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Joe Brolly Thinks This Mayo Coach Can Defeat The Blanket Defence Once And For All With His Attacking Theory

Joe Brolly Thinks This Mayo Coach Can Defeat The Blanket Defence Once And For All With His Attacking Theory
Will Slattery
By Will Slattery
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You know that it is early in the GAA season by the topics covered by Joe Brolly and Colm O'Rourke in the Sunday Independent. With so few actual games to talk about, the duo - who share real estate on the same page each weekend - often alternate between the following talking points:

  1. Negative football/how to overcome it
  2. The issue of funding in the GAA
  3. How the club game is superior to the county championship

O'Rourke tackled issue number two this weekend with a piece looking at how counties, among other things, need to lobby local business leaders to secure more funding for development coaches. Brolly wrote about one of his bugbears - the blanket defence.

Usually, few things are as dull as reading a column describing how to counteract this defensive system, mainly because it is ground that has been retread so many times.

But this weekend Brolly found an interesting angle on the topic. He cited a talk given by former Armagh player turned coach Tony McEntee, where he spoke about the tactics he used as Crossmaglen manager to overcome a blanket defence.


It sounds a lot like what a football hipster might call 'gegenpressing'.

Tony McEntee said once during a meeting of the coaches in Crossmaglen that he couldn't understand why teams played a blanket defence. In Cross, they view it as an invitation to win. They go man to man on the sweepers and hem the opponent into their own defensive area with a full-court press.

This has three effects: Firstly, the sweepers cannot sweep, as they are forced to mark a man. If they drop off him, the Cross boys pick him out and he'll score. Secondly, the defending team doesn't have the luxury of working the ball out comfortably using the sweepers, as they are being man-marked. Thirdly, the forwards left in the opponents' attacking area are isolated. There is no prospect of being able to kick a 90-yard footpass to them, so the Cross fullbacks play five yards in front.

The opponent has no choice but to try to work the ball out of the defence under severe pressure. So Cross score countless goals and points of turnovers.

This doesn't seem to be an overly complicated approach but does sound effective. Perhaps, like Liverpool in the Premier League, the strategy requires immense stamina and physical strength and to maintain it over a sustained period of time could lead to players picking up injuries.

But it is certainly an interesting theory and given that McEntee is a selector with Mayo this year, it will be interesting to see whether Stephen Rochford adopts this style in the championship.


Given Cian O'Sullivan's success in the sweeper role for Dublin, it could be an effective way to go after Jim Gavin's men - or maybe it will just leave more room for the Dublin forwards at the other end.

Given McEntee led Crossmaglen to two All-Ireland club titles with these tactics, it might be an option worth exploring.

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