GAA Football

Gaelic football punditry crying out for more in-depth analysis: Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson

Antrim's manager Lenny Harbinson would prefer to tune into Sky for analysis rather than the "banter and entertainment" on RTE on Sunday afternoons

ANTRIM boss Lenny Harbinson claims there is a “lack of informed debate” among some RTE pundits and believes the national broadcaster is missing a trick when it comes to presenting Gaelic Games.

While it may cost punters to watch inter-county games on Sky Sports, Harbinson says there is no comparison between RTE and Sky’s coverage.

“If I had a choice of watching RTE or Sky Sports on a Sunday afternoon, I’ll watch Sky because of their analysis,” said the St Gall’s clubman.

“If I want banter and entertainment I’ll watch RTE. They don’t give the same depth of tactical analysis and there’s not the same level of informing the public, although in the evening time the analysis is better on RTE.

“But, generally, it’s sound-bites on one station and tactical analysis on the other.

“People are trying to understand what’s going on in games and why are teams setting up the way they are. There is a lack of informed debate for the TV watcher – and I think there’s a massive appetite out there for more in-depth analysis.

“I enjoy listening to [Peter] Canavan and [James] Horan and I think [Sky Sports presenter] Rachel Wyse allows the experts to have the debate. She’s a very good facilitator and gives a bit of direction to it. It’s very well managed.

“If you look at the detail Sky has got into regarding kick-outs and restarts is fabulous.”

Harbinson heaped praise on former Armagh defender Aidan O’Rourke – RTE’s on-line football analyst – and Jim McGuinness’s weekly newspaper column for “informing” the GAA public with their musings.

RTE’s resident pundits Joe Brolly, Pat Spillane and Colm O’Rourke have bemoaned the playing style practised by Carlow and Fermanagh, while Brolly jested Harbinson on social media for playing with “only one forward”.

Antrim delivered a very disappointing display in their Ulster Championship defeat to Down and a couple of weeks later they exited the All-Ireland series to Offaly in Tullamore.

Harbinson feels there is no thought given to where some senior county teams are at in their development and says the truncated debate served up by some TV pundits can have a destabilising effect among the lesser lights in the country.

“I don’t think you can boil the ocean in one go,” Harbinson insisted.

“In other words, you can’t fix three, four or five different problems. You systematically work through the team, work through the lines and fix the problems.”

Harbinson cited the evolution of Donegal and Dublin and how their paths to success began with small, tentative steps to the game’s biggest prize.

“Having a defensive structure is not going to win you games, I understand that. It’s going to keep you in games. And then you have to build an offensive gameplan.

“Everybody would absolutely love to play like Dublin. Dublin have got to this stage after a seven or eight-year process. They are fantastic to watch and there is some magnificent coaching going on behind the scenes. But it didn’t happen overnight.

“Managers look at their resources and from that they cut their cloth. And they say: ‘Do I make this a war of attrition?’ You can see it among some of the smaller teams at the World Cup when they face tier one nations. Or do you just play open, off-the-cuff football and get hammered out the gate?

“The criticism does annoy me slightly because the Antrim supporters or the Carlow supporters are listening to this analysis and the comments actually resonate with them, and they think: ‘The pundits must be right’, instead of giving the supporters a bit of background, saying: ‘Listen, this team has gone defensive because they’re playing against a gale-force wind or they’re missing two or three key players and they’re trying to play their way into the game…’

“But there is none of that coming through. It’s a case of: ‘Everybody must be gung-ho.’

“But where were Clare or Cork’s defensive structure [against Kerry] this summer in Munster? Cork won the All-Ireland in 2010. That team should have won more All-Ireland titles but they didn’t because their defensive structure wasn’t right.”

Harbinson added: “For me, the debate hasn’t been fleshed out and as a consequence some pundits are getting away with sound-bites instead of actually sitting down and giving a detailed account of what’s going on in the game. The GAA fraternity – people who are really interested in the games – want to know how the game is evolving.”

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