Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: A league of its own

LAST Sunday’s thrilling final between Glen and St Brigid’s has really engrossed football fans this week with a huge amount of positivity surrounding the game for a change.

Normally the doom merchants are out in force and the death knell of Gaelic Football term is regularly used. The tactical battle last Sunday was intriguing, particularly late in the game when Glen, as they have done on numerous times this season, showed a huge level of game intelligence including a very effective counter press high up the field.

In the first half, Brigid’s played some wonderful football with kick passing and risk-taking all in abundance coupled with a savage level of defensive intensity in their game.

Ben O’Carroll has an enormous future in the game and his sublime back door cut for the Brigid’s goal just after half time was one of the games high points. Conor Glass leadership and game sense in big clutch moments continues to defy belief.

It has raised many talking points, the main one being how watchable the club game has been this year, but from a coaching perspective, it stands out how more advanced the coaching is at the top level of the club game. For me personally it surpasses a lot of coaching at inter county level.

Anyway, this weekend, the intercounty season really begins and the anticipation in Ulster is probably centred around a handful of teams notably Derry under Harte and Donegal under McGuinness.

That aside there are still many points of discussion: the coaching question heading into this weekend for me revolves around all the Ulster counties and what Gilligan, Meenagh, McGuinness, Harte, and Galligan will add or introduce in their new roles? Will Fermanagh evolve from an ultra-defensive system? Will Antrim begin to manage games more effectively, can Tyrone find a settled way of playing instead of the hybrid system they have been caught in and can Monaghan continue to defy logic and stay competing with the top table?

The game is certainly evolving. Many call it innovation, but all innovation is, is something new or a change made to an existing product, idea or field. Gaelic Football has seen many innovations recently, the game is evolving and for me is a brilliant intriguing spectacle.

Of course there will be bad games, low scoring games, boring games – that happens in every single sport in the world, Gaelic Football is no different. Emphasis on turnovers now is so important: over 60% of scores in Gaelic Football come from turnovers and how teams tackle is now strategic, with many teams favouring setting traps and channelling opposition into certain areas of the field.

Conceding kick outs, pressing kick outs man-to-man, or going zonal, getting your own restarts away and using them as a platform to launch attacks from – it’s a very intriguing part of the game and so important. Some teams with a big middle third will want to go ultra aggressive and try and force teams to go long, others with not the same size will want to go short and maybe set traps for opposition by conceding the kick out.

How teams transition is so important in the outlook of a game. A slow ponderous build up is stagnant and poor on the eye but the top teams do it at pace. Watch the penetration, fluidity of the move, the support play, the decision making, the pace and the panache.

Good teams will break fast and forward and mix their game up with running the ball or kicking. After a turnover your top, op teams will punish and hurt you within 15 seconds. Adding height, depth and width into an attack now has become so prevalent, with Derry being the template for this innovation. Basketball style offensive patterns and plays are now in vogue, cutting open and dismantling those teams who decide to sit deep.

The national league for me, is unquestionably our greatest competition, I for one cant wait to see what tactical nous we are discussing come Sunday night.

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