Good Mickey Harte article. Hurling and football comparison

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Good Mickey Harte article. Hurling and football comparison

Postby Bord na Mona man » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:07 pm

An interesting article by Mickey Harte in the Irish News. A very good assessment of the tactical evolvement of both codes.
Some Offaly interest in there too.

Sport - Changes of style in football should be seen as innovation

I have always found it most interesting how the hurling fraternity elevate the status of their game at every opportunity, while many in the world of gaelic football, particularly some of our most outspoken pundits, indulge themselves in highlighting the perceived ills of the so-called big ball game.

The facts of the matter are that the game of hurling has experienced as much of a transition in the way it is played as gaelic football has over the last decade yet for the small ball game it is seen as innovation while the change in the way football is played is seen as a detrimental step.

This very point was brought home to me by an article written by Dennis Walsh in last week's All-Ireland hurling final programme, where he reflected on the specific changes which have become part of the modern day spectacle that is top-class hurling. He noted that when Kilkenny played Offaly in the 2000 final, you will see Offaly play ground hurling as a matter of choice.

The stark contrast now is that such strokes are only made under duress and as a last option because at the elite level hurling has become a possession game. Ironically, a similar departure in gaelic football, recognising the value of keeping possession, is not viewed as positive and many of the 'expert' observers tax their brains by counting the number of hand passes versus the number of fist passes and conclude that the game as they know it is being destroyed.


From a hurling perspective the move from what Walsh calls randomness to controlled possession is welcomed.
So too is the mobility around the park of players regardless of the numbers on their back. He recognises, and the hurling fraternity accept, that it is no longer only about linear movement, but more about diagonals and the space in behind the pawns.
Could this not aptly describe the innovation which has taken place in gaelic football? The only difference is that this is seen as something to praise in hurling yet generally is portrayed as leading to the demise of football.

The parallel development of playing styles within both codes continued with the adoption of the proverbial third midfielder where the corner forward was withdrawn and given a 'free' role in the middle third of the field. This was a twofold strategic exercise to unsettle the corner back who generally didn't like moving out of his own comfort zone and secondly to create more space for the remaining two inside forwards.

Indeed the next phase of this strategic thinking within both codes resulted in the emergence of the sweeper system. It soon became apparent that the forward was more at home in the free role than the defender so the number 13 or 15 was allowed the free reign.

This allowed the number two or number four to concentrate on their best attributes and defend the 'D' and in so doing cut out the supply of quality ball into the forwards who are now supposed to have more space to display their creative skills.
It was 2004 before the next major innovation took place in hurling when Donal Og Cusack became the first serious exponent of variety in the puck out, which for a long time had been simply about distance.
For the first time in the history of the game, deliberate positioning of the outfield players created options for Cusack to deliver the ball with precision to different areas of the field.

This demanded courage from all concerned and total belief that the high percentage chance of retaining possession in any part of the field from such innovation was better than the low percentage chance of retaining possession from the conventional puck out despite that being deep in the opponents territory.
This departure was mirrored in football with the arrival of Stephen Cluxton as the number one for the Dublin senior football team.

The long kick-out in gaelic football to the middle of the field was no longer guaranteeing retention of possession even if you possessed dominant fielders.
Once again possession could not be left to chance and positioning and precision became more important than distance. Cluxton became Cusack minus the caman. Both codes evolving in their own way yet each a reflection of the other.
The similarities continued when Kilkenny put a stop to Cork's bid for three in-a-row in 2006 with the introduction to hurling of a new role for half-forwards.

The intelligent and industrious nature of Brian Dooher's role as a new wave wing forward was not lost on the Kilkenny management. Noting how his (and later Paul Galvin's) ability to add value to the defensive unit and still be able to go on the offensive gave rise to new roles for their numbers 10 and 12.
There can be no doubt that both codes have evolved at an accelerated rate over the last 10 to 15 years compared to any previous era.

The key difference I believe is that those in the hurling fraternity highlight innovation as something positive and seldom if ever focus their attention on anything negative pertaining to their code. Unfortunately the opposite is most often the case with those charged with interpreting the emergence of new ways of playing the game of gaelic football.

Reflecting on last week's hurling final, I think it is worth noting the performance of referee Brian Gavin from Offaly.
While no-one could categorically state that he called all the fouls in that final, the two elements of his handling of the game which stood out were his consistency of interpretation and his unobtrusive presence. His motto was let the game flow as long as there were no nasty pulls and he did just that.

Of course, some players, by the strictest letter of the law, would have had fouls committed against them which attracted no whistle, but this was equally true for both sets of players.
He never employed any small boy tactics of overtly calling players towards him to show his authority. In fact if it weren't for the thump on the nose that he got from Tommy Walsh's hurl in a mini melee we might not have noticed him at all and there was no double digit flurry of cards.

A comment from himself in the match programme, where he suggested he likes to draw on his own playing experiences and that the key for a referee is not to demand respect but to earn it, perhaps epitomises why he did such an effective job on Sunday last.
Let's hope the mirroring of both codes continues in this respect too.
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