Wednesday 21 August 2019

Shane Walsh: Our game would gain from handpass limit

Shane Walsh and Killian Clarke practise a drill during International Rules training at Bendigo Bank Stadium, Mandurah. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Shane Walsh and Killian Clarke practise a drill during International Rules training at Bendigo Bank Stadium, Mandurah. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Martin Breheny, in Perth

A restriction on the handpass, similar to what applies in the International Rules game, would benefit Gaelic football, making it better to play and more attractive to watch.

That's the view of Galway's Shane Walsh, who had his first taste of the international code in Adelaide last Sunday. Only six consecutive handpasses are allowed in the mixed game, after which the ball must be kicked.

That's designed to prevent Ireland or Australia using the handpass excessively in an attempt to play 'keep ball' and detract from the game as a spectacle.

"I liked it. Maybe it's something that should be looked at in our own game. It would certainly speed things up. That has to be good for the game," said Walsh.

The negative influence of the handpass in Gaelic football has been an issue for many years, yet no effort has been made to address it. Walsh is one of many who believes that it needs to be taken on and has found the mixed rules model very interesting.

"I just like the idea that after a certain number of handpasses, the ball has to be kicked. It's often easier to just throw in another handpass but it's a bigger test to find the right option with the boot.

"I enjoyed the game on Sunday because there were a lot more kicked passes than you get in a football game," said Walsh.


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He was also very impressed by the Australians' hand speed and how smartly they worked their way out of tight situations. "They have very quick hands but, having said that, you can read their plays too and get blocks in. It's something for us to take into the next day.

"They like to create space with the handpass so they'll have a bit more time to line up a kicked pass or a shot at goal.

"They were happy enough on the round ball but then you'd expect that from top players. They're very skilful and while playing with the round ball is a disadvantage to them, they adapt well," said the 24-year-old Kilkerrin-Clonberne clubman.

He spotted other differences too, which arise from the cultural divide between Gaelic football and AFL

"We tackle the ball but they tackle the man - it takes a while to get used to that. The training at home did a lot for us but it couldn't fully prepare you for what you get in a game like this. The pace is incredibly fast.

"The big thing I took out of it is to be more relaxed and I think we will be in the second Test. From my point of view, I wasn't backing myself as much as I might have, especially when it came to running at the Australians.

"It's something I'll be looking to do the next day. They're no quicker or stronger than us. I feel I can create more space, get the head up and pick the pass," he said.

Walsh had a goal chance in the closing seconds last Sunday but rushed his shot, driving the ball just outside the main posts. It registered a 'behind' (one point) but it might so easily have been a goal, which would left the deficit at five points heading into the second Test.

"I probably had more time than I realised - again that's something I'll take into the next game. We're fine-tuning things this week, working on cutting out mistakes and showing our quality a bit more.

"When you make mistakes in this game, you get punished quickly. You can go from having a big lead to being behind very quickly.

"We went ten points ahead at one stage but once the Australians got a run on us, they came back and got their own momentum going. We didn't manage the period after we went ten ahead as well as we should have. That's frustrating but it's something we can learn from.

"They probably managed things better when we came at them in the last quarter. They shut up shop and made it very hard to get in on their goal.

"We created plenty chances ourselves but didn't take as many as we would have liked. We know that if we can be ruthless and put more chances away the next day, it's our game to win.

"We're behind by ten points - it might look a lot but in this game it's not. A goal and a point in football scores and it's back to a one-point difference."

Away from International Rules, Walsh is already looking forward to next season when Galway return to Division 1 after six seasons in Division 2.

"It's where we've been aspiring to be for the last few years. We were very disappointed with how the championship ended this year and it might have set us back if we hadn't won Division 2. Getting back to Division 1 is big lift for us as a group. We will have seven games against the best teams next year - that's what we want to test us and see where we really are."

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