Belmullet score top marks for facilities, but the football fails to come up to grade

You can rest assured that you will never have to worry too much about midges at Belmullet’s magnificent new GAA facilities if last Saturday evening is anything to go by. In what could best be described in these parts as a ‘fresh evening’, I was shivering however in light clothing for the first half of the challenge match between Mayo and Cavan. Conditions did improve weather wise for the second half, but sadly that’s as far as the improvement went. The match rarely produced any excitement and Mayo in particular will have learned little from this encounter. I parked myself close to the Cavan dugout for the first half and was quite relieved I wasn’t in the shoes, or should that be boots, of my close friend Tommy Carr. And if what I witnessed last Saturday is a reflection of their true worth at this juncture, they will need every one of the days between now and the end of June to get their act together. Mayo on the other hand won the game convincingly, but Johnno and his selectors will have learned little. They will be pleased however to have seen Tom Cunniffe back playing and injury free. He did well in the number six jersey and I think that he could line out in this position for the championship opener, particularly as Trevor Howley offers options at corner back or on the half back line. Big Barry Moran caught the eye again when introduced and he is another who should be guaranteed a starting berth in two weeks time. Tom Parsons is beginning to put himself about. He played well, with a couple of eye catching high fetches. The midfield selection for Sligo will be interesting with three players, Ronan McGarrity, Seamus O Shea and Tom Parsons all presenting a case for inclusion.

Hand pass headlines

I didn’t get to watch any of the championship games live last Sunday afternoon as I was involved with Crossmolina in a league match v Ballaghdareen. I was lucky not to have wasted an entire afternoon in front of the TV as what I saw later that night in the highlights programme suggested it was pretty ordinary stuff from all three venues. As I highlighted in this column last week, I felt the hand pass was the one rule change that would pose problems. And as it transpired we had a lot of mixed opinion on the topic this past week. The hand pass is just too difficult to police particularly when the player in possession has his back to the referee, not to mention the fact that the referee has to make a judgment call in real time. I can understand however why officialdom wanted to tinker with the rule as the type of hand passing that has emerged over the past 10 years is somewhat unsightly. However, this new rule isn’t the answer to the problem.

I read an article some time ago which compared the finals of 2003 and 1991. It suggested that in ’91 there were just 80 kicked passes and a similar amount of hand passes. In the 2003 final between Armagh and Tyrone, there were only 50 kick passes and more than 250 hand passes. Obviously that statistic alone suggests that something needed to be done, but the GAA has not grasped the nettle here. Because our ‘modern’ game is all about ball retention and limiting turnovers, players have developed a fear of kicking the ball. I would have much preferred a rule change that encouraged more kick passing, instead of the continuous hand passing over and back the field. Ultimately our game is all about getting the ball into the scoring zone as quickly as possible. A rule change where the ball had to be kicked after a hand pass would make for a much better spectacle. That could have been limited to the defensive end of the field as it probably wouldn’t be practicable up in the forward division.

PS. I am reliably informed that Turlough House is an ideal lunch venue for the meeting of GAA minds, particularly if anonymity is on the menu! Two such minds were spotted there recently however, engrossed in conversation, presumably pouring over the various permutations that might ensure Mayo success at last! Could it be that a former Mayo manager is being lined up for a position any time soon? One of the many million dollar questions!

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