The Paudie Kissane column: A second tier would help improve Gaelic football

The Paudie Kissane column: A second tier would help improve Gaelic football

Carlow's Daniel St Ledger celebrates at the final whistle after they beat Kildare last summer. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

NEW rules have been introduced to football as Croke Park feel the game is stagnating and change is needed to return to the core skills.

The game is possession-based with more handpassing than in previous years but there have still been some excellent games. The recent club championships have been a perfect example of this.

Club senior football champions of 2018 Corofin are through to another semi-final. Dr Crokes have five Munster titles to their name since 2010, with the one All-Ireland in 2017. Meanwhile, Corofin have six Connacht titles since 2008, culminating in two All-Ireland titles in 2015 and 2018.

Excellence over such a long period is reflective of not only high standards and their culture but also rather hours of good coaching at underage level. You need a few young players coming through each year to the adult team.

This keeps things fresh and can help a team evolve further. Most teams have leaders who enjoy the commitment involved and want to challenge themselves. Unfortunately, many teams can be held back as too many players cut corners. This can be a virus to many potentially successful teams.

It’s easier with the likes of Dr Crokes and Corofin as most players want to play on a successful team. Competition for places ensures consistent commitment and application.

When young players see their adult club doing well and winning trophies, these young players want to achieve similar success. The players will not come through unless good development structures are in place.

Apart from admiring the great consistency, which they have shown in coming back year after year, it’s the way both teams play football, which stands outs the most.

Corofin put on an exhibition in last years club final win over Nemo Rangers. Their desire to move the ball at pace, use the kick-pass and 100% commitment to team ensured a comfortable win.

There is history between the teams, with Dr Crokes winning the semi-finals meetings in 2015 and 2017. They are on the opposite side of the draw this year so there is potential for a final clash on St Patrick’s Day.

GAA officials in Croke Park have revealed the second tier championship proposals will be up for discussion in January. The Tommy Murphy Cup isn’t fondly remembered but I think it’s worth experimenting with again. It just needs to be packaged properly.

There are two proposals with the second more favourable as Division 3 and 4 teams would still be able to compete in the All-Ireland. This is through a team qualifying for a provincial final or winning their first-round qualifier game. That is only the right way as teams are rewarded for doing well.

Carlow are the example of a lower division team who made big strides this year. Carlow, a Division 4 team, got promoted and then defeated Kildare, a Division 1 outfit. This scenario should still be allowed to happen.

New rules are here for now but many are not happy. Considering they are five rules changes, the GPA feel there should have been more consultation with the players.

It’s one thing implementing the changes at inter-county level where you have the best referees but another challenge at club level. Are we just making the official’s jobs harder rather than making refereeing easier?

Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny handpassing the ball.	Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny handpassing the ball. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The rules are in place for the preseason competitions and national league but are not in place for third level competitions. So you will have players facing different rules with different teams!

It would have made more sense to trial rule changes during the third level leagues, which are run over the winter. New rules could then be carried forward to the Sigerson Cup also.

Since the proposed rule changes were first released back in October they have always been subject to review. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some removed before the start of the league.

People can argue that the game hasn’t been as exciting with teams getting more men behind the ball. It has still been a very tactical game and I am sure many coaches quite enjoy the tactical challenges the present game brings.

In recent years teams tried to copy the Jimmy McGuinness defensive approach but it didn’t quite work out as planned. It looked easy getting men behind the ball but it still requires football ability, communication and good decision-making to reduce the amount of scores conceded.

Other teams fell down as after getting the defensive part ok, they then struggled to get enough men back up to field to create enough scoring chances at the other end.

All Ireland champions Dublin have got the balance right between attack and defence and that is why they have been the best. Dublin have marquee players no doubt, sure every team needs them, but the main strength is how they dealt with the different tactical challenges they face each year.

The likes of Dublin will adapt comfortably to the rule changes.

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