Gaelic football still the game they love to hate

The solution, for long-suffering devotees of Gaelic football, was staring us in the face all these years. Or rather it was turning its back on us.

Gaelic football still the game they love to hate

The Poznan. The famous old goal celebration, invented in Poland in the 60s, and adopted, from time to time, by the likes of Manchester City, Celtic, and Alaves.

Fans joining arms, jumping up and down, and facing away from the pitch.

Hopefully, it wouldn’t have to go through Congress. But popularise the Poznan after every point scored and you might just have the perfect way to support your Gaelic football team, cutting way down on the obligation to watch the Gaelic football.

It has been abundantly clear for many decades that there is nothing that maddens Gah Man or Gah Woman more than the gah. There is nobody who hates Gaelic football more than lovers of Gaelic football. Fixing Gaelic football has always been their number one priority.

In many ways, the revulsion Gaelic football people hold for Gaelic football is the most impressive thing about the game.

Gah Man is on board, not because there is anything it in for him, entertainment-wise; he is on board because there is something fundamental bringing him to these matches, despite everything he has to face into when he lands.

There is something very admirable about that. And as the durability of the gah has proven, it’s a far more solid foundation for a sport than any fanciful ideas about enjoying yourself at a sporting fixture.

Even as our society lurches dangerously in unpredictable directions, it remains unthinkable that we’d let go of this one certainty, that people would become satisfied with Gaelic football.

Sure, the grumbling has died down from time to time over the years as Gah Man’s other major concern comes to the fore.


It looks like there will never come a time either when there is satisfaction with structures. Gah Man will never scan a fixture list and simply assess the season’s possibilities; he is compelled to tear it up and start again, informing himself and others how the campaign should look.

There is no Gah Man who hasn’t devised his own structures. But he finally got new structures this season, with the Super 8, and even though he still isn’t satisfied, it has given him a small break to get back to brass tacks, the state of the football.

Which isn’t good, as you might expect.

The investigations into the state of the football are piling up. Colm Parkinson has concluded that it is “shit”.

Colm O’Rourke has called the modern game “horrible”.

Paul Galvin had the sobering realisation lately that very few Gaelic footballers own a Gaelic football, which might account for some deficiency in the skills. Gah Man might be able to face going to games, but seemingly Gah Player can’t quite stomach bringing the game home.

At times like this, Soccer Man, who knows his way around dissatisfaction too, tends to centre his investigations on the little guy on the street.

But when he took to the streets lately, Ronan Early of The Times discovered that there is no Gaelic football at all being played out there. And maybe there never was.

On top of all that, Gah Man has to cope with tactics. Chief among the long list of things upsetting Gah Man this week was the protracted spell of possession the Dubs had at the end of their win over Donegal.

That really stuck in Gah Man’s craw.

One of the great problems for Gah Man is that the game he wants to see is reliant on players approaching it as if their lives are at stake, and managers taking the view that it doesn’t really matter who wins.

The moment managers realised there might be some mileage in keeping the ball, or getting more than six lads back to help out with the defending, Gah Man had a problem.

Ever since, any spare moment not spent devising new structures has been devoted to imagining tweaks and nips and tucks to the sport, trying to reverse engineer a way back to the game he loved, though still mainly hated.

In many ways, Gah Man is like the rest of us. He is a sucker for nostalgia. There was always a time when the game was better, when there was more catching and better kicking, even if the structures were wrong.

And yet, there is something about Gah Man that separates him too, certainly from the likes of Rugby Man.

As Gah Man works himself into a stage of outrage at the sight of Gaelic footballers passing to one another, it is striking how satisfied Rugby Man is.

Of course there may be more fundamental reasons why Rugby Man is satisfied with his lot in life but he is also happy enough to watch lads kick the ball up in the air, or out over the sideline, or throw the ball to one another, or pull at each other like crows at a torn binbag.

While Gah Man is maddened by these things, Rugby Man is content to construct elaborate jargon to describe them, to keep himself amused.

I suppose he doesn’t know any better. And perhaps that is what truly separates Gah Man, what makes him one of the great optimists, behind all the pessimism.

He has seen things. He has seen a dropped shoulder, a chipped pick-up. He has seen them curled over from the wrong sideline, with the outside of the foot. He has seen lads soar and pluck. He has seen the Gooch.

His great enduring optimism is never more evident than on weeks like this, when he is fondly saying goodbye to players like Colm O’Neill.

Players who gave him a glimpse, who showed him enough to ensure he will never turn his back on the game.

Just let the Miller match flow

It is one of the great curiosities and contradictions of GAA life, the rather relaxed attitude to the rulebook when a game is on compared to its fastidious application once the match is over.

When the GAA referee turns a blind eye to the litany of half-fouls and even full fouls that take place under his nose every few seconds, to the succession of pulls and dunts that are sanctioned nowhere in the rulebook, he is invariably praised for his common sense, for letting the game flow.

But then, when time is up and lads have to be suspended or various other things get done, every avenue will be exhausted to make sure the letter of the law applies.

And so it is with the Liam Miller benefit match, a match everyone wants to take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but can’t take place there because the rulebook says so.

It is at this point that a decent referee would briefly forget what it says in the rulebook, would show a bit of common sense, and let the game flow.

Heroes & villains


Phil Healy: This unexpected wave of athletics progress is grand, but we need nicknames to match if we are to sell it. We need another ‘Chairman of the Boards’, or ideally someone to take the mantle from Bertie Messitt, the CIE bus conductor and middle distance Olympian who, magnificently, became the ‘Lightning Conductor’. As for Phil, it’s not solid gold, but the Bandon Bullet is at least a step in the right direction.

Watford: Spared us an ‘unveiling’ of their new away shirt, instead posting one to every fan who made it to all their away games last season. A rare nod to their loyal base at a time when Premier League clubs are touring the world scouting for long-distance supporters and TV revenue.


Maurizio Sarri: Confirmed, on arrival at Chelsea, that he is not racist, sexist, or homophobic, despite any previous impressions he may have given.

On that happy note, maybe it would be only fair to give the man an early crack at the stairway, since there’s every chance he’ll be spending a fair bit of time down below. But life is not always fair.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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