GAA Football

Eoghan Rua manager Sean McGoldrick: Rules have to change

Eoghan Rua manager Sean McGoldrick. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

EOGHAN Rua manager Sean McGoldrick admits that spectators need to see the rules of football change because coaches have figured out how to drain the game of a spectacle under the current ones.

The Derry championship found itself in the headlines last week after the already infamous spell just before half-time in Slaughtneil’s win over Magherafelt, when the champions held possession for several minutes in their own half under no pressure.

His Coleraine team won their first and only Derry SFC eight years ago. They got ahead of the curve using their athleticism and goalscoring ability, but as the impact of the former has been negated by the rest catching up, so the latter has slowed.

They’ve subsequently become renowned for their defensive organisation and their ability to stifle a game. It’s not always attractive, and McGoldrick concedes that, while he doesn’t have the answers himself, the game could do with an intervention from the law-makers.

“It’s the way the game’s being played nowadays. I hear a lot of talk about too much handpassing but the reason teams handpass is there’s nowhere to kick the ball when you go forward. It’s very difficult.

“Unless you can get the ball out quickly when you turn it over, you’re going to be faced with 12 or 13 men inside the opposition 45’, and there’s just no space.

“Until the rules change, and I presume there are going to have to be rule changes, that’s the nature of the game and the way it’s being played. What can you do, you just have to go with it?

“There are going to have to be changes if we’re going to change the game. Who’s going to go and watch a team holding the ball for three or four minutes, back and forward, toe-tapping?

“I don’t blame any team for doing that but the question to the opposition is should they allow them to do it, or should they come out and compete?

“I wouldn’t criticise a team for not coming out, because that’s a tactical decision they made, even though it appeared their time with the advantage of the conditions was wasted. But those are tactical choices, you don’t blame anybody, but that’s the way the game’s gone.

“I said years ago it would turn into soccer. You’ll find that any team that doesn’t think they can match the opposition man-for-man for football or athleticism is probably going to play with a packed defence, they feel that’s their best hope.

“Can you blame them? That’s the approach the Republic took under Jack Charlton, they basically defended and hoped for a corner-kick or a free-kick. Gaelic is basically aping the tactical approach of these other games.”

Of recent seasons Eoghan Rua have remained an effective unit but have only reached one county final since their 2010 success, when they were beaten by Slaughtneil three years ago after they left a final quarter charge just that bit too late.

The winners led by 1-6 to 0-3 midway through the second half yet ended up holding on by a single point as the coastal men dominated the final quarter after pushing out of their defensive shape.

Last year saw them win the Ulster and Derry leagues, the Dr Kerlin Cup and the All-Ireland Sevens, but the theory that they were best placed to scalp the Emmet’s never materialised when the Coleraine side lost their semi-final to Ballinascreen after a horror start.

They’re aware now, as they look to break Slaughtneil's unbeaten sequence, that they’re running out of chances. Eleven of the 17 players they used in their first round win over Glenullin have their 2010 championship medal, and all but Mark McTaggart started. Their longevity has been impressive.

“The fact they’re all still playing is testament to their attitude, their sense of enjoyment and how they look after themselves,” said McGoldrick, who’s been 15 unbroken years in charge himself.

“They’re a great bunch. It’ll be a long time, I’d say, before Eoghan Rua have a bunch of players anything like them.

“The game’s changing all the time and maybe the strengths we had in 2010 weren’t so effective as the game changed. Now it’s a game of draughts, and athleticism is less of an advantage than it would have been when it was 15 men against 15 men.

“Now you’re faced with 12 or 13 defenders and there’s nowhere to run or nowhere to kick the ball. It’s a very different type of game and maybe we lost out a wee bit because of that.

“Time flies. When you think it’s a young team and there’s maybe another championship or two in them, it’s amazing how quickly time goes by and it hasn’t happened," said McGoldrick.

He is not expecting Declan Mullan to be available from the start, while his elder brother Ciaran is also nursing a knock but should be fine.

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