Frank Lynch is not a fan of football as it is played today, and he said so in a recent letter to GAA President, Aogan O Fearghail. His letter, which he headed, “The shambles that Gaelic football now is”, is published below.
An All-Ireland winner, county team manager, Co Board leader and chairman of a coaching committee set up by Croke Park back in the 1970s, Lynch is no longer actively involved, but he retains a passion for the game to which he has contributed so much.
Among his complaints are: Players are being coached to win at all costs such is the pressure on managers to earn their keep; the game is now one where the man travels faster than the ball; referees are now burdened with cards “as if they hadn’t enough to do”; the vast majority of games are boring and monotonous where nothing is left to one’s imagination.
But far from just complaining, the former Geraldines player offers solutions. This is what he has to say:
Football, as the word denotes, is played with the foot. Gaelic football allows the use of the hands: to win possession; to pass the ball away; to play the ball from toe to hand; to fist, flick or palm the ball for a score; to block with hands an opponent's’ kick. What has happened?
Possession is now the name of the game, and players are now taught to retain possession, throw, fist, or hand pass the ball from one to the other until they win a free kick and then child’s play sets in. Seven players line the goals and from 13 meters, the ball is kicked from the hands over the bar, what a ludicrous skill!
We have the special aid for the kicking of the ball by the goalkeeper, as if he was kicking a rugby ball. We have the goalkeeper kicking the ball to the sideline, special aid and all, 30-yards away, not to mention the goalkeeper walking up the field like a ploughman to prove that he can kick it without the aid.
Soon no doubt, we will have the mark and a player will be rewarded with a free-kick seconds after he has played the ball away. This will provide us with stop, start and go; stoppages galore, as if we don’t have enough.
Players are being coached to win at all costs, such is the pressure on managers to earn their keep. It’s now a task of frustrating an opponent by whatever means possible, by shouldering off the ball, goading, wrestling, pulling and dragging, tripping, elbowing etc.
Yes, one is appalled by the game’s deterioration and many of the pundits who have played the game have witnessed this destruction and have not called a halt.
Ours is now a game where the man travels faster than the ball. We invest thousands paying coaches, ‘manager’s expenses’, doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians and psychologists to create athletes, but all too few footballers. The vast majority of our games are boring and monotonous where nothing is left to one’s imagination.
A referee is now burdened with coloured cards as if he hasn’t enough to do: Red for dead; yellow for watch out; black for someone else to play. It’s all too confusing.
What is the solution?
Playing rules should be amended and written in clear concise and easily understood English. In order to this, a specialist is required so that players, who play the game, read and understand the written rules.
All players should be provided with a rule book and clubs should be called upon to allocate the month of January to hold seminars and to explain the detail in each rule with the assistance of club and inter county referees.
In my opinion, the following rule revisions will create more football so that the game will become Gaelic football where handball is allowed, instead of what we have at present; Gaelic handball where football is allowed.
• Restriction of the hand pass – the ball is played away with a fist or an open hand to a colleague in a forward or lateral direction only. No reverse or back pass allowed. This restriction is essential otherwise the name of the game will remain Gaelic handball.
• A player in possession may not fist or hand pass the ball over or under the bar for a score. This will aid a defender to concentrate on blocking with the hands the kicking of ball and eliminate perhaps, personal fouling thus creating more continuity of play.
• A player in possession of the ball will be allowed only one hop before playing it away. Hopping the ball is not a skill and should be limited to the minimum, resulting in a solo run being perfected from toe to hand, thus creating more skilful footwork.
• A player in possession of the ball may only take three steps before playing the ball and may not carry the ball into a tackle to invite a foul. At all times the player in possession of the ball must be in the act of playing or preparing to play the ball. It is thus easier for a referee to decide whether a player in possession of the ball is holding it longer than is necessary to play or to play the ball away. It will be observed that players tend to run with the ball past an opponent without playing the ball thus inviting a foul and generally succeeding.
• A player fielding a high ball with outstretched hands over his head and off the ground cannot be harassed by two or more players in his attempt to play the ball. The art of high fielding is a special skill which must be restored. The player opposing should be limited to blocking the playing away of the ball by the high fielder or striking the ball from his grasp.
• All free kicks incurred on or inside the 13m line shall be taken from the ground on the 13m line or as an option, from the hands, outside 21m line. This will eliminate the obvious ‘cheating’ and restore a little bit of skill to the child’s play.
• When the ball is played over the end line and outside the goalposts by the team defending that end, a free kick off the ground shall be awarded to the opposing team on the 45m line from a marked quadrant at the angle between the sideline and the 45m line where the ball will be placed. At present, good defensive play is punished 75% of the time with a point from the 45m line. Thus an extra dimension is called for and a greater degree of skill is necessary and will be appreciated by the spectator.
• The ball should be hopped where the referee is satisfied that any inordinate delay has resulted in taking a free kick and goalkeepers should not go beyond their own 45m line to take free kicks. This will eliminate all unnecessary time wasting.