Thursday 22 March 2018

'There is going to have to be a freeing of the minds' - Joe Brolly looking forward to a 'reprogramming' in gaelic football in 2018

Joe Brolly believes Slaughtneil are one of the teams debunking the myth that is the blanket defence
Joe Brolly believes Slaughtneil are one of the teams debunking the myth that is the blanket defence Newsdesk Newsdesk

Joe Brolly believes the blanket defence has been proven to be futile in the pursuit of glory and hopes that the process of 'reprogramming' teams will begin this weekend when the National League begins.

The 1993 All-Ireland winner and Sunday Independent columnist told's GAA podcast 'The Throw-In', created in association with Allianz, that the recent successes of Dublin, Mayo and Slaughtneil in debunking the myth that blanket defences are needed for a team to thrive will cause a shift in thinking in gaelic football.

The Derry side's incredible exploits in the Ulster club scene in recent years, Dublin's demolition of Tyrone in last year's All-Ireland semi-final and Mayo's tag as the Dubs' most dangerous rival bear that out

Damian McErlain has taken charge of the Oak Leaf team and Brolly believes the new Derry boss will abandon the tactic of getting 14-men behind the ball.

Asked which team he was most looking forward to seeing in the national League, Brolly said: "I'm going up to Celtic Park on Sunday to see Derry and because, for the first time in a long time, we've got a manager that isn't a carpet bagger.

"He's a Derry man, he's been heavily immersed in his own club. He has only ever taken underage teams in his own club and then the Derry minors. So we're optimistic that we're going to see the start of a reprogramming process because we've been involved in that abysmal blanket defending for six years.

"The spectacle has deteriorated and what we really want to see now is a bit of football being played.

"The big hope for gaelic football followers and I think a message that is starting to spread now is that surely coaches must now be seeing that the way to play gaelic football is to push up man-to-man, to pressurise any blanket defences, to hem them in and not let them out and I think what Dublin did last year was the perfect illustration of the fact that if a team plays with confidence and pushes up and man-marks the sweepers then the opponent becomes hemmed in and the result becomes inevitable.

"The hope would be, for people who have been evangelising for gaelic football which is more or less everybody except the vested interests and the paid coaches, that this will be the turning point.

"You look at Slughtneil. They have been religiously man-to-man and they've won three Ulster club titles out of the last four during a period when almost every team is going with blanket defences and dropping back behind the 45.

"Slaughtneil have pushed up, played man-to-man, played in front in defence and it makes perfect sense.

"Once you don't let them out and you hem them in and we saw that with Cavan Gaels in the Ulster club final.

"Slaughtneil winning three of the last four and Crossmaglen did the exact same before that, the Dubs are thriving and it's no coincidence that the top two teams in Ireland now are Dublin and Mayo and the team that causes dublin most trouble is Mayo because Mayo play man-to-man against them and push up."

Will Mickey Harte embrace a more positive approach this season?

"Tyrone have been doing it for the past six or seven years and have become robotic. It is going to take a while.

"The way players were brainwashed into the blanket defensive system, There is going to have to be a sort of freeing of the minds again to allow them to go back to playing gaelic football.

Brolly fears that Donegal may be one side that is not 'reprogrammed' this year under Declan Bonner.

"I called Cavan the black death three or four years ago when they won their third U-21 Ulster title in a row," he added

"It was one of the most distressing sights in Irish life to watch the Cavan U-21's ... but they had nothing on Declan Bonner's underage Donegal teams.

"I mean, the Donegal U-21's last year, it was the opposite of what sport ought to be, particularly given the calibre of player at his disposal.

"They were in essence a professional team and I was very, very critical of Declan in the way they played against Derry in the Ulster final. He texted me very upset about what I said and I just said, 'Declan, that's the way you're playing. It's your choice and you're quite entitled to play that way but I'm quite entitled to (criticise it)'. He was very. very cross with me."

Listen to Brolly's thoughts on the 2018 National League below:


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