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GAA

18th Jun 2023

‘Teams are all playing pretty much the same way bar maybe Meath’ – Kieran Donaghy

Niall McIntyre

Kieran Donaghy feels that Armagh’s approach and tactics are no different to the majority of Gaelic football teams in the country.

The Orchard have shipped plenty of criticism this year, for having a ‘conservative’ game-plan but Donaghy, one of the team’s coaches, disagrees with this notion.

“I think most teams are playing the same way,” says the Kerryman, in his role as a Virgin Media ambassador.

Having followed up a relegation from the National League with an Ulster final loss, things haven’t gone to plan for Armagh this year but Donaghy says that rather than systems failure, a failure to take their chances is to blame.

In fact, when it comes to systems and approaches to Gaelic football, Donaghy claims that Colm O’Rourke’s Meath are the one team who go their own way.

“For us, we’ve been performing quite well but we’re not finishing,” he said.

“That’s probably my fault being a forwards coach, but we’re maybe not executing the chances we’re creating early on in games – both against Westmeath and Tyrone – if you take them chances, it adds a different complexion, given the way the modern game is played.

“Because if you can get the lead, you can play at your own terms – I think teams are all playing in pretty much the same way now bar maybe Meath, who play quite an expansive and open game, and were ridiculed for it at times.

“But even watching their games against Down at the weekend, even though Down missed a few chances, Meath seem to have tightened back a small bit too.”

Donaghy says that apart from Meath, most teams bring ’14 back’ and that’s why taking your chances early on is so pivotal. Meath qualified for the semi-finals of the Tailteann Cup with a convincing win over Wexford on Saturday.

“Now most teams are playing the same way the way the modern game has gone, so it’s hard to break down and you have to take your chances, particularly early, which probably frees you up to counter-attack teams more afterwards.

“When you don’t have the ball, everybody has to work hard, something that probably originated between Mickey Harte and then Jim McGuinness and I think Pat Gilroy with that Dublin team quickly analysed that he needed Bernard Brogan tackling as hard as Jonny Cooper.

“I think you have probably 14 back by most teams, leaving one up for the counter-attack position.

“Most teams are playing the same way. I think when you win and you execute, everybody’s ok with it. When you don’t win and you don’t execute, people aren’t ok with it but it’s just the way the modern game has gone.

“You have athletes all over the pitch now and you kind of have to be able to track players, corner-backs are going to go up and score so does the corner-forward stay above and let his man score and then we’re taking him off.

“Then people are giving out, ‘Why isn’t he tracking?’ I think Meath is a good cross-reference.

Indeed, Donaghy says that these modern tactics that demand tracking and tackling from all players – even full forwards – was one of the things that forced him into retirement from the inter-county game.

“Meath, in fairness to their backroom team, they had a real cut at things this year,” says Donaghy, “and they went for kicking in ball and man to man at the back at times but really they got ridiculed for it from all quarters about being naive and not getting back.”

“So people have this ideology that we’d love to go back to the 70s and 80s where it was six on six and you kick it up to the Bomber and he wins it and he slips it off and Mikey Sheehy beats his man and he’s through on goal.

“It’s harder than that now and that’s definitely the way it’s gone.

“It’s changed dramatically in the last five years form when I played.”

“I remember playing against Mayo in ‘17 and it’s starting to happen, I know Dublin were doing it, but everybody bombing, all the backs bombing when they got the ball and you’re going, ‘Jesus, I better follow this guy’ and then switching different men on to me and bombing again and bombing and I was like, ‘Ok, time to retire, you’re not going to be able to track players all over the country at 35 years of age’”

Kieran Donaghy was speaking at the launch of Virgin Media’s rollout of 2 Gig full fibre broadband to homes and businesses across Ireland. This will see Virgin Media’s new 2 Gig fibre broadband become available in towns including Tralee, Killarney and Letterkenny, along with ongoing full fibre network upgrades in areas such as Dublin, Cork and Louth.

To celebrate the launch, Virgin Media will be delivering 4,000 boxes of full fibre cereal in Tralee, Cork and Donegal, with golden ticket prizes that include Virgin Voyage cruises and €500 Harvey Norman vouchers.