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04th Jun 2018

Rory Gallagher defends criticism of Fermanagh’s defensive style

Jack O'Toole

Fermanagh advanced to their first Ulster Senior Football Championship final since 2008 with a one-point win over Monaghan on Sunday.

A late Eoin Donnelly goal sent Fermanagh through to the final where they will face the winner of next weekend’s match between Down and Donegal.

The victory was a tremendous win for Fermanagh, however, it was not without fault, as Rory Gallagher’s side, and other counties throughout the years, received criticism from fans and pundits for a defensive heavy approach.

Gallagher defended his side’s tactics on the latest episode of The GAA Hour and said that defensive heavy approaches, particularly for smaller counties, were a sign of the evolution of the sport.

“Everybody’s getting 11, 12 or 13 men behind the ball so [defences] it does become difficult to break down,” said Gallagher.

“Donegal had a great run at it, and for a while we got away with it and teams have obviously been caught since then, but I think it’s just with the way the game has evolved.

“I can understand some of the criticism but we have to remember that 50% of the game is defending and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“We’d like to get better at both in Fermanagh, I think every team would, but 50% of the game is defending and there’s nobody better at that than Dublin.

“They may not play in a zonal system but they get 15 big men behind the ball an awful lot and in their tremendous display against Tyrone [2017 All-Ireland semi-final] they did that massively.

“They’re very good man markers and they can disrupt the opposition’s key men as well and I just think it’s the way the game has evolved.”

Gallagher drew comparisons between Fermanagh and Turlough O’Brien’s Carlow side and said that Fermanagh’s system suits the players that they have, and the style of football they want to play, in what is the most competitive provincial championship in Gaelic Football.

“I think the same is going on with Carlow,” added Gallagher.

“Carlow are very ambitious and they’ve come with a style of play that suits them. We’re the same, we feel the style of play suits ourselves so it does.

“We may not have the pace up front of the Dublin’s or Kerry’s so we have got to try and play a style of game that suits the players that we have and gives us the best chance of getting results.

“The joy the boys get out of working hard. They want to have their day in the sun – the same as the Dublin players and the Kerry players – I think they’re entitled to go about it in the way that they want.

“At the end of the day; soccer, basketball, we all get into a defensive formation. It’s the way, that in my opinion, team sports are. I think there’s a lot of overreaction to it.

“The scoring rate in the championship has been huge the last few years so it’s not as if teams are defending any better, it’s just the way they’re defending.”

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