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Bit of GAA reading

  • 26-10-2018 8:52pm
    Closed Accounts Posts: 3,957 ✭✭✭

    Want to read a blog I did here at my Wordpress site-

    Hopefully some of you do and will comment on it. Thanks anyway.

    Gaelic Football: Then and now
    A thought occurred to me earlier this year while hearing the onslaught of complaining by “true Gaels” about the way modern Gaelic football is played. That the players in the all ireland final should be required to play an exhibition game alongside the all ireland final. The rules of the exhibition would be a love letter to the glorious 90s era of football we keep hearing about. Marking would be man to man, players would only run when they have the ball, expect to receive the ball or when an opponent in their immediate vicinity has the ball. Goalkeepers would be required to kick every kickout and possession high and long into the middle of the field. Keeping possession would be a low value target. The ball would always be played forward regardless of forward attacking players being in good or bad positions. Defenders would give the ball to forwards and never consider trying to score or get in attacking positions themselves. Then the isolated forwards would in turn carry the ball until they ran out of gas and then take low percentage shots often completely outside their maximum scoring zone…or just be whistled for charging or overcarrying or just lose possession after muddling around with the ball for a few seconds. The game played with this kind of structure would lead to an exciting wasteful jumble where the teams would score far less than they would playing to their normal structure. You get the picture..get what I’m trying to say?

    Of course, what was happening at county level back then pales in comparison to what was happening at club senior and underage level. Jesus, when I think back at the coaching and tactical advice we received back when I was underage or a young adult it makes me shake my head in sheer bewilderment. It can be summed up by if you were picked right wing forward you stayed at right wing forward or be shouted at from the line to ‘stay in your ****ing position’. It was of course never explained what was the value of this positional frigidity. Those counseling it never gave it any thought, it was just what they had been told all through their own playing career. Hence if you were fitter than your opponent it was to no real advantage. Of course in the modern game at all levels every outfield player is basically an auxiliary midfielder and the nonsensically stiff way the game was played in the 90s is dead in the ditch.

    If the on game instruction was disastrous then what went on in training, at least at our club, was even worse. Some of the drills I have took part in …well in the words of Batty in Blade Runner “you people wouldn’t believe”. I’ll give you one of the worst; one “drill” completed often was for the entire squad to run across the pitch in one extremely long line with one ball being fisted across the line to the next person who was about two yards away. The aim was to stay in a perfect line while you ran in an extremely slow jog (I cannot emphasis enough what a slow jog this was). What was the value or point in this exercise? What skill did it enhance? It was never addressed.

    In terms of motivational tools or inspiring speeches well there were a few over the years but the ones that were bad were really crap. One senior manager we had specifically instructed us to just launch all ball at the full forward and never to take short free kicks as we “didn’t have it in us to play football yet”. The same guy also placed a messianic importance on the throw-in. He would go to the point of putting a large amount of blame on defeats on losing the throw-in. It’s basically one possession in a game of about five hundred possessions but this didn’t seem to matter to him.

    These were the extreme examples of bad coaching we received but all along the years we came through so many managers who clearly thought so little about the coaching methods they employed. It wasn’t really their fault. They were just products of the age and thinking of the time. But it did make training incredibly frustrating and unenjoyable which led us all to expect that was what training was meant to feel like; terrible and pointless. The managers who coached us probably had the same experience of training from their own coaches. Toxic methods passed down from generation to generation.

    The 90s was a fairly honest if unsavvy age for all of growing up. Most of us were served meat, veg and potatoes dinners every evening by our mothers where the meat was often cheap, the potatoes if mashed were lumpy and if boiled were hard and the boiled vegetables were watery. Our fathers worked uncomplicated repetitive jobs and mostly never had any education beyond the age of sixteen. It was an age of simplicity and repetition with alcohol and gambling used liberally to provide much needed relief to the tedium. An age where new ideas did not flourish and not much thought was given to changing the way we had always done things. Things have massively changed in the meantime as our economy has become more international and ideas and ideologies spread through the internet and third level education. In this changing environment its only natural that GAA has modernized.

    Gaelic Football in the 90s was extremely enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. It was pure and often tension filled and the great spectacles of that age initially paid for Croke Park’s redevelopment and set the GAA up for the popularity of today. Hurling these days reminds me of the Football of back then. Uncomplicated, thrilling, manly and games capable of ebbing and flowing in completely unpredictable ways. It was a bit mad too. I remember around the time Eire og of Carlow were one of the best club teams in the country and I attended a semi final they played in in Newbridge. They had a forward who went by the nickname of the “Rooster”. At half time on the day to celebrate the cult of the “Rooster”, an actual rooster was released onto the pitch and then chased by a couple of kids and adults who’s job it was to capture the Rooster. This spectacle went on for about 10 mins. It was a load of nonsense but it’s an example of the stuff that went on when the game was truly amateur in both revenue earned and the mindset of the association.

    As this piece reflects I look back at the 90s era of Gaelic football with mixed feelings. For every memory of the butt-clenching but glorious tension I felt following Kildare in that era there is the memory of how it gave way to the early noughties and Kildare’s era as kings of Leinster slipping away. For every memory of the good times I had playing for my club underage, there’s the reality that it gave way to a largely unenjoyable time out of underage and out of my depth while also having to work under hopeless and tedious coaching. The era now relies on different principles based on sports science and high performance. The era of dressing room rhetoric like having a “bitta pride in the ****ing jersey lads” and “come on ta ****” is largely frowned upon even at club level.

    For all that the GAA has changed, (you should use the word improved here in my opinion), it’s still the same in terms of being a national obsession and a bulwark of community in Ireland. The relationship my childhood friends and I have is forged as much from the GAA club we grew up playing for than it is from going to school together. It’s always going to be part of the people who played it for a significant length of time and its always going to be there to be passed onto the next generation. Appreciate it because in Ireland there’s nothing like it and it’s never going away