HomeFootballGAA fans won't pay to watch crap football - opinion - Western...

GAA fans won’t pay to watch crap football – opinion – Western People


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Generally speaking, I would not be the greatest or most passionate fan of soccer but seeing the way Gaelic football has developed in the past decade I have begun to take a greater interest in the game. The European Championships currently dominating our TV screens present us with the crème de la crème of the soccer scene and it is not very endearing. There is as much passing back and over and back to the goalie as has taken hold in Gaelic and it is not very entertaining.

We are unfortunate here to have been indoctrinated to the view that England, as the home of soccer, is the foremost football nation in the world, this despite the fact that England has not won an international competition since 1966. As would be expected, the British media are mainly responsible for this fallacy but the Irish media, while taking solace and comfort from England’s many failings, are not very far behind. The Irish soccer-following public have been fed an undiluted dose of the worst of English jingoism and it is not healthy.

There have been some truly memorable exhibitions of individual skills to be witnessed in the games to date in this championship but no truly outstanding games and certainly little from England to indicate that they might come out on top. You would have to feel sympathy for their manager, Gareth Southtgate, as he seeks to produce a winning side with a bunch of players who are good but not great when compared with other nations seen in the competition. It’s sad and not very entertaining to behold.

Southgate has been the manager for eight years now and for all of those years has been knocked as unfit to lead the team to a victory. On the sideline his demeanour does not inspire faith but he is not a miracle worker and cannot make silk purses out of sow’s ears. He is, of course, never short of advice from former footballers and those media pundits who know everything and nothing and are never short of opinions.

I’ll be surprised if England win the tournament and it would be a disaster for the competition if they do come out on top because they are a team, that to date at any rate, has failed to show the flair and panache that would light up the world. It would be important for England to win but to win playing dour dogged football is hardly anything to boast about.

The expectations of the English supporters – and God knows they need some success in return for their unfailing support – are always high. This faith has been born out of the belief that the Premiership is the greatest football competition in the world. This belief is underpinned by the British (and Irish) media who never fail to extol its greatness. There is no doubt but that the Premiership is a good and successful competition but is it any greater than Germany’s or Spain’s main competitions….. not to mention Brazil’s or Argentina’s. A little bit of reality would be no harm and would help to ameliorate the expectations of the English soccer-following public. And it is no harm to remember that the top English teams in the Premiership are at the top largely because of the importation of world class players to supplement the home-grown players.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have not suddenly become an Anglophile and will not be cheering them on to victory but it is no harm to show some consideration to our neighbours and wish them well in the knock-out games ahead. The reality in England, as in every country, is that the vast bulk of supporters are genuine, ordinary, decent football-mad people who follow their team through thick and thin, in the good times and in the hard times and nobody should begrudge them their day in the sun…. if it comes. It may not come their year but sometime down the road. Gareth Southgate seems to me to be a decent and genuine fellow and it would be no harm if his hard work was crowned with success.

All of which brings me to the real point of this article. Replace Gareth Southgate with Kevin McStay and replace England with Mayo. Sure, it is not the same exactly, but close enough. England has qualified for the play-off stages, Mayo has not but other than that there are a lot of similarities.

Expectations in Mayo are always high and rightly so. We may not always be in the top ten but we are never far off it. We may not always be in the winners enclosure but we are never far off it and we may not always close out games to our satisfaction but we are never (well up until recently) short of entertaining. Many is the time I have said that I would be as well pleased to lose a game playing good entertaining football than win a game playing crap football. We generally go to games and pay our hard-earned money to be entertained. We do hope for a winning outcome but entertainment is the first priority… or it should be.

A bit like Southgate, Kevin McStay is manager of a Mayo team that lacks the quality players who would contest the knock-out stages of the championship. McStay is also unfortunate in that he has come to the position of manager at a time when the game of Gaelic football has degenerated into a negative contest of keep ball. McStay’s natural instinct would be to have his team attack, to go on the front foot and chalk up as many scores as possible and for preference to score more that his opponents.

The Ulsterisation of football in the past 10 to 15 years has done away with the idea of attacking football. The way to win a game nowadays is to place 15 men behind the ball, challenge your opponent to score and then hope to get a point or two when your frustrated opponents blink. It is not football, it is crap.

It was sad to hear, during the year, Kevin McStay appeal to probably the most ardent supporters in the country to come out and support the Mayo team. The Mayo supporters were not staying away because of a lack of support for their team. They were staying at home because they are no longer prepared to support crap football. They want entertainment. They want value for their money.

So Mayo threw away a game against Dublin which would have seen them into the play-offs. Now that was an entertaining game. In so far as all-out attack can be part of the modern game, both teams committed to play entertaining football. It is not a surprise that Dublin v Mayo games have been entertaining spectacles. The fact is that both teams go out to play on the front foot and in doing so provide entertainment. That’s what the paying public want.

Our new Uachtaráin, Jarlath Burns, has seen the problem and has set about rectifying it. I was mightily impressed by his new rules committee led by Jim Gavin and including our own James Horan. The thought was that we might get a game that would entertain. Now, I’m not so sure. Jarlath Burns is from the wrong county. He has been infected by the negative vibes in Ulster football.

Allowing two points for a score from outside the 40-metre line is not the answer. It is simply cementing the idea of the 14-man defence. Implement the tackle rule properly and ban the backward pass and Gaelic will become an entertaining game again. It’s as simple as that… coming from a pundit.

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