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Kerry recently won their 37th All Ireland Football Title against Donegal and deservingly so.
They came out on top of the ultimate war of attrition that Gaelic football has become. In the last decade when they met teams from Tyrone, Armagh and Donegal they lost out against the “mass defence system” where 12 or more players wait deep in their own half of the field for the opposition to come towards them.
Finally a Kerry manager decided to abandon a century of tradition and go with the flow. Success was achieved. It was not pretty to watch.
The ultimate defensive orientated system spawned in Ulster means that the game is now played like soccer and rugby with a mainly defensive mentality, slow repetitive build up play and few scores. These are two fine games in their own right but Gaelic football was never meant to be like that.
The GAA must urgently ponder a question, “Are we prepared as an organisation to accept the current developments in Gaelic football or are we going to take action to preserve the basic aspects and skills of the game? If the decision is to accept the modern evolution in the game, so be it. However, as the Father of Evolution Charles Darwin might then say “a new species is born” . Gaelic Football will have become extinct.
However there will be those in the GAA who are not prepared to see the game become a poor spectacle like the All Ireland. They will not allow a situation to develop where a common score in game might be 1.2 to 0.3. They may not be able to stop managers adopting the mass defensive system but they might alter the rules.
How about ensuring that all kick outs by a goalkeeper must go beyond his own 45 meter line and that all sideline kicks and frees must be played in a forward direction? How about limiting the number of players contesting kickouts in the mid field area to four as with the throw in at the start of each half - all other players to remain behind the two 45 meter lines until one of these midfield players touches the ball?
Both linesman could easily check that each team had not more than 6 defensive players behind their own 45 meter line as the kick out was taken. This would mean each team having only 6 defenders and 2 midfield players during the most common play. The remaining 6 outfield players have no option even for a short period but to be “true forwards” at the other end of the pitch.
The ultimate change in the game might be that any player receiving a hand pass would then have to kick the football when parting with it.
Pat O’ Connor
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