It’s hard to imagine how Gaelic games will be played in 25 years from now. As the games evolve you can only imagine that many of the skills that have been part and parcel of the game are being lost to the over reliance on fitness, blanket defences and, of course, the dreaded game plan.
All the buzz words now; we hear them all the time from managers, players and, of course, the pundits. No one is thinking outside the box, especially when it comes to attacking the opposition. It’s much more important to get the defensive end of the game plan right before you work at your offensive end of the game. Teams now take three to four years before they are capable of competing for silverware.
Everything is rehearsed to the last, nothing is left to chance and the opportunity of individual players to use their natural ability is being taken out of the game. Everyone has to work towards the plan and the group, which I have no problem with, but taking the spontaneity out of the game is what’s killing it.
Take the minor game last Sunday between Donegal and Galway. In the past the minor game was nearly always fast flowing with both teams going flat out for the win. Both teams went into defensive structures as soon as they lost possession of the ball; it’s the modern game and that’s what we have come to expect. However, it’s the fine tuning even at such a young age as minor that threatens the game in the future.
I talked last week about the Olympic movement and how over the years they have become nothing like or near what it set out to be; how the games became more about business and money than the games themselves.Soccer or indeed rugby have become corporate giants and they are now considered more of a business than a sport. Why? Because everything became predictable; the same teams winning because they had more money or a greater capacity to entice the right players to play for their team. Apart from the Leicester City story last year, the teams that spend the most money and play a defensive type of game usually end up at the top of the tree.
Sport has become more about rehearsing what might happen than actually just playing the game and letting the players figure it out on the pitch. At one time on any county team you had a manager, trainer and a few selectors; a doctor (if you were lucky); a physio, and that was it. Now we have coaches for all areas of the field, strength and conditioning coaches, the list is endless. Instructions are given to every player for every possible or conceivable outcome. God forbid he might have to think for himself or go off on something that might not be in the script; he would be considered a non-team player.
There are plenty who see no wrong in this and the game has become a lot better for the way it has changed and to a point I have no problem with that. As all sport evolve, things naturally change and opinions change with it but if you take the decision making away from the lads on the field it’s no longer about the players; no longer would we find ourselves talking about the great score taking of the likes of Colm McFadden and the great tackling from Eamon Mc Gee or the iconic flick from Joe Canning for Galway hurlers but we would end up discussing the team formation or the game plan that the manager or coaches have put in place.
While the role of the manager is extremely important, their role has been greatly exaggerated in the last 20 years and the game is none the better for it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with teams playing the game in a certain way. What I would consider entertainment others will not but at what age do we start coaching the individual ability out of players? At what age do we determine what type of player is acceptable or not? If a player does not go through the development squad scenario will he be considered good enough for a county team in the future or will he not have the group mentality?
There is also the view that if the game becomes so predictable with every team adopting the same type of game plan it will get boring but in order to have something new or out of the ordinary we will need some innovative thinking. In order for that to happen the individual genius, not only of the manager or the coach, but more importantly the player will have to be embraced.
If you determined the state of the game of Gaelic football on the game between Mayo and Tipperary then you would come to the conclusion that the game is dying on its feet. However, considering where both teams have come from this year it might be considered harsh. Maybe next weekend’s game between Kerry and Dublin might serve up a humdinger but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
It will be interesting to see if the powers in charge will continue with the black card in the coming years, . There is not a game in this year’s championship that hasn’t escaped. After every match managers or players have questioned decision after decision. Last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final between Mayo and Tipperary changed on a black card call in the eighth minute when Tipp’s centre half-back and one of their most influential players, Robbie Kiely, was sent walking. On closer scrutiny the call seemed harsh and put Tipperary at a huge disadvantage. While it would be fair to say that Mayo were the stronger side Tipperary’s cause was not helped and when you consider how few opportunities they have got to play at this stage of the championship it’s harsh both on the player and the team that the result could have been determined by such a call.