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Tue 11-Jan-2005 14:27
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Press Box Lad
Bringing Back The ‘Old’ To Ring In The New!
Meath may have lost their O’Byrne Cup crown following Sunday’s joust with Kildare in Newbridge - and with that their best chance of silverware in 2005 according to some - though I feel that, even in defeat, there were enough positives to be taken from the game to suggest that it may not be all doom and gloom.
Pride of place must of course go to the return of the great Graham Geraghty, so unjustly kept out of the game for so long. Anyone in Newbridge got a sample tasting of what Meath, and the GAA in general, have been missing for well over a year now, save a ludicrous thirty second flying visit against Laois last year.
The All Ireland winning skipper of ’99 worked tirelessly throughout, getting the biggest cheer of the day from the sizeable travelling contingent when lofting over a first half point. Knowing Graham as I do, I have no doubt that he went out there wanting to prove to everybody, maybe including himself, that he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level and he more than did that. It was indeed fitting that in showing some of the sparkle that has thrilled thousands over the years that he put a goal on a plate for the ultra impressive Peadar Byrne which allowed the Ballinlough player take his personal tally to 1-2 on his first competitive start for the county.
I’d say one could assume that many of the Meath supporters who travelled did so to be there for the return of the great man. And while he certainly didn’t disappoint, and even though Meath were beaten, this was far from the ‘Graham Geraghty Show’.
The equally experienced Ollie Murphy (I hate using ‘veteran’) and Nigel Crawford as well as newcomers Brian O’Reilly, Kevin Reilly, Caoimhin King, Byrne and Stephen Bray showed enough promise to suggest that things happening with Meath in 2005 are far from impossible.
You may have thought my use of the word ‘old’ in my headline referred to the return to form of
Geraghty and Murphy, and, while both men are clocking up mileage in terms of age and football, it wasn’t. Sadly not. Rather, it refers to the bad old habit the GAA has of shooting itself in the foot, aggravating all and sundry and making our games worse when they are supposed to improve them.
During the fifteen years I have been going to games, they have tampered with the rules in football more often than Micheal O Muirceartaigh digressed
ó Ghaeilge go Béarla in a match commentary!
The best new rule that was introduced was allowing free kicks and line balls be taken from the hand. Some of the others I wouldn’t have minded seeing kept included games being played over four 15 minute quarters, allowing ‘keepers kick out from the hand and only allowing two consecutive hand passes. But there can be no justification for some of the mess, and that’s all you could call it, that’s being experimented with at the minute and the sooner the better they scrap it before football is totally ruined. For long enough, nobody has had any problem with the majority of our rules but in recent times that seems to have changed.
Indeed, it was only recently pointed out to me the amount rules the GAA has adopted from other codes. Some of them, like the red and yellow cards, the blood rule and the use of electric number boards for added time and substitutions must be welcomed but they should have left it at that and this latest move I believe is taking things a step too far. Indeed, how ironic it is that the GAA are willing to take so much from other sports but never exactly greet them with open arms, but that’s for another day.
Now, I have never been slow to point out what I believe to be bad refereeing but even I would have to have a modicum of sympathy for the refs in this case as they are only doing what they are told by people who should know better and in so doing irritating players, supporters and mentors alike. The dogs on the street know that players have been picking the ball off the ground for time and eternity and the scrapping of the ban on it is only common sense, providing players don’t become reckless when tackling the man going for the ball. Though the rest of what they are experimenting with is pure rubbish.
Goalkeepers have always been able to kick the ball out well enough of the ground and neither they nor their teams have ever had any complaints. Players like David Gallagher, Gary Connaughton, Pascal McConnell and Fergal Byron are able to kick the ball out well enough without a tee and as far as I can see it’s only designed to compensate for those who can’t kick the ball as far as those mentioned.
And as for the Sin Bin, don’t even get me started! The joke around these parts in recent times has been that, with this system in operation at present, some prominent former team members wouldn’t have lasted too long on the field!! Not because they were dirty players either, as some would like to have you believe, quite simply because I think, shamefully, the GAA are, slowly but surely, trying to make our games non contact.
Now, it would be true to say that the whole area of discipline did, and quite obviously still does, need looking at, but not like this. The Sin Bin led to what was nothing short of a farce in Newbridge as Meath were forced to play five of the last seven minutes with twelve men after Kevin Reilly, David Crimmins and Peadar Byrne were ‘binned’ for nothing offences due to what Sean Boylan dubbed the ‘stupid’ new system.
The annoying thing is, Reilly never actually laid a hand on his man but once the Kildare man fell over referee Maurice Deegan duly sent the teenage full back packing while Byrne just had his hands out to block his man getting by but when the defender took a rather dramatic tumble Byrne too was sent for an unwanted rest. Interestingly though, when both debutants returned they had an immediate impact. Reilly fielded majestically, ala Lyons or Fay, and his long ball sent that man Geraghty haring away and Byrne got on the end of a great move to flick to the net and close the scoring.
The situation regarding Byrne’s temporary dismissal also highlighted another slightly worrying problem. Apart from the fact that it appears certain people are doing their best to make our games non contact, it is leaving the door open for non too sporting behaviour on the part of players when they know their side can gain a numerical advantage this easily.
Tyrone had a motion passed at Congress some time back putting a stay of a few years on rule changes but, quite conveniently, the GAA managed to wiggle their way around it by saying it didn’t apply in subsidiary competitions. While I have never been a fan of the style of play employed by the O’Neill County, I can’t help feeling that those advocating the introduction of these new rules had certain counties in mind when doing so.
My summary of the day’s events in St Conleth’s Park? With the likes of Geraghty, Murphy, Crawford and Crimmins showing such good form and newcomers like Reilly, Caomhin King and Byrne showing such good promise so early on, Meath may not be in quite as desperate a situation as some would have you believe.
And as for the rules, several high profile individuals including Mickey Harte, Joe Kernan, Luke Dempsey and a clearly furious Seán Boylan have voiced their utter disapproval for the measures and I add my voice to the ever growing chorus. The sooner the better people stop messing at them and give us back the games we love the way they used to be, the better.
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