Davy Burke advises new football committee to tread softly

Roscommon boss already believes innovative coaching is having the positive effect of providing more entertaining and high-scoring football

Wednesday evening traffic and Davy Burke is battling it. That’s dead time for most but for an excitable GAA mind like the Roscommon manager’s, it’s an opportunity to sit back and brainstorm.

“Coaches are all day everyday jotting things down, taking notes, plotting, off in their own world thinking stuff like, ‘How do I break that blanket down?’ or ‘If they set up against us in A, B and C way, how are we going to deal with that?’” said Burke. “That’s the coaching mind.”

What has him talking like this is the new football review committee that has been established by GAA president Jarlath Burns. Burns has amassed a crack team of GAA sleuths – Jim Gavin, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Malachy O’Rourke and Colm Collins are among the members – to investigate just how broken, or otherwise, the game really is and to suggest potential remedies.

For Burke, at the coalface of the elite tier of the game as a Division One manager, remedial action is already under way. His feeling is that the game is correcting itself organically, thanks to the innovation of that same army of coaches that he talked about.


“I think the game is already fixing itself to be honest with you,” said Burke. “If you look at the scoring, I think we’re getting more high-scoring games and I think this summer in particular you’re going to see far more high-scoring games than in previous years.

“What’s driving that? Coaching, absolutely it is, innovation in coaching. And I do understand what the coach’s job is too, they’re entrusted to coach their team and it’s a results business and they ultimately just want to break down the opposition for their own ends.

“But I do think it goes hand in hand because trying to find a way to break the opposition down couples up with more attacking, exciting, innovative football. I do think it all goes hand in hand.

“I think the big push is already coming from within, it’s coming from the coaches and the coaching that is going on at the minute. Derry are a prime example of it, a really good attacking side, probably the top attacking side at the minute. They’re very exciting to watch.

“For me, I’d ask, what is the big problem with football? I don’t see it in the way that some of the narrative is spun.”

Burke’s message to the new committee therefore is to tread softly.

“Getting rid of the advanced mark is the obvious one,” said Burke, whose Roscommon side will travel to Mayo in Round 5 of the National League on Saturday.

“After that there’s the shot clock, there’s the possibility of holding men up the field, keeping three defenders and three forwards inside the 45, maybe limiting how many men you can bring back inside your own half, stopping any back-ball once it goes beyond the midfield line. They’re really the only options that I see, or some version of those.

“I think they should have a close eye on the rest of the league and the full championship though and use the August, September and October window to review, analyse and scrutinise. I do honestly think there’s an exciting summer coming of attacking, energetic, go-forward football. I think that’s going to change and inform opinions.”

Those who simply want to rip up the script probably have Burke in their sights. Wasn’t it his Roscommon team that held the ball for nearly six minutes against Dublin last summer? And wasn’t Daire Cregg happy enough to take a point from an advanced mark more recently when the same teams met again in the National League?

“Last year and the year previous, some of the games did have long spells of possession when you could probably read a book and not miss anything,” acknowledged Burke. “I don’t think anyone wants that but I do honestly think that approach is slowly but surely being phased out because enough rewards just aren’t there for that approach.”

As for the advanced mark, it’s simply a no-brainer in Burke’s mind. Sure, Cregg took advantage of the low-hanging fruit, like every other forward has been doing. But his manager would happily see the rule binned.

“There was a great example of why it needs to go a couple of weeks ago, up in Tyrone, Niall Morgan gives a 20-metre pass on the button across to Conn Kilpatrick, [he] kicks it over the bar,” gasped Burke. “Niall Morgan to Conn Kilpatrick! Those two boys are too good to be getting rewarded for that.”

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