Sunday’s All-Ireland football final was indicative of the summer’s championship; promised much, delivered little. Joe Kernan, Colman Corrigan, John O’Leary and Seamus McEnaney reflect on a disappointing year for football and suggest what corrective surgery must be embarked on ahead of 2016...
Q How would you rate Championship 2015?
Joe Kernan (JK):
It probably wasn’t the best championship ever, but there are always games that jump out at you. Mayo-Dublin and Cork-Kerry were great games, Donegal-Tyrone and Donegal-Monaghan were two typical Ulster football games. Throw in Westmeath getting to the Leinster final and Fermanagh getting to a quarter-final. There were some great days.
Overall, as championships go, it wasn’t the best.
Colman Corrigan (CC):
What a poor summer. You could pick out on one hand the number of exciting games we have had, the number of decent football games we had.
The Cork-Kerry drawn game had both excitement and decent football. Mayo-Dublin was decent too. They are very few and far between, though.
The basis skills have been completely lost for the last number of years. On Sunday and indeed, throughout the summer, the amount of hand-passes and kick-passes that went astray has been absolutely incredible.
John O’Leary (JO’L):
I don’t necessarily agree that we had a poor championship. Every year we go on with how we had a bad championship based on this backward looking view of how things were always great in the past.
Football is going through an interesting phase at the moment where security of possession is paramount, where goalkeepers are kicking the ball 15-yards and then players are guarding the ball with their life. It has become more extreme this year and the Mayo-Dublin games were perfect examples of that.
Seamus McEnaney (SM):
It was one of the worst championships in the last 15 or 20-years.
The poor nature of the All-Ireland final can be put down to poor conditions, a pity as I felt the final had the potential to be the best final in the past 20 years.
In sum, we had half an hour of decent fare during Dublin versus Mayo and it is hard to get another half hour from the rest of the championship. The Dublin-Mayo games threw up almost everything you look for in a championship match, it threw up hard-hitting, great scores and controversy. I can’t think of another game that threw up those three things this year. That is sad to say.
Q: What changes must be introduced to both improve and enhance the game?
I was going to Croke Park hoping for a good spectacle on Sunday. The weather spoiled that. It is time to put a roof on Croke Park. Imagine the atmosphere that would have been in there on Sunday with a dry surface and the noise that would have been created by a closed roof. Maybe that is a question that needs to be asked.
THE BLACK CARD
I, from the very start, was totally against the black card. I think its interpretation by referees from game-to-game is most frustrating. We have spoken about the tackle for long enough. The tackle has never been defined. The yellow card, meanwhile, is dished out for nothing offences.
The black card needs to be reinforced. It does work. It is 100% better than when we had no black card. Now that we have it, it needs to get better and be more consistent. The black card as it was used on Sunday was very clear. It was applied within the right spirit of the rules. In the semi-final, it wasn’t enforced. If it had been properly enforced in the early stages of the drawn game, the game might not have disintegrated into what it became.
The black card needs to go and thus return physicality back into the game. Manliness has gone out of the game.
At every opportunity for the past 10-years we have watered down the physicality of our game. Up until 2001, the International Rules was a great product. They watered it down to such an extent that they took the physicality out of it and it is now no longer worth watching. Now the GAA has gone the same road with Gaelic football.
The latest attempt to take the physicality out of the game has been the black card. It hasn’t worked. It has failed us miserably. Managers are playing defensive systems because they don’t want a one-on-one when you have the black card looming.
TELEVISION MATCH OFFICIAL
I think the referee needs help. I think we need a second referee in the stand watching the game on a screen. If there is a problem that the referee misses something, we need to have a second body in the stand who is wired up to the referee so it is cleared up there and then. If we solve it on the day with video evidence there is no need for all these disciplinary bodies.
200% we need a TMO. It is in place in rugby and the GAA needs to follow suit. It only takes a couple of seconds to consult an official above in the Hogan Stand if there is a dispute over an incident. Why not bring it in? It just doesn’t make sense.
That is the single most important thing that needs to change. Players are giving up their life for football and they are getting very little back in return. If you are training and putting 30 hours a week into an inter-county set-up, the least you expect on the field of play is professional officiating.
Referees need to be trained on a professional basis.
It is incredible to think goalkeepers can kick to a corner-back 14 metres away, and every goalkeeper is taking their lead from Cluxton. Invariably, it will be passed back to the goalkeeper and by the time it crosses the halfway line, you are nearly asleep. A rule will have to be introduced whereby goalkeepers have to kick the ball a certain distance.
Goalkeepers kicking the ball no further than the 20-metre line is farcical. And then when a goalkeeper does kick long, we need a rule that players have to keep to their positions so we don’t have this sight of a man catching a ball and touching the ground to be tackled by 10-men. That needs to be looked at during the league.
The kick-outs need to go further. You can kick it along the end line now and it is okay. In my day, it had to cross the 20-metre line. The ball should have to travel at least 35-metres. Maybe we need to get rid of the 20-metre line and introduce a 35-metre line to measure kick-outs.
I would be in favour of introducing a mark. The art of high fielding has disappeared from the game.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved