Wednesday 17 January 2018

Message to coaches: Defending en masse is not good defending

Kerry and Tyrone played out an excellent league game in Omagh on Sunday
Kerry and Tyrone played out an excellent league game in Omagh on Sunday

Colm Parkinson

Football wasn't dead after the snorefest in Croke Park between Derry and Dublin but it's not alive and well after the excellent league game in Omagh between Kerry and Tyrone.

I've been a big defender of defensive systems over the last four or five years. Teams should be entitled to play defensively away from home against a more talented team if they decide that's best.

The problem for me is when a team deploys 13 or 14 men behind the ball and concede the opposition's kick-out. Fourteen men behind the ball is often described as good defending. It's not. It's strength in numbers and it's not difficult to coach.

Retreating en masse inside your 45-metre line and defending the scoring zone with that many players is not good defending, trust me.

A lone sweeper is a specialised position and it requires a good football brain and good coaching. A sweeper needs to position himself in front of the full-forward line and narrow the angles for passes, intercept passes, double up with a team-mate on an attacker and sometimes break with the ball when it's turned over.

The problem is that when there are 14 men behind the ball, there are three or four sweepers so none of those skills are important.

There is nothing worse than seeing a Gaelic football pitch with 28 players conjugated on one side with the other side empty. It encourages lateral and often backwards handpasses and it's ugly to watch.

The system Tyrone used on Sunday was defensive but within reason. They played with a few men back but retained some shape to their structure and the game was very entertaining.

Remember, teams can drop two midfielders and two half-forwards back and still keep four forwards in the oppositions half for the counter-attack. Are four extra defenders not enough? It is if they're coached properly and given specific jobs.

A simple rule that full-forward and full-back lines must stay inside their 45-metre lines would help the game. Who wants attacking corner-backs? They usually kick it wide anyway.

Irish Independent

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