Sunday 15 December 2019

O'Rourke: Shift back to blanket defence is on cards

Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke
Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Louth football manager Aidan O'Rourke is predicting a shift back to massed defences over the summer as counties come to terms with the effect of the black card.

O'Rourke said he has already seen evidence in recent challenge games that some teams are not going to expose themselves to the prospect of 'one-to-one' defending when the championship gets under way.

Record scores and a reduction of more than 50pc in the number of yellow cards during the group stages of the league led many to talk up the positive impact the black card has had on the game. However, O'Rourke, who has been a strident opponent of the black card, has not changed his belief that it will eventually lead to more numbers taking up defensive positions.

"In the games we've played, there's been a huge number of players in defence," he said. "With the lottery of refereeing at the moment, can you afford a one-on-one with a quality forward inside your '45'?

"I'm not sure you can if players aren't inclined to tackle. I think that's the way it's going to go."

O'Rourke argues that the black card has not made games more entertaining, despite the increase in scoring rates.

"I hear it repeated that scores are up, therefore we have a better product. I'm not sure who made that initial proclamation, that that's what gives you a better product," he said.

"I would feel we've handicapped defenders considerably. I do agree with the ethos that the black card was trying to get rid of cynical play, but I just feel we're almost at a basketball stage, where it goes up and down the court to see who scores the most.

"I understand why the people involved in the PR side of the game would want to push that. But the game is about tackling and defending as well.

"The biggest problem is mindset. Players are reluctant to make the tackles that they would have naturally made before," he said.

"Now maybe there'll be a time of transition and people will figure out a way to make the tackles that they would once have made.

"And that doesn't mean grabbing them by the neck or dragging them to the ground. It just means that they stand off and don't make contact. It's a physical game."

"As many people come to see the game for the physicality of it as much as the scores and wonderful attacking play. That is part of our game and part of our heritage.

"So, to try and adjust the mindset at the whim of somebody – I don't know who – is fundamentally flawed."

Irish Independent

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