Everything’s wrong and nothing is right

Sometimes as GAA coaches we may not be as sure about things as we'd like to be so we just shout for the sake of it...

BY James Horan 11:24 Thursday 8 June 2017, 11:24 8 Jun 2017

It’s not Marty Robbins’ fault but GAA punditry’s got me singin’ the blues.

If you pick up any decent coaching book, somewhere in it you should find the concept of  how important it is for coaches to catch the players ‘doing something right’.

It’s so easy to yell at players about what they’re doing wrong; ‘Stop fouling him!’, ‘Will you mark up!’, ‘What are you standing up for?!’ ‘Stop kicking it’, ‘Move will you!’ etc. etc. etc.

A guy I do some coaching work with always asks “When they hear you, what do they hear most?”. For a lot of players it’s a negative, a criticism and frequently a command  to STOP!

Specific feedback on exact actions to take with a focus on the how and why is of a lot greater benefit to a player, but that can be in short supply.

We frequently don’t want to admit it but sometimes as coaches we may not be that sure. So we just shout for the sake of it! We have all experienced that type of coaching at some stage in our sporting careers.

It got me to thinking is there a bit of this in the sphere of football punditry and general commentary? Are we too ready to just roar and criticise?

The moon and stars no longer shine

It’s true that we’re in search of a really top championship game so far this year, one that really gets you standing up, but we do appear very determined to play down any positives of football.

Unfortunately, what dominates the headlines has been defensive swarms, black cards, marks, defensive strategies (although strategy is overselling it), linesmen and drugs.

Nowhere in there is there a mention of the parts of the game that really gets us going like brilliant skills and great plays?

How about catching them doing something right?

My view is in football we may be in danger of being sucked into a negative commentary spiral being determined to state the worst all the time.

Appetite for destruction

Source: Inpho/James Crombie

I often wonder do we nearly need and want the games to be bad, just so we can fall into the ‘I told you so’ trap. There’s something almost self-fulfilling about it all.

Does commentary reflect times past more than events that are happening right now?

Take the catch-and-kick debate which gets rolled out frequently. How much high fielding has there actually been recently? What’s the percentage decrease over the last 20 years?

Does anyone have that information? I’d love to see how many kick-passes were made back in the day versus how many in 2017.

I’m not convinced there would be the huge difference that it’s made out to be.

I remember some analysis (I accept not it’s not a quantitative survey)  of the 1977 Kerry v Dublin game and the 2013 Kerry v Dublin matches, considered to be some of the greatest games ever.

The completed kick-passes in each game were very similar. There were about three times more attempted kick-passes in the ‘77 game. But these were turned over to the opposition.

The incomplete kick-passes were replaced with successful hand-passes in the 2013 game. An improvement?

Would the paying public go to games with that amount of kick-passing that goes astray? You can almost hear the groans from the crowd.

I would think a player that kicks the ball away to an opponent a couple of times would be in the dock before he knows it.

Sweepers and double sweepers!

But back to my point, the skills of the game of football are brilliant. In my opinion they’ve never been as high.

Even in the poor games there are moments of high skill but they don’t get a mention. Better to dissect how poor the state of football is (sweepers/double sweepers/hand passing/14 men behind the ball, etc.). Let’s not discuss the good stuff for fear we’d get a notion about parts of our game being okay or dare I say it… pretty good to watch.

Why not highlight the great skill, movements, methods too?

The skills of the game are being executed at a higher level by more players under greater pressure because of the numbers and the sheer pace of game. You can’t say this is reflected anywhere in the general media analysis. 


Source: Inpho/Donall Farmer

In this year’s National League final Brian Fenton and David Moran both dummy soloed under significant pressure with their non-dominant foot. To many people that may not be earth shattering but to me midfielders like Fenton and Moran and many more demonstrate amazing skills. While there have been brilliant midfielders in the past, I struggle to pick out many with that skill set.

I’m not saying one era is better than the other. Or that all games are brilliant and the game is in a brilliant place. Not at all. I’m questioning whether we’ve become too caught up in the negative aspects to the point where we may not be able to see any good in the game.

A challenge: How about we try and catch them doing something good and comment on that too? Now there’s a refreshing thought!

This article was brought to you in association with Bord Gáis Energy, proud sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship – keep up to date and follow #HurlingToTheCore


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