The national clamour at an under-15 schools game is indicative of growing resent at the prevailing style in Gaelic football.
St Patrick's Maghera and Abbey CBS played out a 0-2 to 0-1 dour affair on Friday prompting widespread criticism of structures, systems and the sport in general.
@Abbey_CBS desecrating the game today in a Brock Cup (u15) schools game v @StPatsMaghera. Played with all 15 inside the 45 for 50mins. Pushed up in last 10. HT 0-2 to 0-0. FT St Pats 0-2 Abbey 0-1. Stomach churning for all great abbey teams & past players pic.twitter.com/s6acftS9lR
— Joe Brolly (@JoeBrolly1993) March 1, 2019
Gaelic football is suffering from a serious ailment. Yet in response, the suggestion is to alter the game itself. A reaction dictated by human nature.
We always want to change the world, we never want to change ourselves.
Since the early 2000s, defensive systems have developed and progressed. It's the greatest leveller the game has known, a ploy adopted to allow weaker teams to maintain a fighting chance.
Yet this particular example is telling. The facts are this; One team set up with a blanket defensive, the same team lost.
That's bad coaching. Devising systems for a game in the process of incorporating different approaches into one cohesive plan that gives players the best chance to succeed, score and enjoy doing it. A blanket defence system that waits until the opposition engages is only half a system, it's damage limitation rather than winning ambition.
Former Armagh footballer and tactical columnist Aidan O'Rourke gave an insightful coaching seminar last November on kick-outs. Yet before he got into running lines and communication methods, he made one thing abundantly clear.
The obsession with kick-out retention is nonsensical. The true test of a successful kick-out is converted scores. That's the point of the game and the only way you can win, to score. You can tap a ball to a corner-back all day, rack up a 90%+ success rate and watch helplessly as your player gets turned over time and again. Nothing should be analysed as binary, the overall picture is imperative.
Coaches can drill a team into effective deep-lying shape, indoctrinate them to be disciplined and hold inside the '45 metre line and can take pleasure as they frustrate and hinder the opposition. Simultaneously, coaches should sit short-sightedly and culpable as they muster a paltry scoring total and still lose.
Result in the Ulster Minor League: Donegal 3-15 Fermanagh 0-00....
— Donegal GAA Results (@donegalGAAres) March 2, 2019
Many will point to what happened in the Ulster Minor League as the alternative. On Saturday, Fermanagh were on the receiving end of a 3-15 to no score hammering against Donegal. Another telltale insight into modern society, the incessant need to see everything as black or white.
There is, of course, an alternative. A team can play with a predominate defensive structure while also developing simple systems around that like a forward press and flowing counter-attacks. It is by no means a one or the other.
For every disease, there is a victim. The greatest tragedy of this brand of anti-football is what it does to players. All sense of joy and elation sucked away by the anti-chemistry of a rigid straightjacket. A negative approach prompting negative play for a negative experience that produces a widespread negative reaction.
Last year's Championship is currently being vilified by widespread revisionism and recency bias of an uncompetitive final, but there were numerous entertaining games with systems weighted towards both defence and offence.
New York versus Leitrim. Laois versus Wexford, Kildare versus Carlow, Wexford versus Waterford, Tipperary versus Mayo, Offaly versus Clare, Armagh versus Clare, Mayo versus Kildare, Roscommon versus Armagh, Kerry versus Monaghan. Each of these examples included teams willing to attack and defend, not just elect for one and pretend the other is optionable.
This can be a great game, one of the best games, if it is allowed to be. Simultaneously, it can be awful, uninspiring and leave you with a crick in your neck as you look towards the mass of bodies on one end or the empty space at the other.
Change it whatever way you want but the people have the power. It's time we expect more of them.