Sunday 17 December 2017

Henry's versatility 'proves AFL trend'

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

KIERAN McGeeney is a self-confessed football obsessive -- and as a student of the game he would give a nod of approval to Dublin boss Pat Gilroy's use of David Henry in a variety of roles.

Henry (29) is scheduled to line out at right corner-forward against Kerry in Dublin's Allianz National Football League opener in Killarney.

Many Dublin fans and some observers of the Boys in Blue would prefer to see Henry marking a rival corner-forward instead of being on the receiving end of a defender's attentions.

That's not an issue for McGeeney, the former Armagh star who helped bring Na Fianna to club success in the capital.

In fact, he sees the versatility of players such as Henry and Alan Hubbard -- a defender last year, now named as right half-forward against Kerry -- as perfectly appropriate to the demands of the modern game.

"Gaelic football is different from most sports because there's no offside. As a player you need to be able to be mobile," McGeeney said. "Counties like Tyrone and Dublin and Kerry have shown they'll move forwards around and rotate them quite quickly during a game.

"It's very risky for players to let them go free, so you have to be able to play in a number of positions. There's no such thing as the quintessential full-back or corner-back any more. They have to be able to play anywhere.


"Your middle eight, the players wearing No 5 to 12, are basically the same type of players, with possibly only some differences in height and physique.

"It might annoy people if I say it, but the modern game is probably becoming quite like Aussie Rules in terms of your need for extremely mobile players.

"There are specific types required for high-ball catching, but in general throughout a team, you're heading towards having the same type of height and physique and athletic ability among your players.

"Footballers nowadays have to be a jack of all trades and that's maybe why you hear some people say football isn't what it used to be, but the young players coming through today can really play. Their range of skills is quite high and that's what you expect of them.

"If the man you're marking pulls you into full-forward or corner-back you have to be able to tackle or shoot. That's the versatility in players you're looking for as a team manager."

Henry, who plays midfield or forward for his club Raheny, agrees.

"The way the game is played now, when you are in the forwards you could end up all the way back, and when you are in the backs you could end up all the way forward," Henry said. "You have to be comfortable playing all round the place because you don't know where you are going to find yourself on the pitch."

The priority for Henry is to be in the side, and with the NFL campaign starting, he sees it as a chance to blow away the cobwebs of that ignominious All-Ireland exit to the Kingdom at the quarter-final stage last year.

Dublin players and management would not be dumb enough to blow their trumpet prior to any game against Kerry, but they're particularly muted after having to digest that huge hunk of humble pie they were force-fed at Croke Park last August.

The hurt was real, the embarrassment intense, but as Henry said: "It's time to move on."

How did he cope with the aftermath of defeat? "It was very disappointing. It really was, but what can you do. You have to be philosophical about things," he said. "You've two choices: you can mope around the place or you can try and get back playing with the club.

"When you are a footballer you just want to enjoy playing football and you can't let things get you down too much.

"Obviously it will affect you, it will hurt you a little bit, but once you get back playing with the club and back out training again you tend to forget about it and just concentrate on the next game."

Can such an experience ever be turned into a positive learning experience?

"I am sure you learn from it and hopefully that will stand to us in the future. You just have to keep going and maybe if you find yourself in a game like that, and reflect back on the past, and how you might learn from it.

"Kerry played extremely well that day, probably the best they'd played in a long, long time. We didn't perform.

"When you mix the two of them together you get a bit of a hammering.

"That's it really. It's very hard to put your finger on one thing that went wrong because there were so many of them," said Henry.

If he had one wish for Dublin this year, especially going into the League, it would be a show of consistency in the level of performance.

Trophies and medals -- even relegation -- are not on the agenda for discussion as the Dubs seek to establish a platform from which to relaunch themselves as a potent force in the game.

Henry added: "To be honest with you, we haven't talked about winning the League, or relegation or staying up -- we haven't talked about anything like that at all.

"We are just kind of talking about the old cliche, of taking one game at a time, and looking to perform better than we have done in the last few years.

" We have been too inconsistent in my opinion. One day we can play very well, the next day we don't.

"We would be hoping for a bit more consistency and if we get that, hopefully we will hold our own."

Irish Independent

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