaps usually took him above opponents.

However, there is one area of the game that bothers him as he outlined in an interview with Darren Frehill on RTé some time ago. It's worth recalling at the start of a new season.

"When I'm watching the game now I don't mention football. I call it 'Gaelic' because of the preponderance of handpassing. When I was playing, I just played it as it was supposed to be played at that time. I think it has been diluted by the introduction of the handpass. The players are doing what the game allows and some people would think that I am an old player criticising players.

"They put a lot of practice in - in fact, they put in a lot more practice than in my day. But, generally, I think the game as it is being presented to them is something that doesn't please me anyway, and that's just a very personal opinion," he said.

Mick, your view is shared by a great many others. Yet, there are no plans to tackle the handpassing virus Instead we get the 'mark' non-event, whose impact will be minimal.

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