I read Joe Brolly’s column last week and he made some interesting statements saying that the modern day Intercounty game was not worth watching anymore.
He said that he took his nephew to the Cavan-Derry match and thought that if this is what young lads are seeing at matches now, just where is football going?
Joe is a traditionalist, and we all like to reminisce on glory days of the past. You think back to hot summer days with 15 men against 15 men and there were some cracking contests.
But time moves on and if you’re not prepared to go with it, you’ll fall behind. It’s as simple as that.
Teams are setting up defensively all over the country, not just in Ulster and it seems that if any new manager comes in, the first thing he does is try and get his defence in order and hope that the rest follows.
Players now need to have a whole different skillset than in years gone by. Whereas the high catch, and the kick pass was worked on religiously in the past, tackle grids and high-octane possession games are now the order of the day.
Every player in the country whether he plays for Dublin, or a mediocre Junior B team, has been given a strength and conditioning programme this year and while certain people would turn their nose up at that, it is something that I do buy into.
Teams need to be strong and physical, and if you’re not doing the work in the gym, the simple truth is that you are going to be left behind.
From what I can gather, really committed players don’t mind the S & C work as they can see the improvements in their game with it.
They are putting in the extra work in that regard, but you rarely see a person down on the local pitch practising his kicking, or fine-tuning the basics in his spare time any more.
Maybe there is a reason for that too. For example, is there any need to work on your fielding, when balls kicked out to the middle are becoming few and far between. Goalkeepers can fire the ball out so quickly these days, why would your risk a 50/50 ball when you can safely give it out to one of your defenders?
Some people are against short kick-outs and they feel that the kick-out needs to go out past the 45 metre line.
Another suggestion to improve things is to limit the amount of players than can come back into defence. Would a referee be able to monitor that with everything else that’s going on? I doubt it.
We may see some changes in the future, but that still won’t satisfy some people. I wouldn’t be as disgruntled as Joe. I think it is still a very good game, but intercounty football is definitely the poor relation to club football at the moment.
The best games I have watched over the last year have been club games. There were some brilliant tussles in the Ulster Club Championship, while both the Leinster and Munster Club finals were exciting games.
That trend continued last Saturday with two superb All-Ireland Club semi-finals.
Crossmaglen – Castlebar was played at an incredible pace for a club game, and the Mayo side were naive early on.
They gave Jamie Clarke the freedom of Breffni Park, and he wreaked havoc in the first half. Cross could and should have been out of sight, but Castlebar hung in, and when they cut out the supply to Clarke by dropping a man back, they started to make progress.
The result was in doubt right up to the the closing seconds and things started to boil over with a skirmish on the sideline.
The amount of numbers that some teams have on the sideline is absolutely ridiculous and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Cross went searching for a ball in the Castlebar dugout in the dying seconds and the Mayo men were in no mood to let them have it without disruption.
It’s very easy for some waterboy to square up to a player, because if all hell breaks loose, the opposition will lose a man while the waterboy will just be sent behind the fence.
In my opinion, any sideline official that gets involved with a player has to be reprimanded with a heavy fine and a hefty suspension.
Castlebar got over the line, and after beating Corofin and Crossmaglen, they will feel they are in a very strong position.
Ballyboden St Enda’s will meet them in the final and it should be another good game.
The Dublin side were very fortunate to win and Charlie McGeever’s Clonmel Commericials will be kicking themselves.
They threw away a three-point lead with time nearly up. In fairness, Ballyboden showed great grit to claw their way back into it and they are a dogged side, but the lack of experience definitely hindered Clonmel’s cause.
The last two all-Ireland Club Finals have not been great games as the Croke Park factor can have a big part to play.
However, I think this one will be a good battle and it would be brilliant for Paul Durcan if he ended up with another All-Ireland medal on St Patrick’s Day.