Gaelic football will reward the best kickpassers this winter

Gaelic football will reward the best kickpassers this winter

Derek Kavanagh was always willing to take a risk by going for a kickpass for Nemo Rangers.

AS WE watched Mark Moran of Mayo set about dismantling Galway’s defence last weekend there were plenty of noteworthy elements.

Not so much the strangeness of seeing inter-county action again and not so much even Pat Spillane proclaiming him a TikTok star on RTÉ’s highlights.

Moran kicked points, slotted a goal, created a goal, generally helped run the game for James Horan’s team with his influence and ability to be comfortable and create on the ball.

The standout was the kicking though. Moran steadied himself for a lovely point off his right foot curled over the bar early on and then swung another huge one off his right also from further out on the wing shortly after.

When he got into a goalscoring position slightly to the right of goal a little later but cut back inside onto his left foot to shake the net it was hard to tell whether this was a suggestion he was actually left-footed or was simply able to use both as the situation demanded.

The second half offered more evidence. Moran lofted a gorgeous left-footed pass directly into the running path of Conor Loftus for a Mayo goal.

Then he fizzed an even better crossfield pass, again off his left, into Aidan O’Shea. Ciaran McDonald watching from the sideline would have been proud.

This was a forward player able to kick properly with both feet, not awkwardly or slightly off technically, these were proper kicks off right and left in situations where he needed to commit to the kick, under a little pressure each time from defenders and having to make the necessary accuracy and distance.

There’s more to it than the technical element, though that’s impressive for starters. Here’s a guy who clearly practises a lot with both feet, who has kicked a lot of footballs over time we’d imagine, to become so efficient.

There’s nothing natural about that ability, it’s just time and hard work. Same as for Diarmuid Connolly, who was referred to as naturally gifted a lot of times on his retirement recently and which sort of undermined the dedication that Connolly put into being able to perform the basic skills so well off both sides.

This kind of thing can make a real difference to have on a team in the middle third.

We mentioned last week an interview with Kieran Donaghy where he spoke of the difference it can make for a team like Kerry to have players like David Moran and Sean O'Shea out the field, players who can kick 50-yard passes into the forward’s run without self-doubt.

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

Other players might not be sure of making the pass and will either not give the ball or play safe and this interrupts the entire flow and feel of the way a forward line and a team moves the ball.

I always remember Derek Kavanagh at full-back for Nemo some years back coming out with ball in and around his own goalmouth.

There was a handy short handpass on and a slightly longer kickpass to the wing to a free Nemo player. Kavanagh took neither of them, kicked over a bunch of bodies to a Nemo player way out on the wing and set a far more dangerous attack in motion just by having that belief to make the kick.

Kevin Murray of CIT mentioned in also as part of studies they’re doing with Cork development squads, that as well as trying to measure the effectiveness of the kicks being made in football, there is also the issue of decisions being made not to take a kick on even if it should be, of players holding a ball longer or turning back off their weaker side because they perceive themselves as unable to execute the skill.

Coaches and GDAs who work in Cork have commented on the quality of kicking with both feet that’s starting to emerge here at underage level (through developments like the kicking skills competition) though that may take some time to filter up to the adult teams.

We see it make tiny little differences of detail in other sports too by the way. Some of the best strikers in the Premier League have noticeably less chance of scoring depending on which foot they’re using.

We reckon Conor Hourihane would have scored that goal against Slovakia if it was on his left. Marek Hamsik interestingly took corners from one side with his left foot and from the other side with his right in the same game.

In the Champions League only this week, the commentary team pointed out that Kylian Mbappe was making runs time and again into spaces for PSG but players weren’t brave enough to make the passes and played sideways instead.

It might be an important indicator for the championship. Having that kind of player at 11 opens options for Mayo as well as the obvious addition to the scoring tally.

Aidan O’Shea at full-forward isn’t much use unless the ball can be kicked into him well from the right areas. Kerry have David Clifford who can kick points with both feet under pressure from distance but they also have O’Shea at centre-forward as playmaker, able to distribute and score also from out the field.

Dublin have a different sort of playmaker there in Ciaran Kilkenny who controls the tempo of a game but is also likely to be able to score and kickpass effectively when he needs to, as demonstrated in last year’s All-Ireland final replay.

The quality of kicking for scores from distance was exceptional across all the Division 1 games last weekend— there was at least one score in every game that drew a gasp. Conor McManus’s dummy and kick v Kerry was made look so easy for example.

It may become the standout in a year other things become equal.

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