OISIN MCCONVILLE: Gaelic football is becoming very hard to watch

Well, I have to say that the Tyrone-Monaghan match was one of the poorest All-Ireland semi-finals I’ve seen in a long, long time, writes Oisin McConville.

The first instinct would be to say that it was too defensive but there was more to it than that. There was a real lack of quality at Croke Park yesterday, with no intensity for the most part and little bite.

Neither team will be happy with the standard of their shooting and some of the decision-making was terrible. The ball retention wasn’t what it should have been. Rory Beggan coming up the field late on and ballooning the ball into the air was essentially the match in a nutshell.

When you look at the quality both teams possess, we expected more. Tyrone have an awful lot to work on in three weeks as Mickey Harte tries to work out how they can beat Dublin — it looks a tall order. Tyrone were deserving winners yesterday. They were marginally better but when all is said and done, they would not have been overly happy with what they produced. But they still have an All-Ireland final to look forward to, but perhaps that’s more down to the fact there are so few viable alternatives, outside Dublin.

Yesterday, it was like watching rugby league at times, where one team has an attack whilst the other defends and then vice-versa. That’s what tends to happen when both teams concede kick-outs. Monaghan didn’t apply the full court press until the 68th minute of the match and by then it was just too late.

Conceding kick-outs means there’s no momentum in games and that in turn means it becomes more and more difficult for supporters to get involved. There’s so much cynicism in football, with players going down injured to stop the opposition getting a chance to build up a head of steam.

At half-time, Monaghan’s fans would’ve been content enough to go in level. They’ll rue a few things that didn’t go their way but yesterday was the third time this summer they’ve gotten themselves into a winning position and weren’t able to take advantage, with their outings against Fermanagh and then Kerry coming to mind.

For a team that had an impressive year, their greatest strength — good decision-making — abandoned them when it was needed most. Monaghan had a purple patch in the middle of the second half and Conor McManus edged them in front. However, they didn’t make enough hay and the goal that Niall Sludden scored was vital.

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

Malachy O’Rourke is a conservative manager and he wasn’t overly happy with the performance of Anthony Nolan, the match referee. For me, he never let the game flow and he even facilitated a game that was so poor. The free count, as it was on Saturday when Dublin brushed aside Galway, was huge.

Over the weekend, you’d have missed Mayo. When they come to town to take on Dublin or whoever, they’ll match up physically and man for man. It’s always exciting.

Tyrone will bring something to the table against Dublin but you don’t really have to be a genius to work out they’ll flood 14 or 15 men behind the ball and try and frustrate Jim Gavin’s team and stay in the game for as long as possible.

Colm Cavanagh had a good game yesterday but I can’t see him occupying that position in the final trying to protect the ‘D’. Dublin have enough quality to score from outside of there and that will present a huge problem for Tyrone. To be honest, I feel it’s almost impossible for Tyrone to beat Dublin, who have the best team and the best players. They’re so fluid.

The whole championship has been something of a let-down. I was at the hurling semi-final two weeks ago, Limerick against Cork, and you’d be afraid to run to the bathroom during the game in case you missed something. At a football match these days you can take a newspaper and read it from cover to cover as there’s not a lot happening.

Teams are too content to just hold onto the ball, even Dublin have done it this year and the weekend before last when Donegal had a four-point lead and Tyrone on the ropes, they tried it too. Players turning backwards.

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

It’s become part of the mindset and that is not going to go away overnight. When Jim McGuinness brought in defensive football it was innovative and for him to win an All-Ireland with Donegal in 2012 was one of the greatest coaching achievements ever. However, packing defences is not innovative anymore — it’s past its life expectancy — and one of the things we seldom see in football anymore is a player in the full-forward line whose sole responsibility is to stay in the full-forward line.

Maybe it’s time for two refs and a limit on the number of players in each half of the field? Tinkering this may be, but the mindsets msut change. At the minute, football is becoming very hard to watch.

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