Donal Óg Cusack has tackled Gaelic football's problem in his column for the Irish Examiner and has come up with a dramatic but legitimate proposal – reduce the number of players on a team to 12.
I couldn't agree with him more.
Reducing the number of players on a team is an idea which has gotten little coverage but has been a blatantly obvious one for over a decade. Cusack says:
Knocking three players off each team would open up the spaces and open up the tactical thinking. Out one man each for the throw-in and then line out as you will 4-2-3-2? Go ahead. 3-3-3-2? Make it work. 10-1? So long as Michael Murphy is okay with it that’s your call Jim.
For most of my time as a player I rarely actually played 15-a-side because our club was in one of the bottom divisions at underage level, meaning matches were either 13 or 11-a-side on a full pitch. Now while, 11-a-side was a bit nuts, the 13-a-side game with two men full forward lines made for much more entertaining matches and really made things interesting for fans, with plenty of goal chances and the like.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether watching Donegal v Monaghan is fascinating or incredibly boring but the bigger problem rests at club level, where blanket defences are plentiful but players and managers with the tactical nous to develop a system to overcome it are few and far between.
Cusack makes the point: 'More importantly for our Association is that there is a limit to the number of kids who will want to play a game where tactics are tending towards specialising in negative, non-creative skills.'
He describes Gaelic football as Aussie Rules trapped inside the body of pre-1960s Gaelic football:
Players have outgrown the format. The game is bursting to find a new expression. You won’t bring back high fielding by implementing the mark because space in the middle third is so confined that it is always easier to deny the other team the clean possession that the mark gives than it is to go for the mark yourself. You limit the brilliant creativity of em, (show?) ponies like the Gooch by limiting space.
While I'd be all for reducing the number of players to 12 or at least 13 anyhow, what do you think? Is it too drastic a measure?
Read his full column in the Examiner here.