Give Gaelic football a break, and while you're at it, give the Dubs a break too

Give Gaelic football a break, and while you're at it, give the Dubs a break too
Tyrone supporters on Hill 16 celebrate a score during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Pic: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

By Peter McNamara

The Gaelic football bashing has become overly-tedious.

Is it impossible for people to just appreciate the game as it is? At the highest level, football is now “unwatchable” according to Colm O’Rourke.

Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly nod in agreement.

Now, it goes without saying those three guys will probably forget more about the game than I will ever know.

Thing is, what exactly do people want the code to be? Are people looking for 4-25 apiece draws every time the cameras are covering a match?

Then, if that were the case, you can bet your bottom dollar people would be moaning about the standard of defending.

It seems, essentially, football can’t win.

Yet, the All-Ireland SFC final last Sunday was probably more entertaining than the All-Ireland SHC final was, in terms of the respective skills of each code, and their execution.

Fr Bryan Shorthall, left, with, from left to right, Dublin footballers, Ciarán Kilkenny, Dean Rock, Brother Kevin Crowley and Jimmy Gavin, father of Dublin manager Jim Gavin, during the Dublin All-Ireland Football Winning team homecoming at Smithfield in Dublin. Pic: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Fr Bryan Shorthall, left, with, from left to right, Dublin footballers, Ciarán Kilkenny, Dean Rock, Brother Kevin Crowley and Jimmy Gavin, father of Dublin manager Jim Gavin, during the Dublin All-Ireland Football Winning team homecoming at Smithfield in Dublin. Pic: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The Limerick-Galway encounter was memorable for the historic element of the Treaty ending a 45-year wait and how special that was for the people of the county. Personally, I enjoyed that day immensely, possibly more than any other trip to Croke Park made in recent years. Excitement-wise, specifically in those closing stages, it would have trumped most other sporting occasions.

Yet, I am not blinded by my adoration of hurling enough to suggest it was a decent game. The fact of the matter is, it wasn’t. At all.

However, how many have come out and said that?

As a GAA person that has a deep-rooted grá for both codes, I find the constant negativity surrounding football, in contrast to the way hurling is perceived, to be quite grating.

Hurling is a majestic game. And we all love it dearly. Yet, people need to stop basing the standards of football on hurling or what they believe to be the standards of the small-ball code.

They are completely different sports, played in completely different ways.

When you ask people what they seek from football they say they require more excitement.

People want the game to be “less ponderous”, for example. Basically, what they are intimating there is that they loathe the code for being possession-driven.

Yet, those same people will sit down any day of the week, watch a soccer match and applaud the side that retains the ball better than the other. Go figure!

A sport doesn’t have to be played at 100 miles per hour for it to be exciting.

And every play doesn’t have to result in a jaw-dropping moment. Do people even realise how hard it must be for teams to retain possession in football until the time comes to prod the defensive line? It must be incredibly difficult, especially with so much at stake.

Those that bemoan the game football has evolved into are probably the same people that fail to appreciate brilliantly-executed defensive gameplans in soccer.

You hear of people switching off from the match last Sunday at various junctures because it was “predictable” who was going to win from a long way out.

Dublin’s greatness is a frustration for many.

But was it Dublin’s fault Tyrone kicked 16 wides thus rendering the outcome borderline inevitable before the end?

If we halved the wides Dublin and Tyrone had last Sunday Jim Gavin’s men would have won by just one point.

Of course, it’s not an exact science, but by taking half of a wide count and adding it to the actual tally of a team, is a good indicator of the score which a side should have posted relative to their performance. So, for the purposes of this exercise, add three points to Dublin and eight to Tyrone, hence the hypothetical one-point Dublin triumph.

And on that basis, Dublin, similar to their finals against Mayo, were not actually that dominant over Mickey Harte’s unit in open play. They just manipulate the percentages far better than any other team. Dublin are the most economical outfit around, after all.

But working on economising your possessions efficiently is not something dependent on how much a county board receives in sponsorship.

A poor junior team can work on their efficiency levels.

Top-level inter-county sides have no excuse when it comes to utilising the ball as effectively as needs be.

People talk of the advantages Dublin have. For the record, I don’t think the whole population argument is as strong an argument as the financial support they receive.

After all, the population was always there, it’s just nowadays they are putting it to good use.

When people make the case that Dublin receive the most financial backing, you can certainly understand where that argument is originating from.

Yet, all of those ‘advantages’ are not advantages unless a lot of hard work is put in to make sure they are churned to their advantage in the first place.

Dublin’s success is definitely a major factor as to why people are less enamoured with football of late.

Let’s call a spade a spade, if we had four different winners of the Sam Maguire in the last four years very few would be giving out about the state of the code.

Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates a late point against Tyrone. Kilkenny deserves the Footballer of the Year award. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates a late point against Tyrone. Kilkenny deserves the Footballer of the Year award. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Yet, here we are with the footballing world about to implode. Nonsense.

Football is not in as bad a shape as a lot of people reckon.

The Super 8s were generally a success and can be made even more appealing next year if the GAA keep more games outside of Croke Park.

Dublin, of course, should go on and complete five-in-a-row.

However, in 2020, they may become more vulnerable.

Regardless, people should embrace the excellence that Dublin bring to the table.

Take Ciarán Kilkenny, for instance. The Castleknock man is now odds-on favourite to be Footballer of the Year and rightly so.

How can people not be enthralled by the brilliance he displays?

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