Smaller GAA teams would improve flow of games

Gaelic football would benefit enormously if the GAA reduced the number of players on a team to 13.

With a less crowded field, long and accurate kicking would save energy. It would be a faster way to pass the ball than by continuous running and hand passing. That would encourage intelligent use of open spaces. It would develop the skills of running onto the ball and anticipation.

As things stand, the solo run only invites clumsy tackles. It is a negative and selfish part of the game.

The advantage of 13-a-side football is that it would reduce the amount of cynical pulling and dragging. There would be less fouling. That would reduce the number of frees. It would make the referee’s job easier. It would improve the flow of the game. At present, the game has too many petty fouls and breaks in continuity.

There would be far less bunching of players around the ball in midfield. There would be fewer players to fall back into blanket defences. Instead, teams would have to adopt positive attack-minded tactics. That would yield better results. There would be more goals. The game could become a thrilling spectacle. It might become truly international. At its heart, Gaelic football contains the seeds of greatness.

To relieve the key players from over-exertion, each game could allow a team to make up to seven substitutions. The National League next year could experiment with 13 players on each side. At the local level, parishes hit by emigration would find it easier to field a team. Times change. The GAA has to change with them.

The next time you are at a football match, just pray that the referee will send off two players from each side early in the game. (The truth is that referees should flash their red cards far more often.) We might then see a real game of football as it is meant to be.

We need less of the hard men and more of the skills.

Michael Mernagh

Raheens

Carrigaline

Co Cork

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