Why is defending a bad thing in GAA?

Gaelic Football people seem to me to be the only people who are constantly critical of their sport.  Eugene Mc Gee with the Irish Independent is one journalist who I read quite a bit and while I find things he has to say interesting I also find that he is hyper critical of the modern game.  The link at the bottom of this page is an article of his which is critical of the scoring rate in modern Gaelic Football.  He speaks about why aren’t there more scores in an era when there is “immense improvements in fitness levels, psychological mentoring of players, technological advancements such as the use of DVDs and the presence of very high-profile managers, of whom there were none 50 years ago.” But would he not consider that defenders are also availing of these advancements in coaching and their game should improve too?

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy scoring for Donegal against Mayo in this year’s All Ireland final.

I would argue that forward play has improved as to score you have to do things at a much higher speed than in years gone by, and now, with a more organised defensive unit to combat.  Before the new defensive units, that are now the norm in Gaelic Football attackers had a simpler task of beat their marker and have a shot.  Now, you beat your marker and there is someone else to beat.  So, the conclusion here being that to score is a much harder task in modern football.

What do critics of defending want to see?  High scoring games where both teams get over 20 points but there are no blocks or tackles and no intensity?  Teams to go out with no game plan and just wing it?

Andy Moran

Andy Moran n action for Mayo against Down.

Tactics and game plans are what make sport interesting and creates lots of talking points ahead of games.

The argument that teams concentrate does not add up when you look at the 2012 Football Championshp.  In this year’s championship we had games full of scores.  The final seen Donegal score 2-11 to Mayo’s 0-13, a pretty decent display of scoring with 26 scores.  In the semi finals Cork and Donegal finished 0-16 to 1-11 (28 scores) in favour of Donegal while Mayo beat Dublin on a scoreline of 0-19 to 0-16, that is 35 scores in one game which to me is a pretty impressive display of attacking.  Going back one more round to the quarter finals and the scores were:

  • Mayo 3-18 Down 2-9 (32 scores)
  • Dublin 1-12 Laois 0-12 (25 scores)
  • Cork 2-19 Kildare 0-12 (33 scores)
  • Donegal 1-12 Kerry 1-10 (24 scores)

The number of scores in these 7 games do not demonstrate a game that is lacking in attacking or scoring.

I believe that critics of modern day tactics pine for days of old in and around the end of the 70’s and the start of the 80’s, the so called Golden Age of Football.  In the four finals between 1978 and 1981, that Kerry won in that famous Kerry team that almost won 5 in a row, the results were:

  • 1978 Kerry 5-11 Dublin 0-9 (25 scores)
  • 1979 Kerry 3-13 Dublin 1-8 (25 scores)
  • 1980 Kerry 1-9 Roscommon 1-6 (17 scores)
  • 1981 Kerry 1-12 Offaly 0-8 (21 scores)
Karl Lacey

Karl Lacey defending for Donegal against Cork.

None of these games had as many scores as this years finals, the first two were just one off, but it shows that scoring is not down on the days yearned for by some.  In these four games three appear uncompetitive while one was a low scoring affair.

I think we need to be proud of the product we have.  We have very competitive championship where in the upcoming season any one of Donegal, Mayo, Cork, Dublin or Kerry are feasible winners of Sam Maguire.  All these team mix solid defence with great attacking options.  This is what team play is about, merging defensive and attacking play.  This is what the top teams have managed successfully giving us the game we have today.  We should embrace and enjoy it and not constantly pick flaws in it.

Read Eugene Mc Gee article by clicking on the following link.

Why is defending a bad thing in GAA?


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