Fermanagh’s blanket leaves Tipp boss cold

Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns is not a fan of the way Rory Gallagher sets up Fermanagh but he recognises Gaelic football is a results business.

In a clogged Division 2, Fermanagh sit joint top and Tipperary are a point behind them after they picked up their first win over promotion favourites Donegal in Semple Stadium on Sunday.

In a low-scoring affair, the Erne County were unfortunate not to come away with a win from Thurles last Sunday week and Kearns recognises Gallagher’s pragmatism.

“I suppose a manager sets his team up to get a result. He got a result against Cork, he got a result there, and he got a result off us in Thurles. I have to say in Thurles, I wouldn’t set my team up that way, but a manager has to set up his team the best way to get a result.

“It is a results business, and Rory would say ‘if I keep Fermanagh in Division 2…’

“I presume he thinks it’s the best way of going about it. They get 15 behind the ball and it’s very hard to break them down.

“We did break down the blanket numerous times but we just didn’t finish and that was the issue for us. But in Enniskillen they’d be very difficult to break down because it’s a tighter pitch, way tougher.

“I can only speak for my own teams, we never did that. You have to take cognisance of your defence but at the same time when you’re playing a team with 15 behind the ball then you have to have a lot back yourself to cover yourself.

When you’re playing a team that plays that way it dictates to you that you have to play that way. It dictates how you’re going to play the game. But I do think it’s getting away from it and I think hopefully it will continue to get away from it because I don’t think there’s any entertainment value in it.

Kearns spoke last week of the onus on managers to make the game more attractive although Tipperary’s chief target at the moment is Division 2 survival given the injuries they have had.

For that very reason, the Kerry native doesn’t see the team being as impressive as they were last year.

“Our target is to stay in Division 2. We barely missed out on Division 1 last year. We were the best team in Division 2 last year, we should have gotten to Division 1. But I said at the time, were we ready for Division 1? If we were in Division 1 with the losses we had, we’d be in big trouble.”

With a trip to Armagh on Sunday week next on the agenda, Tipperary and the other 31 teams are approaching the halfway point of the league and the test basis for the experimental rules. He is unsure the mark is working like it was intended because it can be claimed “to the chest”.

The sin bin also needs amending, he believes, as it can exacerbate defensive football.

“Ten minutes is a fair amount of time playing with 14 men. And it actually encourages defensive play. Like, if you get down to 14 men you’re going to go defensive for 10 minutes and say, ‘okay, we won’t give away any scores’, a bit like rugby. When they have the extra man they go after it but when they don’t they defend it. The GAA will take the same approach.”

Meanwhile, Tipperary midfielder Steven O’Brien says their rousing finish to beat Donegal on Sunday has given them “a benchmark” to replicate. “Anytime from now on that we don’t get as good a performance as this, we are below standard. We know what we can do. Consistency going forward is key.”

Having fallen rather tamely to Meath in the opening round and managing only five scores from play at home to Fermanagh, O’Brien said they simply had to show up on Sunday.

“This was our third game and we badly needed the points the way Division 2 has gone. What we wanted, most importantly, was a performance. The last two games, we left them behind us because we didn’t show up on the day.

“Obviously, it is great to beat the likes of Donegal, one of the big teams, but for us, it was the performance, that is what we wanted. Results can go any way in this division. So, if we can keep performing, God knows what can happen.”

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