Teams have to evolve or be left behind
Former Tyrone player Ciaran McBride, who is a member of the recently-formed Football Review Committee, believes the exceptionally high standard of the two All-Ireland semi-finals has helped to bring a fresh dimension to the work of the new body.
McBride, who is Head of Sport at Omagh CBS, and Ulster Council coaching officer Tony Scullion, an All-Ireland winner with Derry in 1993, form Ulster’s representation on the committee.
And McBride, currently immersed in seeing the committee extend its tentacles within every facet of the Association, is convinced that the matches provide “absolute proof” that the sport has undergone a big change.
“I thought that both semi-finals brought a superb freshness to the table and underlined just how gaelic football has evolved,” says McBride. “It is very clear that we have moved to a new level and there is now a real fear that a number of counties could be left behind.
“It’s important that everyone is aware of the challenge to be faced and is prepared to grasp the nettle. The matches brought absolute proof of just how much things have moved on.”
The committee has been tasked with examining all aspects of gaelic football as it is currently played and making recommendations as to how it can be improved.
Set up by GAA President Liam O’Neill, the committee is under the chairmanship of Eugene McGee, a highly respected figure in the game having managed Ireland at International Rules level as well as masterminding the defeat of a Kerry team going for five-in-a-row in 1982 by his inspired Offaly side.
McBride is particularly looking forward to engaging with administrators, referees, supporters, club members and journalists in the weeks ahead.
“We see it as crucial to consult with all stakeholders within the GAA and we believe it is very important that clubs are given a chance to have their say,” insists McBride.
There has been trenchant criticism of gaelic football in recent seasons because of pulling and dragging, heavy emphasis on defensive tactics, over use of the hand-pass and a marked increase in cynical fouling coupled with the deployment of time-wasting tactics.
This has led to widespread calls for action and while McBride makes it clear that the Football Review Committee will be unable to provide a panacea for all the sport’s perceived ills, it will not be dissuaded from tackling what it sees as key problems.
“There are many aspects to be looked at and this will of course take time but we would like to think that the fruits of our labours will be seen at some point in the not too distant future,” adds McBride.