Armagh’s 1999 Ulster SFC winning captain made the staggering comment on Twitter following the game. Clerkin responded to Burns, challenging the wisdom of using the social platform to make such a claim but received no reply.
“From my point of view, I just felt on something like Twitter or social media outlets where people are prone to off-the-cuff, not particularly well thought-out views it wouldn’t be a standard forum for official people or bodies to make those comments.
“Considering Jarlath’s new position, the integrity of it and the significance of what he’s been tasked to deal with and the complexity of it where there’s no silver bullet, the comments he made don’t tie in with that. The underlying issues that are contributing to what you might have seen in Croke Park on Saturday night are so vast and so varied it needs a much more holistic, well thought-out approach. I would have felt Jarlath’s comments were a bit ill-advised. There seems to be a preconceived notion of what they’re dealing with before a page is turned, which really isn’t the way you need to go into looking at things.”
Clerkin has no love for the ultra-defensive style but is concerned about how it might be tackled. “Things get lost in the mud in the sense that if you comment against the manner in which people are trying to target or criticise the way games are being played you’re almost seen to say it’s okay, which is not the case.
“I wouldn’t see the trends we’re recognising in Gaelic football as being a good thing, for want of a better term. You’d prefer if it wasn’t happening but most people are complicit in it in varying degrees. Going back to the old ways is not going to solve the problem. You have to ask why is it happening as opposed to looking for solutions to counter the symptoms which are mass blanket defences and everything that goes with it.”
It’s Clerkin’s opinion the baby can’t be thrown out of with the bathwater. “It doesn’t happen at school, minor and the majority of club levels. You just don’t see it as much. It’s the same rules, same pitch and same game so why is it only happening predominantly in inter-county football? Before we start saying ‘oh, it’s the rules, it’s the managers’ you need to break it down and ask why is it happening.
“Why did Saturday happen, why did Derry play like they did? Brian McIver was very honest after the game. You couldn’t fault what he said. Last year, they tried to play a bit more expansive football against Dublin and got beaten out the gate and got ridiculed. As he said, for the purpose of entertainment were they expected to do the same with a weakened panel?
“They had to do what they felt was the best way to try and get a result. He was quite entitled to play a game-plan he felt would work with the resources at his disposal and the team he was facing. Nobody chose to focus on that. ‘The death of Gaelic football’ was the best the person charged with fixing this problem could surmise from it. To me, that’s amateur at best and that’s my frustration. Jarlath’s position commands a little bit more professionalism and not kneejerk comments.”