29 Jun 2022

Letter to the editor: Gaelic Football is way too focused on rules and rule changes

Croke Park

Dear Editor,

I read Mattie Fox's piece regarding gaelic football dying.

I don’t quite agree with his analysis. There is a problem with gaelic football, but I don’t think Mattie identified it.
As a one time inter-county player, and coach at many levels, including inter-county, and as one who had two motions processed as far as congress, and at 66 years , I have a developed view and perspective.

Firstly, me thinks gaelic Football is way too focused on rules and rule changes, rather than on game skills. It seems to me that many coaches know nothing of the traditional skills of GF, but rather take their versions of football from soccer.

Gaelic is today, IMHO, soccer with permission to handle the ball. The game has been effectively stripped of the most basic skill which is that of winning possession at every position on-field. Likewise , it seems to me that referees are taught by rule and not by skill.

Secondly, GAA members have fallen fatally into the trap of believing that Croke Park is responsible; The GAA, up to the arrival of Dessie Farrell and the players association, was the most effectively democratic system in the world, in any aspect of society.

That democracy empowered every member equally to ‘motion'’ the organisation for any purpose, and how to do same was in the rule book. No such equivalent exists anywhere else, and most certainly not in the political world. In 1989, I motioned congress , through Laois county board, and the Annanough club, to have Dublin divided into two.

Alan Larkin of the Dublin 1974 team, once explained, how, after training Dublin minors to win an all Ireland, he had the panel down from 1000, to 200 in the October prior to championship start. The simple fact is that there are thousands of fine players in Dublin who can never ever entertain the hope of playing for their county; this is sad, and also disgraceful.

I go so far as saying there are more players of sufficient standard in Dublin, prohibited from playing at intercounty level, than there are actually playing inter country football in all of Leinster; if that doesn't define stupid then there is no such concept.
My personal view is that intercounty activity needs to be driven back into the clubs ,the real source of its onetime strength, and the only hope for the future of the game as a community based sport.

I go so far as to suggest that all clubs in Ireland with community populations above 70,000 (or 100,000) be allowed and encouraged to enter the All Ireland series; if this were then played on a league basis, there would be vastly more equality, more fair play, more players at higher levels, and a whole new world would open up for clubs and club players.

I am suggesting no national league and no inter-county championship as is, but an All Ireland championship, on a league basis, with possibly 60 or 80 teams participating.

This would put an end to the professionalisation of intercounty business, at the expense of clubs and clubs players, and ultimately at the expense of communities.

Le Buíochas, and thanks for raising this issue,

Seamas O Muilleaneoir,

PS: I knew Eugene McGee; I met him first in UCD in 1970, when he was driving a taxi full of UCD footballers. He made a wonderful contribution all round.

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