ON Monday night past, I switched on Sky Sports around 10pm for my weekly dose of Monday Night Football with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
For me, that last hour is one of the best analytical football shows on TV. They analyse the game in great depth and from a coach’s perspective it’s gold dust, not just a soccer coach, coaches across all sports.
One of the standout features of Monday night was the lingo that some of the coaches were using like ‘double 9s’, ‘double 6s’, ‘low blocks’, ‘high transitions’, ‘attacking inside’ and ‘attacking outside’, it was really intriguing to get a tactical insight into the game.
Over the last few years, there have been some real advances made in Gaelic football coaching and managing. Basketball coaching has become extremely relevant, even the appointment of Kieran Donaghy to Armagh, who has a huge basketball background, will undoubtedly add to their game.
The game of Gaelic football has changed for sure, some may argue for the better and some for the worse but whatever the thoughts are I personally feel the game is in a good place.
Throughout all my thinking about the advances made in coaching another thought crept into my head while listening to numerous interviews over the past year from managers – the modern day coaching lingo.
So as the coaching in our game keeps evolving and becomes more and more tactical, here’s some terms which you are likely to hear associated with coaching and analysing in the modern game of Gaelic football and some you may come across this season;
Possession restarts – Dublin created this phenomenon a number of years ago of renaming the old term kick-outs to possession restarts. This doesn’t just include kick-outs but also free kicks, sideline balls, basically anytime the game is being restarted with your team in possession with the emphasis on keeping the ball.
Channelling – Basically associated with coaching tackling/defending, delaying a tackle on a forward in order to direct him/her into a particular direction e.g., towards the sideline or another defender. Smart defenders will try to force the opposing player into the channel where he will have to use his weaker side.
A lot of the top teams are now being coached not to dive into the tackle but rather channel your opponent towards the sideline as a result cutting off the options for the man in possession of the ball and using the sideline as an extra defender.
The backdoor cut – the craze surrounding the backdoor cut, a basketball type move, originated from the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny and Conor McManus, to name a few, is when a forward makes a run towards the ball carrier but then cuts back aggressively towards the goal in a V type shape movement. It is very difficult for a defender to defend against.
Line-breaker – take the current champions, Dublin. They have the best line-breakers in the country, guys that can break lines in the opposition’s rear-guard.
For example, if the opposition play a high line in the middle third you need players with the pace and athleticism to be able to penetrate these lines and open up the game like a Fenton, Con O’Callagan, Kilkenny.
Dublin’s ability to break lines opens up the whole game up for them on most occasions and they are mixing the athletic ability with the technical ability as well. Tyrone, despite exiting last year’s championship to Donegal, also possess plenty of effective line-breakers.
Middle third pressing – some teams will prefer to flood the middle third with a staggered line of inside forwards and half-forwards and midfielders, putting pressure on the opposition higher up the field and hoping to punish a mistake which, in turn, would lead to a better scoring opportunity closer to the opponent’s goal.
Cork did this very effectively last year against Kerry in the Munster semi-final, flooding the middle third with bodies, not pressing high and systematically fouling Kerry in areas they couldn’t hurt Cork defensively.
Counter counter-attack – the counter-attack was a military tactic used by one army successfully defending the advances of another army and responding to them with an attack of their own. Teams are at their most vulnerable when they lose the ball high up the field in an attacking situation but how do teams respond to the counter counter-attack?
That’s a team who is attacking, has the ball turned over, but wins it back due to an opposition being too hasty and panicky in possession.
These situations happen all too frequently during games and can be coached.Dublin are easily the best team in the country at covering this counter-counter, they always like to have a plus one in place in case a counter-attack is repelled and will very seldom, if in fact ever, leave themselves open to a fast break.
Layered defence – A progressive defensive system which has a lot of players into the defensive zone in layers, typically something like Fermanagh operated at times in the last few years with maybe three staggered lines of defence starting with their half-back line, their cover and their full-back line.
Tyrone had been operating a deep-lying layered defence for a couple of seasons under Mickey Harte, producing some very impressive displays of counter-attacking football. It will be interesting to see how they evolve.
Sliding defence – A defence who defends inside the forwards and forces the opposition to move wide eventually restricting the spaces.
Dublin do it excellently, probably better than most with the deployment in recent years of Cian O’Sullivan and, more recently, Johnny Cooper who operated most of the previous few years as the defensive sweeper.
It’s very much a basketball type defensive ploy, keeping opposition outside the D, away from the scoring zone, forcing them down sidelines and into blind alleys.