Steven Poacher

Steven Poacher – Football is evolving, leave it alone

I HAVE now experienced a number of club Gaelic football games since the restart with the new rules in place for the first time.

On closer analysis it’s really made me wonder are they necessary and what particular benefit are they having on the game and the further stress and confusion it is causing referees particularly at club level.

In my opinion, we are sometimes quick to adapt the glass is half-empty philosophy with our games, rather than take the more optimistic approach of the glass is half-full. I don’t think there is another team sport that tinkers that much with the rules of their game.

Perspective is a wonderful thing in sport and in life. Everyone’s view on something could be looked at differently.

I, for example, feel the game has been labelled boring, dull, not entertaining for a number of reasons. Firstly, the dominance of the Dubs doesn’t help, but instead of getting bored, embrace how good this team are, enjoy watching them and feel privileged to be watching one of the greatest Gaelic Football sides ever.

Unfortunately, because of Dublin’s dominance the perception is that the game is dead, the game is boring, when in fact hurling went through a similar phase when Kilkenny were dominant, and now we have some labelling hurling as the greatest sport in the world. It’s like anything – the Dubs dominance won’t last forever.

The new rules are not making the game any better. The last few years, and particularly last year, I really did feel the game was naturally evolving on its own.

I felt last year it was coming back around again to a different style where nearly every single team now presses the opposition’s kick out. Teams tend to try and copycat the All-Ireland final so there will be an obsession in going after the opposition’s goalkeeper now.

Recently there were more goals and scores than ever before but the mark rule in my opinion has actually probably cut down the opportunities to score goals because it takes the natural flow out of the game, just one of a number of flaws with that particular rule. There are two ways of offensively playing football, you either run the ball through the hands or you kick the ball, there is no other way to attack, the really good teams can mix it up and do both, if you watch Kerry v Dublin last year you will see elements of really good attacks launched through kick passing and others through the hand, take Jack Mc Caffrey’s goal in the first half of the first game, it had a little bit of everything, kicking, hand passing, off the shoulder running, support play, and clinical finishing.

Take the kick out rule. In the three games I have seen I have witnessed numerous and unnecessary hop balls being given by overzealous referees in the past few weeks.

The modern day goalkeepers get the ball away so quick and free kicks and side-lines are restarted so quickly now that ball-in-play statistics are through the roof but now we have to wait longer now for a goalkeeper to run to the 21m line every single time, while also waiting on the players to leave the 21 and the D.

Most top teams are encouraging their goalkeeper to get the ball restarted inside five seconds, to get play going as quick as possible, which in turn will lead to a better spectacle.

If a player is only getting out past the 21 after the goalkeeper kicks it, does it really matter that much? Just over a decade ago ball in-play statistics for a normal inter county game might only have been 30 minutes, some are now well over 40mins but we have introduced both an offensive mark and defensive mark that will allow players nearly 20 seconds from the time of the play until they can restart again, and we have slowed the goalkeepers restarts down even further.

We need to be very careful, we are not creating a hybrid version of the game that is stifling all creativity and flow from the team and the individual! Players are technically, tactically and physically in better shape than ever.

Leave the game alone, just let the game evolve naturally and let’s see who can topple the Dubs. If nobody can this year, then just marvel at everything they do good in our brilliant sport – but remember, nothing lasts forever..

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW