1 Mar 2016


GAA Congress Reaction
Holder of two Celtic crosses and three all-stars during a fruitful career operating at midfield for Galway, current manager Kevin Walsh is no stranger to the congested midfield zone.
In 1998 Walsh’s partner at midfield was Sean O’Domhnaill, a man equally as imposing in terms of size and sheer power. 
Goalkeeper Martin McNamara, equipped with trademark rugby boots thumped the ball out.  Distance was the order of the day and variation simply meant switching between his two imposing targets at midfield. 
When the 2001 All-Ireland success came, the ‘keeper was now Alan Keane with a similar approach, but this time Walsh’s midfield partner was the more mobile and athletic Michael Donnellan.  The tide was starting to turn even back then towards mobility.
On Sunday Manus Breathnach varied his kickouts with great effect finding an uncontested maroon jersey on ten occasions, three of which were a simple poke towards a defender in space.   
James Kielt and Tom Flynn grabbed a few breath-taking catches during Sunday’s Celtic Park encounter that will be classed as marks this time next year.
In the aftermath of congress, Walsh was undecided about the adoption of the mark.  "To be honest, we will have to wait and see.  I'm not so sure I am behind it but I could be proved wrong.”
The Killanin clubman spoke about a second aspect of the high catch, one that was lost on last weekend’s GAA decision makers.
“An even a bigger part of the skill was landing with the ball and learning how to get yourself into space,” commented Walsh.
“It’s knowing how to and learning how to lever off [an opponent] with the other hand,” something he relished in the physical battles across his own playing career.
The ruling won’t prevent teams working the short kickout if their opponents don’t press up to shut down any options.  It was brought in to promote the high catch and reward it.
Unless players go back to the basics, with countless hours perfect their hang time and catch with rebounds off gable walls across the country, nothing will change.
Unless managers have men who can regularly outfield their opponents, the more measured strategies will be preserved.
Possession is key.   Jim Gavin will still target the pocket of space created by Paul Flynn’s decoy run or Rory Gallagher will use Frank McGlynn’s lung busting runs to build from defence.
In the past scavengers awaited the elegant fielder of the ball and hounded him when he came back to the ground.  Spoiling will continue but in the form of more players going out to break the ball.
Even if players are strong enough to make the spectacular catch, Walsh isn’t convinced.  “I would have my worries that the mark might slow the game down and take away the other skill of making space.”

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