Jack Sheedy: Teams compelled to bypass progressive football

Longford manager recalls ‘craic’ of travelling with Dublin out of Croke Park and across the province

A shortage of resources is forcing the majority of intercounty teams to “try not to get beaten” rather than play progressive football.

According to Longford senior football manager Jack Sheedy less than eight teams are capable of even competing for the All-Ireland, meaning the remaining counties are out of necessity setting up to stay in games rather than going out to win them.

“Teams are setting themselves up and protecting themselves the best that they can so that they don’t get beaten, and if they’re still in the game with ten or fifteen minutes left then they’re going to go on and try and win it and that’s what every body has done - and we’re no different.

“Of course we want to win every game and we would love to be able to, like any manager, they’d all love to go out and play a type of attractive, progressive football and have a lovely open game but the reality is that’s not possible for most of us so you’ve got to try and pick a style of football that will help you to stay in a game.


“Teams are setting up because, of the 33 teams maybe six teams can win the All-Ireland, eight max, so everybody else is trying to not get beaten and then give themselves an opportunity to win.”


Sheedy believes there's a combination of factors which has created this gulf between the top counties and the chasing pack. His own native Dublin are arguably the country's most attack minded team, an approach made possible by the resources and finance available to them which has resulted in a "conveyor belt" of talent in recent times.

“There’s a little bit of everything in it, yes the resources that Dublin have are far beyond anything that the majority of other counties have, and their playing numbers are beyond what the majority of counties have but the structures they have put in place there have created all this.

“The development squads and that and that’s what everyone else is starting to roll in more with now - but obviously the resources help that and having the financial clout is a huge difference. But it has to be done - looking at smaller counties you can’t just keep creating a couple of good footballers every year and hope they’ll improve it - you need a good solid structure set up.”

Dublin on the road

The former Dublin player and All Star in 1994 believes that financial clout is not only influencing the approach of teams such as Longford, but it’s also the key component in preventing the Dublin footballers from travelling outside of Croke Park for matches, something Sheedy says he thrived upon in his own playing days.

"We play Offaly in the first round of the Leinster championship next year and if we're fortunate enough to get over that we have an opportunity to play Dublin, and if we could've brought them to Pearse Park it would be a great opportunity locally from a financial generation point of view but also for supporters and kids you always get a great day.

“The Dublin supporters are always brilliant when they go on the road as well so I think it’s a benefit to them as well.”

Dublin’s footballers have not played outside of the capital since 2006 yet speculation last month suggesting they may have travelled to the winners of Offaly and Longford’s Leinster championship match for their quarter-final meeting were dismissed as the game was eventually scheduled for Croke Park.

"It's an outstanding stadium it stands up with any stadium in the world but as a player almost all of us we loved getting in a bus and getting out of Dublin going down the country to places like Wexford Park, Portlaoise, Navan, Tullamore and Pearse Park in Longford - we loved going to those games because it generated a bit more craic.

"What you were doing was to be taken very seriously but it generated a lot of craic and I think it's great. Dublin are the Barcelona, Real Madrid, of gaelic football so therefore bringing the attractive teams out around the country and province to play games is great, it's fantastic and I would love to see Dublin be brought to Pearse Park.

“Yet when you get 60,000 people in Croke Park for a game like that and the financial clout that it brings, that’s probably going to outweigh the rest.”

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a former Irish Times journalist