Changing the game, changing the script

We may never experience a GAA season again like it. With so much change afoot and some having already occurred last year, an odd cliché might fall by the wayside or at least recede. Here are 10 in great peril.

Tipperary supporters Seamus O'Donoghue, Brendan Cussen, and Dominic Browne, all from Dundrum, Co. Tipperary. Picture: Brendan Moran /SPORTSFILE

“The gap will hurt the Munster champions”

Tipperary might have backed up a provincial hurling title with an All-Ireland two years ago, but they are the only ones to do so since Cork, in 2005. The five- to six-week break has often been cited as an albatross, following a demanding provincial campaign, although the Leinster winners haven’t had as much difficulty. The break-time changes this year, as the Munster champions will have four weeks: July 1 to July 29. The Leinster champions must wait one further week.

“Take the Dubs out of Croke Park…”

Dublin will likely play two championship games out of GAA HQ this season, having comprehensively won each of the Leinster SFC matches they played on the road the past two seasons. A trip outside the province will ask more of the All-Ireland champions, but, then, 10 of their 36-game unbeaten run were achieved away from Croke Park: seven wins and three draws. Venturing beyond The Pale doesn’t spook them.

“Knock-out GAA at its best”

The line will still hold up for the football qualifiers and some of the All-Ireland series, but with the introduction of the Super 8 in football and the provincial hurling championships transforming into round-robin competitions, the proportion of do-or-die affairs will drop.

Instead, there will be attention to permutations that involve head-to-head encounters and score differences.

“Finals are for Sunday afternoons”

They are for the most part, but this year sees the Division 1 hurling final and the Munster football final follow the example of the U21 hurling final and switched to Saturday evenings. Players prefer Saturday fixtures, given they usually have an opportunity to recuperate on a Sunday and/or enjoy a drink or two, before returning to work on Monday.

“Not enough games”

There will be few complaints in this department, now that the Munster SHC almost triples in size, the Leinster SHC knock-out stages are close to double their previous incarnation, and there are eight extra All-Ireland series games in the Super 8. The guarantee of two championship games for all but New York remains too low, particularly for developing counties, but the increase, even if the knock-out element of both championships has been diluted, will mostly be welcomed.

“The ‘keeper goes short with his kick-out”

Not that Stephen Cluxton or any of his contemporaries won’t be able to restart by directing the ball to a team-mate nearby, but, as of now, they must not only kick the ball 13 metres in length, their attempts will have to pass the 20m line. Forcing goalkeepers to at least try and jettison the safety-first policy should be welcomed.

“Joe’s best position is at the edge of the square”

Canning’s most suitable role is not, as some of us might long have believed, at full-forward. The 2017 ‘hurler of the year’ might have been slightly fortunate to beat a team-mate or two, and a couple of Waterford men, to the top honour, but, then, he put in some fine shifts around the middle, toggling between centre-forward and midfield. For those still wishing for a big man being pushed to the proximity of a parallelogram, there’s always Michael Murphy.

“He swallowed the whistle”

News of Brian Gavin’s retirement from inter-county refereeing, at the age of 40, 10 years short of the limit, will disappoint many, given the common-sense attitude he brought to matches. The rulebook is never more ignored as it is by hurling referees, although the Offaly native was a favourite of many players. It’s now up to the likes of Fergal Horgan to carry on the torch, sorry, whistle.

“Blanket defence”

It might sound more aspirational than realistic, but if the adage ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ is true, then Dublin’s offensive approach should be replicated throughout the land. Tyrone, for one, know they can’t approach a championship game against Dublin the same way again. There are sounds from Monaghan, too, that the next step is to take Dublin on at their own game and get in their faces. Kerry have paid Dublin a great compliment in following their example and recruiting a basketball coach.

“The end of the road for Mayo”

If it’s in relation to September 2, then perhaps the phrase won’t die just yet, but Mayo, under Stephen Rochford, have made quite a habit of proving that reports of their demise have been exaggerated. Their doomsayers mightn’t be so quick to dismiss them, should they lose to Galway for a third time in Connacht, although that would present an incredibly long and winding road to a third consecutive All-Ireland final.



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