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Never Forget - The Ignoble Failure That Was Gaelic Games: Football For The PS2

Never Forget - The Ignoble Failure That Was Gaelic Games: Football For The PS2
By Paul O'Hara
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'The players will be looking forward to their bananas and tea at half time'.

As an organisation, the GAA are often justly lauded for administrative competence (usually, when set alongside other sporting bodies on the island) but they have committed missteps over the years.

What was the GAA's worst ever decision?

It wasn't bringing in the Ban.

It wasn't opening up Croker to soccer and rugby.

It wasn't introducing the qualifier series.


It wasn't allowing free kicks and sideline balls to be taken out of the hands.

It wasn't selling rights to games to Sky.

It wasn't bringing in the black card. It wasn't jersey sponsorship. It wasn't removing those two 'behind' posts in 1913 or whenever.


It wasn't even endorsing chocolate bars or giving Garth Brooks the fucking run of the place.


No, the worst decision in the history of the GAA was giving its official blessing for the PS2's Gaelic Games: Football.




Introduced in 2005, the game was based heavily on an existing Aussie rules template, and it was  godawful. A lack of GPA endorsement meant that players' names would not appear in the game. Even at the time of release, the graphics were of a laughably low quality and the gameplay was about as true to life as it would be if EA got Charles Barkley to model Adam Scott's golf swing.

I've written before about how my experience of gaming has been limited enough over the years - I find them an awful waste of time, but if they're your thing then good luck to you - so my spell at the controls of this monstrosity didn't last long. In addition, the years immediately following my Junior Cert saw an all-time low in my level of interest in Gaelic football. I wasn't a bad centre back, but aside from the odd school match to get the half day, or a free ticket to a Dubs match or an International Rules punch-up, I barely paid attention to the game between 2001 and 2007.


Despite those two prejudicing factors, I spent the sixty quid or so on the game - Christ, when I think about it now - and I really, really wanted it to be good. I mightn't have cared a stuff about what happened to the Dubs, or knew more than half of their Championship starting fifteen, but I was a sucker for sporting novelty and though I think he doesn't exist, my inner patriot went bananas with anticipation.

I dearly wished it would be great - what would cause us all to swell with pride more than seeing Croker and all the provincial grounds get the glitzy CGI treatment, not to mention the true-to-life renderings of Gooch et al? It's a little bit like the time the K Club was on Tiger Woods - I know plenty who wouldn't piss on the fairways in a record drought, but it was heartening to see a corner of our native sod be so accurately depicted by EA and playable by gamers around the world.

Gaelic Games: Football was neither. It was absolute poison.


There was no facility for altering kit, no bonus features (or were there? do let me know) but most maddeningly of all, it was pathetically easy. The quality of the CPU defending was so weak that point-scoring was rendered obsolete - you might knock one over for the craic just to test your accuracy, which was painfully inconsistent, or just to keep things somewhat competitive.

The thing is, the lads who were into GAA and gaming didn't last a great deal longer - there's only so much enjoyment one can take from playing as London and running roughshod over Tyrone by something like 13-2 to 0-00.

From what I remember, if there were some positives they were all related to the renderings of the stadia - they were totally fine by the standards of the time - and the mellifluous North Kerry tones of Míchéal Ó Muircheartaigh.


The commentary track was limited, repetitive and fist-swallowingly cringey, but it was no fault of the great man. Chock-full of tús-maith-leath-na-h-oibres and "long, raking kicks", a still-remembered aside was:

"The players will be looking forward to their bananas and tea at half time"

Take a look at the clip below. It features a fisted back-pass to the Kerry goalkeeper under no pressure that comes back out off the post and a catalogue of shots that should be slotted over, but dribble pathetically into the 'keeper's hands. Had the unmarked player in control advanced ten yards further, a goal would have been all too predictable. Notice also how every one of CPU Armagh's frees finds an unmarked Kerryman, and a forty-yard one-two is executed without such much as a token challenge.


And in Meath v. Armagh here, there's not a hint of a second tackler and a lot of extremely loud grunts during each unrealistic contest for the ball. Though no more than two players are involved at a time, each tackle looks like an awkward deputy principal trying to break up a schoolyard scrap.


Undaunted by this catastrophic debut, Headquarters duly nodded its consent for a sequel, Gaelic Games: Football 2. It must have been an ambitious project as it was joined on the shelves by a sister game, Gaelic Games: Hurling. I didn't play either, but the large-ball version had a career mode, some club teams and a jersey edit feature. It looked a little more polished, but in spite of all those trumpeted improvements I have it on good authority that it was pretty awful too. Pity.

So don't worry too much about Murdoch getting in on what the GAA has to offer - there have been bigger atrocities in the past, and the games are for playing and watching in the flesh, not for sitting slack-jawed in front of some overpriced, overhyped product - CGI or not.

Read more: The GAA Players Who've Played Soccer 'Across The Water' XI

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