Dublin CEO fears new football rules will lead to a more defensive game

Costello also advocates trialling a 13-a-side game to see if it would break the ‘gridlock’

Dublin CEO John Costello congratulates Jonny Cooper after the All-Ireland victory over Tyrone. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin CEO John Costello congratulates Jonny Cooper after the All-Ireland victory over Tyrone. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

One of the GAA’s leading administrators has expressed the fear that the experimental football rules will benefit defensive tactics rather than undermine them and also advocated trialling a 13-a-side game to see if reduced numbers might break the “gridlock” afflicting the game.

Dublin CEO John Costello makes the arguments in his annual report to next week’s county convention, writing, “. . . when taken as a package I fear the new rules will be detrimental to the game and, will in fact, strengthen the hand of those who worship at the altar of the more defensive/negative game”.

The football rules trial, which gets under way this weekend with the opening fixtures in the O’Byrne Cup, will run through the coming year’s Allialnz National League.

According to Costello he awaits the trial period “with equal measures of interest and apprehension”.

“From the outset it should be stated that no rule changes will affect the footballing philosophy of managers/coaches who worship at the altar of massed defences and the more negative game-plans that certainly have become more prevalent in the past few seasons.

“And I’d argue certainly that some of the current trial rules won’t either. I thought it would be more interesting if a 13-a-side game was trialled without any alterations to the playing rules to see if it would alleviate some of the gridlock that sometimes permeates Gaelic football.”

Although allowing that the recent championship summer made the “big ball game’ look like the ugly duckling,” he also argues that football punditry is more negative than its hurling counterpart.

“When a game of hurling is not of five-star quality, the analysis will more often than not concentrate on positives within the game, the defensive work, the hooking/blocking, or some individual acts of great skill.

Development grants

“Less so in football, where the implementation of defensive tactics make it a more difficult game to score in, and such strategies seldom enjoy success in hurling because of the long-range accuracy of players on summer days.

“Unfortunately when it comes to football, more of a ‘Statler and Waldorf’ tone is set from the get-go by some of Gaelic football’s leading analysts, if the game does not enrich our summer afternoons. This tone spreads like St Brigid’s cloak and by midweek the end of the world is nigh!”

In a customarily wide-ranging report, the Dublin CEO also disputes the charge that development grants had unfairly advantaged the senior footballers during what he acclaims as “Dublin’s most successful decade ever at senior football level”.

“The money Dublin has received has been invested in our Games Development programme solely at nursery and juvenile level. Our Go Games programme alone, over the last 10 years, has seen a participation growth of 58 per cent in football and 98% in hurling and 11,500 fixtures scheduled annually for children in the under-8 to under-12 age groups.

“However, to draw a simple straight line, some linear equation, directly connecting this investment at nursery/juvenile level and the success of Dublin’s senior footballers, years later is inaccurate.

“I have read articles using the figures of adult players in the capital to suggest that the grants have been invested in our adult games and indeed directly towards our senior footballers and hurlers. This is untrue and at best is mischievous.”

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