Instead of talking about blanket defences the new word in the GAA seems to be “systems”. If I heard the word system used once in the commentary of the games on Sunday I must have heard it a hundred times.
Too often now teams are set up to stop the opposition from playing instead of just going out and playing a game which suits their team best.
I sometimes wonder if managers have faith in their team or their players, surely if Derek McGrath or Rory Gallagher had faith in their players they would let them just go out and play.
If they don’t believe their players are good enough are they just trying to balance out the difference in quality by implementing a defensive system so they don’t get beaten.
Hurling and football has become so technical. It is analysed down to microscopic levels with most players wearing GPS monitors analysing how much work they do during a match but while these will help teams they won’t actually win matches for you. Quality players will always find a way to beat that system and on Sunday Tyrone were lucky they had Sean Cavanagh and Peter Harte who despite having quiet games by their standards still had the individual brilliance to win the game for Tyrone.
If we take a look at three recent provincial finals:
Ulster football final
Leinster football final
Munster hurling final
Three of these teams set up with a defensive system in place and yet all three teams ended up losing the match. Waterford were simply blown away by a team that had the best players on the day.
The Dublin versus Westmeath game might not be the best example as Dublin are much better team but for the other two games most people would have said they were evenly matched and it could go either way.
In the Ulster final on Sunday Donegal were up by three points at half time playing to their system which was stifling Tyrone.
Second half begins Donegal score a point almost from the throw in and then for some reason stopped playing football. They reverted to playing handball which left pundits and analysts were calling it game management…..game management with at least thirty minutes left to play!
When players are regimented to playing a certain way to suit their system it takes away a player’s ability to think or make decisions so much so that when the system isn’t working they don’t know what to do or how to influence the game.
Playing in a certain system doesn’t mean that players will always make the correct decision, sometimes they get the ball and look to off load it as soon as possible because they don’t know what to do with it and they are afraid of making a mistake.
It has to be said that Mickey Harte made a number of very smart decisions at half time which nullified what Donegal had done to Tyrone in the 1st half.
Peter Harte was being marked by Ryan McHugh in the first half, who was the best player on the pitch, and Sean Cavanagh was on the periphery of the game.
Tyrone made changes and these 2 players in particular greatly influenced the result.
Donegal did not make any changes in order to try to get their most influential players into the game and stuck rigidly to their system which proved to be their downfall.
As the game wore on and Tyrone chipped away at the points I knew that Donegal weren’t going to win because they simply weren’t playing the football to win.
Donegal had Tyrone under pressure for long periods of time on Sunday but were happy to hand pass across the pitch and back, as the game entered the final few minutes you could see that Tyrone had the players that were capable of winning this game for them.
For Darren McCurry, Peter Harte and Sean Cavanagh playing to a system was the last thing on their mind when the game was in the melting pot, they trusted themselves and played on their instinct. All of the aforementioned scored superb scores and these are all great to watch but we really do not see enough of these.
A lot of people are saying that the GAA needs to take action to prevent this what can they do really? Managers will always find away to go around something in order to give their team the advantage.
The biggest concern that I have is that clubs and underage coaches are copying what they see on tv and what intercounty managers are doing. Coaches are restricting players and ‘coaching’ them to not take the efforts on and only take the percentage shots.
Juvenile players are being coached on playing to a certain system in which they don’t get beaten. It becomes about winning and not developing young players who are able to adapt and learn how to play as they get older.
It is only now that the intercounty season is starting to develop some kind of excitement and anticipation, supporters will always support their team but neutrals will not go to watch any of the matches because they simply don’t enjoy the games as much anymore.