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I’d rather watch on TV, admits Coulter

By Cliona Foley

Down star Benny Coulter believes the increasing use of blanket defences is seriously damaging Gaelic football.

The Mayobridge man, who made his championship debut against Antrim in 2000, claimed that inter-county football was no longer as enjoyable and that he would not pay to watch matches on his retirement, given the lack of entertainment on offer.

“When I quit, that will be it, I will watch it on TV. Games are so bad nowadays that I don't know why you would pay in or pay a fortune to go and watch matches way down the country when that's what you are getting,” said Coulter.

“It's not as enjoyable as it was before. When I was 18 or 19 playing for the club, it was fantastic and I loved every minute of it. It was the same playing for the county at the start — it was brilliant. But as the years went on it hasn't been as good as it used to be.”

The 28-year-old agreed that Down had adopted similar tactics this year, but stated that the problem was not confined to the Ulster Championship.

“Every team is starting to adopt it,” said Coulter, who was named as the Opel GPA Player of the Month for May along with Galway hurler Ger Farragher. “Even at club football in my county, they're starting to adapt this system.

“Down have talked the past few years about doing it, but this is the first year that we have. Maybe we hadn't the players to do it, but James (McCartan) has come in. He's played it before with Queen's and he said that's the way we were going to go. It has worked well for us, so he's right in what he's doing, I suppose.

“But look at our teams in 1991 and 1994 and they were about all-out attack. I would love to have been playing then, but that's the way the game has gone and we're going to have to stick with it.”

Coulter also claimed that Martin Clarke “couldn't believe” the way the game had gone since he made his return from the AFL and that a switch to 13-a-side looked to be the most obvious solution.

“When a forward gets a ball he's surrounded and more often than not he's blown for over-carrying, but what is he supposed to do?

“Maybe they should look at changing those rules rather than changing stupid handpassing rules,” he said.

Coulter's side face Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final on June 19 and while Clarke is expected to see out this season with the Mourne men, Coulter admits it might not be long before he makes a return Down Under.

“There are a lot of rumours that he is going to go back. Never say never, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did go back — he hasn't said anything to us yet,” said Coulter.

“He's had a great start to his inter-county career and I'm just hoping he is going to stay around for another while to help us out.

“Winning an Ulster title for us would be the equivalent of Tyrone winning an All Ireland title. That's as far as we could maybe get at this early stage. It would be as good as winning an All Ireland to me,” he added.

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