Enda McGinley: Dubs 'Drive for Five' not the most pressing matter for GAA in 2019

Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny powers away from Tyrone's Tiernan Mc Cann in the 2018 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park, Dublin. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

New Year's resolutions… tick all that apply: exercise more, eat less, drink less, procrastinate less, spend less time on the phone, focus more/less on work.

Easy to make, hard to keep. We all know the drill.

In truth they often are basic changes that are obvious from previous lessons learned but for some reason defeat nearly all of us before January is out.

Football is little different.

Even the current rules changes have the whiff of worn out New Year’s resolutions made with the aim of returning to some mythical perfect form of the game: fist pass less, high field more, kick more.

At the current rate of feedback it would appear optimistic if they see out January as well but they seem to have a momentum behind them that is going against what a lot of informed opinion is suggesting about their merits, so I wouldn’t ring their death knell just yet.

2018 certainly has been a momentous year in football terms.

The rearrangement of the football calendar has created a much changed framework and it’s fair to say that both fixture makers at every level are still working how best to optimise formats within this new framework.

That is completely understandable; trying to get the perfect fixtures set-up is akin to picking the lottery numbers.

The only entirely forgettable bit was Dublin’s march to a fourth All-Ireland.

Rarely has history been achieved with such little fanfare.

It’s hard to think of any time during the season bar those fleeting first 20 minutes against Tyrone, that Dublin’s procession felt anything else but an inevitability.

Looking ahead to 2019, the earnest hope among most is that, if Dublin are to achieve the greatest achievement ever in our game, that they are at least made to earn it and that it doesn’t turn into the procession that it could be.

WHILST the likely destination of the All-Ireland title is perhaps less of an unknown than we would like, there is much that we are in more unpredictable territory as we head into 2019 and most importantly from a GAA perspective, year two of the new calendar trials.

There is a definite sense of flux in the county game at present between the new format which only began bedding in last year, the new calendar, the rule change trials and the talk of the imminent move towards tiers in the football championship.

On top of this there continues to be a palpable sense of unease between the county and club game where the balance hasn’t been quite right in many counties.

The club month of April hasn’t proved to be the magic bullet no one ever thought it would be.

While the club side of our game may have tinkered with rebranding as ‘fight club’ in the early part of the Autumn, since then it went on to prove once again just how popular and high quality it is.

Increased crowds and increased access via TV and online streaming has further increased its impact across a much greater cross section of followers and this will further add weight to its need to be giving a full seat at the table in terms of the ongoing renovations of the fixture calendar.

THE clear trends borne out again last year were the high quality and popularity of the league competition, the somewhat bygone era feel of the provincial championships and the treading water feel of the qualifiers prior to the big events at the end of the summer. Lessons could be taken from the fact that the more compact nature of the competition in my mind did detract from some of the excitement that builds up before big ties with the Tyrone Monaghan game a good example of this. In the scheme of getting a new structure in place this is something which may have to be accepted.

New year resolutions tend to be made on areas where we see ourselves falling short and where changes can be made to improve things. The other big talking point was the impact of location and the contrast between atmospheres generated in the provincial grounds compared with Croke Park.

For me it is too early to call this as it will also be affected by fixtures and timing of the games within the Super-8 structure.

ON the field of play, I do fear for this year.

The game will survive surely but it’s going to be messy for sure as I believe the rule changes, pushed on by this momentum for change behind them, will be applied into the national league.

If they do, a mess is the only way to describe what will ensue, as teams push for promotion or fight to avoid relegation using rules that they, officials and supporters are only getting to grips with.

And rules which will not apply in the games they are all essentially preparing for, the Championship.

Again, it very much feels that we are living in a key moment of change within our game both on and off the field.

In an association that traditionally changes at glacial pace the current mood and speed of change would have once have been unthinkable.

Accelerating changes are rarely ideal as the knock on consequences of any decision are not given time to mature for the end result to be appropriately weighed up as change comes on top of change.

For many Brexit and Trump are hardly great advertisements for the getting caught up in the call for change.

The GAA faces a momentous year in 2019 and in it, the Dubs ‘Drive for Five’ is certainly not the most pressing matter up for decision. Much to anticipate. Much to discuss.

Like the best of New Year’s toasts, all we really need is the health and happiness to enjoy it.

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