Wednesday 25 April 2018

Off The Ball: Pundits telling teams to play the same way is just nonsense

A clash of styles is an intriguing prospect and tests both the managers and players

Joe Brolly
Joe Brolly

Colm Parkinson

"A victory of honour by the Dubs, playing the game the right way," chirped Joe Brolly after Sunday's classic encounter between two of the best teams in the country. These sentiments were met with universal approval by the RTÉ panel.

"The message should go out from here, the way the Dubs are playing Gaelic football. That's the way everybody should want to play it," he added.

Sunday's game was the most enjoyable game of football I've ever seen in Croke Park. But who gives pundits the right to tell every manager in the country how to manage their team and the style of football to play?

That style works for Kerry because they have the most talented forwards in the country. It is self-defeating for them to play a sweeper and give Dublin an extra defender when they have such a brilliant forward line. It works for Dublin because they have the best team in the country.

If I managed Dublin, I would most definitely share Jim Gavin's attacking philosophy. If I managed Laois and was travelling to Croke Park to play the Dubs, would I play more defensively? Of course I would. For a pundit to suggest that every team plays the same way, just because it's what they enjoy, is nonsensical. In what other sport does every team play the same way?

Do Leinster and Munster rugby teams play the same way? No. Leinster under Joe Schmidt played an attacking, running style where the onus was on getting quick ball out to the backs. Munster, during those years, kept the ball tight and played through their forwards, which was also effective. Do rugby pundits say every team should play like Leinster because it is more aesthetically pleasing?

Do Chelsea and Arsenal play the same way? No. Arsenal have an attacking philosophy and are poor defensively whereas Chelsea, under Mourinho, are more defensively minded and like to hit teams on the break. Do soccer pundits dictate that every team should play like Arsenal?

Every sport has games that are classics, usually when two attack-minded teams go head-to-head and shun any notion of defending.

What's exciting about the GAA is that it is evolving, with different systems being used. Since Tyrone introduced the blanket defence and Donegal brought it to new levels, the GAA has different styles and managers have different philosophies on how they want their team to play. Some like to play a kicking game, others a running game, some like to play a sweeper, others a blanket defence.

A clash of these styles is an intriguing prospect and tests both managers and players in ways last Sunday could not. A fully fit and motivated Donegal playing Dublin in Croke Park would excite me just as much as another Dublin-Kerry clash.

Football, thankfully, has moved on from the one-dimensional football of the past. Unfortunately, I think some pundits are still stuck there.


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