"Gaelic football is now just a shooting contest" - Jim McGuinness has an issue with high scoring GAA games 1 year ago

"Gaelic football is now just a shooting contest" - Jim McGuinness has an issue with high scoring GAA games

"The heart has gone out of Gaelic football."

Jim McGuinness is a very calculated, measured and determined man. He believes in diligent planning, relentless hard work, and is a huge advocate in the psychology of sports.


His Donegal side from 2011 to 2014, revolutionised the game. He took the Donegal "party boys" as they were once known, from a team of good footballers with poor discipline, to an absolute powerhouse that won the All-Ireland in 2012.

Under his guidance, Donegal doubled in size in terms of their physique, their fitness levels were through the roof, but above all else, they were militantly organised, with every player knowing their role down to a tee.

They shut up shop and frustrated teams who just seasons before were dismantling them easily. They built a wall around their goal, forced their opponents to come forward, gobbled them up, and then broke in numbers.

However, this led to what many described as the 'death of Gaelic football' and the birth of the blanket defence, which would soon become a dominant feature in GAA, particularly in Ulster.


The games were unnervingly low scoring, the tackles were hard, the turn-overs were constant and the volume of kick passes was cut in half, while hand-passing laterally across the width of the pitch became the norm.

Lately however, the momentum has shifted in favour of the forwards, as teams have started keeping one, two and maybe even three forwards up near the opposition goal. The kick pass has made a return and it's been scores-galore.

GAA fans are absolutely loving the volume of scores, the excitement it brings, and the display of sheer footballing talent, with wonderful passing, running off the shoulder and creative football.


Last week, Ulster was the place to be as Tyrone victoriously saw out a thriller with Donegal, and Monaghan just beat Armagh in what could well be the best game in Ulster championship history; it had everything.

McGuiness however, has taken exception to this, and in his latest column with The Irish Times, he explains why.

"The heart has gone out of Gaelic football. Much as last weekend’s games in Ulster were lauded, I feel that there is a real danger that what makes the game special and unique is about to be lost.

"There is a conspicuous lack of physicality. A pronounced absence of aggression. A dearth of turnovers. The game has become sanitised – and, in my opinion, soft."

The Naomh Conaill man went on to regale a story about attending a basketball game in the states, arriving early to watch the warm-up, and being amazed that fans weren't even sitting down until halfway through the first quarter.


During this time these fans missed several scores, but because of the frequency of said scores, some of the game's importance is lost and it becomes no big deal to miss the first few. That's according to McGuinness, who is now claiming that this is what football will become like.

He believes that the art of defending is disappearing and that backs are merely hoping forwards will miss, rather than physically doing something about it.

"You will put your hands up and make a bit of a noise as he shoots. He will score maybe four out of six times. So you are hoping he will miss. If not, you know your shooters will get their chance at the other end.

"That all-out parched, desperate defensive honesty has somehow been extracted from the game."

The real question is why, when the mass majority of GAA fans are bouncing with excitement, loving every second of these scoring spectacles, does McGuiness feel so differently?


The whole 'Blanket Defence era' is credited to the former Donegal manager, and so are words like negative, boring and conservative.

So with no pun intended, it's only natural that he feels defensive about the sudden excitement surrounding the abandonment of  the footballing style that he was so successful with, and that so many others attempted to copy.

One argument he continues to make is that these high scoring games are only entertaining when you have two teams evenly matched, but if you look at the likes of Leitrim and Mayo, it actually ruins the game.

I think he's missing the real issue in that scenario, as no type of football was going to save Leitrim from suffering a heavy defeat to James Horan's side.

The issue there was a matter of class, and having two teams at two different levels, facing each other in an unfair contest. This lends itself more to the debate surrounding the championship structure rather than the type of football being played.

With an All-Ireland in his back pocket and three Ulster medals to keep them company, McGuinness is completely within his rights to remain defiant about which way the game should be played, but GAA fans - by and large - will think differently.