Friday 23 February 2018

Martin Breheny: Connacht final snooze-fest reinforces need to clamp down on handpass

Roscommon’s Ciaran Murtagh comes under pressure from Galway’s Eoghan Kerin during the drawn Connacht SFC final in Pearse Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Roscommon’s Ciaran Murtagh comes under pressure from Galway’s Eoghan Kerin during the drawn Connacht SFC final in Pearse Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Round up the horses, a lynching is due. Two teams and their miscreant managers must be tracked down, tortured and hanged.

Their crimes are ghastly, their attitude abhorrent and the fact that they may be planning to do it all over again next Sunday demands a ruthless response.

Where are you, Kevin Walsh, Kevin McStay, Fergal O'Donnell and your vicious young accomplices? There's no escape: give yourselves up and beg for mercy. You took a game that, in a mythical land somewhere, is overflowing with imagination and emasculated it on a wet afternoon in Salthill.

Outraged former players and managers never saw anything like it before, well at least not until they got their beaks into media troughs.


As for the Twitter academy of measured consideration, it too concluded that Galway and Roscommon committed unpardonable felonies against football and their own heritage.

The hysteria has even spread to those you would usually associate with sound judgement.

Jim McGuinness fears that the Connacht final was a vision of a game heading for ruin. It seems that the Galway-Roscommon approach dismayed him.

The Donegal brand of the same thing, which he deployed so effectively was, he claims, altogether different.

Apparently, it was unique to them, something to do with Donegal DNA and the need to play a possession game because the county is so exposed to Atlantic winds that generations of players were reared on short handpassing.

At the last time of checking, Mayo, Sligo, Galway, Clare, Kerry and Cork were scarce on Atlantic wind-breakers so why should their players be any different? That all you've got Jim?

No, this appears to be a case of McGuinness suggesting that - modesty obviously permitting - he is infinitely cleverer than those who try similar tactics a few years later.

All of which leads to Kieran McGeeney's comments that some former players and managers tend to have a view of the past that varies with reality. He is dead right.

"Sometimes it mightn't do any harm if some of our panelists and ex-footballers, who are in the press now, maybe just take out the video recorder, shove it in and took a look at themselves. We weren't as good as we remember," said McGeeney.

Neither were the games. Indeed, it has been comical over recent days to hear the Galway-Roscommon game dubbed as 'the worst ever'.

By what yardstick is that sweeping assessment made? Could it be the one marked 'go grab some attention for yourself'?

Staying with provincial finals alone, I can recall several - in all four provinces - which were equally sterile and not all due to handpassing either. Of course, last Sunday's game was very difficult to watch and, in so many ways, a deeply sad reflection on where Gaelic football has headed.

But are the managers to be vilified for applying systems they deemed appropriate? Absolutely not. A manager's only responsibility is to win games. So when he's planning strategy, all that matters is being first to the winning line.

He is charged with doing that within the rules and if, as is the case in football, it permits limitless handpassing, he should not be condemned for exploiting it.


Personally, I believe that Galway and Roscommon could do better with a more adventurous approach but I'm not in charge so my theory will remain untested, as will everybody else's except the managers.

It's different with rules. Everyone in the GAA is an equal share-holder there so their views are important.

The reaction to last Sunday's handpassing ordeal misses the point. It was merely an extension of what happens week after week, even in games where one team is dominant, as Dublin showed with their keep-ball cross-field crabbing late on against Meath.

Restricting the handpass is an obvious way to help solve a problem which was around for a very long time before Galway and Roscommon opted to use the possession game in an attempt to counteract the awful conditions in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.

So while joining lynch-mobs might make for a happy consensus, nothing good will come of it, since the horses are running in the wrong direction after the wrong target.

Irish Independent

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