Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: One man’s obsession with tactics delivers book full of passion and brilliant writing

Emmet Ryan is the author of the recently-released ‘Tactics Not Passion', a book that chronicles the 2012 football season and places it under the microscope as it studies the gameplans and tactics of teams competing in the All-Ireland series.

On one of the opening pages, the Latin saying ‘Amat Victoria Curam’ is placed enigmatically on its own.

It means ‘Victory loves Preparation' ... which sums up this book entirely.

Within the pages of the self-published effort, we are brought into a world where Emmet is constantly breaking down games, frame by frame, play by play.

Video analysis is constantly used by county and club teams, but rarely do we ever see any of the key findings in print before this.

As a former journalist himself — who has bailed out and now devotes his time to sports betting — Ryan understands the science of sport, yet his prose is delivered with a light touch.

He opens up his theory on Donegal's perceived ‘45-45' game, and how they control the area between the two 45-metre marks.

Goals such as Colm McFadden's against Derry in Ballybofey, which at first appeared to evolve from a defensive slip, are in fact carefully constructed situations where every player is aware of their role.

How Michael Murphy engages himself on the pitch is justified, both for Donegal and his club, Glenswilly.

Those ‘traditionalists' who would prefer to see him left at the edge of the square are baffled by the range of roles he occupies for both.

Ryan takes us through the

benefits of his deployment. Likewise the ongoing struggles Kerry have with Kieran Donaghy — all that talent, yet he never looks at home in any position.

This is fanatical, scientific, almost nerdy stuff, which makes it brilliant sports writing.

It's the sort of thing that we expect to see on, and there is a home for it in the world of GAA journalism, which is much too narrow right now.

People like Ryan with his Twitter account @action81, or @dontfoul are revolutionising where the really good analysis lies.

Some people rely on television, or even the tired Sunday Game, for their footballing knowledge.

All you get there are soundbites, axe-grinding and the usual prejudices towards the modern game, the sports sciences and self-aggrandisement.

Players of all sports thrive on statistical analysis.

Billy Beane and the Oakland A's turned baseball on its head through clever use of pertinent stats, later immortalised in the book ‘Moneyball'.

This is the first example of a GAA book of this kind.

Independently-produced, it is a triumph and the best of the pre-Christmas offerings.

To order it, go to

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