Renowned Gaelic football coach John McCloskey believes the game is advancing significantly because of the strong links between third level institutions and county teams.

The 2002 All-Ireland winning coach, who is again assisting Joe Kernan with Ireland’s International Rules team, feels the relationships puts it far ahead of soccer in terms of evolution as a sport.

“The game at home is benefitting from a lot of research at university level and there are close ties with some of the counties. What goes on in professional sports tends to seep into our game. In the last few years though, what has been great is that research specific to our game through PhD and Masters is now informing the professional game.

“I think we have some great research work at home being done in universities and some great coaches, and I think we should be more proud of that rather than always saying that the professional games are the leaders. That hasn’t always been the case. I know from my experience as a coach watching soccer that they are miles behind what we were doing in Gaelic games so we need to be a little more positive about our own skills and the people we have.

“That’s another aspect of this game (International Rules). I’m proud to come from a GAA background, proud of the coaches we have and proud of our game. This is an opportunity for us to showcase what we’re doing well in the GAA.”

Australia are aiming to take the skill out of tomorrow’s first International Rules test but McCloskey says Ireland have been focusing on doing what they should be doing best.

“The first thing you have to do is accentuate the positive. We’re supposed to be better kickers of the ball. Sometimes, watching the game it doesn’t always seem that way. That was the main emphasis we had coming in. The training for this is straightforward, simple: we’re going to practise skills. We depend on guys working away from us on their own fitness. That’s what we’ve done.

“There’s only so much we can do about the tackle – only so much progress we can make in the amount of time we have. We pay attention to it but we concentrate on our positives, which are kicking and taking the score. Three points for an over should be bread and butter to our guys. Work the ball into good positions and if we can take five a quarter, that’s 60 points, but a very achievable goal.”

After the introduction of the mark this year, McCloskey suggests Gaelic football may see another International Rules element implemented after the recent decision by Special Congress to make all kick-outs pass the 20-metre line.

“A good coach is a bit of a magpie, taking things from everywhere. They say that there’s things they can learn from Gaelic games in the same way that we have learned from Aussie Rules, soccer and rugby.

“The mark has come into our game partly as an influence from the international experience. Maybe the required kick beyond the 45 might come in, in the future, into our game.”


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