Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Modern Game

Derry lift the siege and Derry are the champions”, Ger Canning, final whistle Sunday 23rd  September 1993.
Those words are etched in the memory of Derry GAA fans.  It reminds me not only of Derry winning Sam, but it brings me back to that era,  every time an Ulster team went to Croke Park, they came home with the title.
Since those days, our games have taken a more modern approach to preparation.  When Down, Donegal and Derry won those All-Irelands all those years ago, the preparation was not so scientific.
Back then a lot of the play was more direct.  In 1991 Peter Withnell was Down’s target man, 1992 Tony Boyle was leading the line for Donegal, in 1993 it varied between Dermot Heaney and Seamus Downey (pictured above right) and in 1994 it was Aidan Farrell on the edge of the swuare.  All bigger players who could compete for the high ball
In the modern game it is more geared towards systems of play, funnelling players back with some teams trying to defend their way to victory.
I recently spoke to Ballinderry man Killian Conlan (left) about this very topic.  I asked Killian how he saw the modern game.  “Today it’s all geared towards this idea that our teams will play the perfect game.  Fast flowing, hard tackling, clean catching and killer passing into forwards who will ruthlessly do the business in front of goal”.
That is the idea situation, what teams strive for, but Conlan points out that it is not always the case.  “In reality when you sit down and think about it, how often does this actually happen.  I feel basic skills have taken a back seat.”

“With skills taking a back seat now, a lot of teams put more emphasis on fitness training.  Players seem to be fitter now as coaches feel they are judged on fitness levels and not on performance.  How many times have we heard the phrase after a championship match ‘THAT TEAM WASNT FIT’ even though they had been training flat out for 10 months!”

Men Behind the Ball
With so many teams setting themselves up defensively, teams have to be more aware about how they approach games.  Training schedules being adapted depending on the opponent.

“I think teams playing against defensive systems need to very fit.  This will enable fast attacks that will stop teams getting the chance to drop players back.  I think coaches and managers need to stress to their players, especially midfielders and forwards that long range point scoring is an area where you really need to improve.  This will soon put an end to blanket defences”.

“If we spend endless attacks as a team trying to break a blanket defence down to score a goal without success can be very frustrating for everyone involved.  I like to stress the point that 3 long range points is the same as a goal and takes less effort but it does take more practise.”

The Aristocrats
After watching the first half of this year’s Munster Final, it only reinforced what I always thought.  Kerry are the best team in Ireland to watch and they made it look so easy. 

It makes you think, surely it would be easier to practice the basics of catch and kick, rather than hours of endless running to compensate lack of skill with fitness.

Killian had the following take on Kerry.  “Declan O'Sullivan and Colm Cooper are exceptional players and in my opinion they make the direct ball into the scoring zone look so easy.  They have great natural ability and are so comfortable on the ball”.

“The two most important things about their directness is the quality of the pass and the positioning and movement of the player receiving.  Its an interesting point that Kieran Donaghy plays well in this system.  He’s not as gifted as the other players but he must be tuned in upstairs or else the Gooch and him have bluetooth ear sets.”

This now brings up the question, if Kerry met Donegal, would Jim McGuiness (right) and his game plan be able to curb the trio of O’Sullivan, Cooper and Donaghy.  A debate for another day perhaps.

If anyone has any thoughts, post them via the comment section below.

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