Opinion

Kenny Archer: new complaints being aired about GAA tactics

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

Part of the crowd during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship final between Tyrone and Kerry at Croke Park Dublin on 08-28-2021. Pic Philip Walsh.
Part of the crowd during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship final between Tyrone and Kerry at Croke Park Dublin on 08-28-2021. Pic Philip Walsh. Wit and wisdom is worth hearing outside the press box.

‘YOU got the short straw then?’

The friendly, if self-deprecating Fermanagh steward greeted me thus when I entered the Ederney clubhouse on Sunday. He seemed surprised when I told him it had been my choice to go there. (I’ll not cause offence by naming the match I turned down).

There’s an element of risk about which game to go to early in the year. The old-boned among us might prefer only to go to enclosed press boxes, but you also want to get around and see as many counties as possible.

A balance also has to be struck between comfort and atmosphere.

Insulation from the cold and/or wet also insulates you from the full sensory experience of match-going, the kind you get by sitting out in a stand or leaning over the advertising hoardings around the side of the pitch.

In Clones during winter and spring there’s a choice between warmth and being able to see the action properly.

As utter professionals, of course we always choose the latter option, lifting out the removable window frames. I still have fearful flashbacks to the time when one of those slipped out of a journo’s grasp and fell out into the supporters seated in front. Luckily it didn’t do any serious damage, even if 27 people did claim for neck injuries.

Fortunately the weather was fine, if chilly, in Ederney, where we were placed at the back of the small seated stand.

Taking notes and typing ain’t easy when you’re swaddled up like the Michelin man (Google him, kids) but it’s still better than getting soaked.

The best bit about being out among the supporters (apart from how delightful they all look - and smell! – of course) is the running commentary provided free of charge.

One advantage is all the (opposition) fouls being pointed out, at full volume. You’re alerted to any off-the-ball shenanigans too.

There are even a few newer phrases uttered as a consequence of changes in playing style, such as:

‘Get up the field some of ya, will yiz?!’

Only people of a certain age shout this. Hipsters will happily stroke their well-oiled, trimmed beards while counting the mounting hand-passes outside the opposition ‘45′, whereas a section of the older populace are not so silently fuming.

Despite its disdain, this call still demonstrates an understanding of modern tactics, if not any appreciation of them. They know some of the players have to hang back. Most of them.

When did you last hear someone shouting ‘Kick it in long’? No one wants to sound like a fool.

Another fairly new roar is:

‘Go back home, goalie!’

You might guess that this was directed by a home supporter at the opposition net-minder – but you’d be wrong. In fact it was repeatedly roared at the home goalie, on the regular occasions when he wasn’t minding his net, but instead foraying up the field. Obviously he was doing so on clear managerial instructions - but yer man knew better.

‘How long does it take?!’

A strange one this. Not the classic ‘How long?’, aimed at a player the shouter is certain has taken too much out of the ball/ too much time on it.

Indeed, this isn’t a call for a free to be awarded.

A free HAS been awarded, to the bellower’s team. Yet he’s still not happy.

Showing the referee how it should be done, his complaint is delivered before the soundwaves from the whistle have stopped reverberating.

It doesn’t matter that this referee has been playing advantages all match, then sometimes calling play back.

The angry punter wants the whistle blown on the ‘f’ of ‘foul’.

Until an advantage really should be played (in favour of his team), of course…

And finally, ‘Take it yourself, ref!’

The old ones are still the best. A cracker, delivered after the awarding of an especially questionable – and scoreable - free to the opposition. If the defending team’s protests come close to those of the crowd the ref assuredly brings the ball closer to the posts, prompting this cheeky exhortation.

////////////////////////////////

Liverpool won the Carabao Cup with a side featuring several unheralded youngsters
Liverpool lift the Carabao Cup Liverpool won the Carabao Cup with a side featuring several unheralded youngsters (Nick Potts/PA)

Proving that statistics can, um, prove just about anything, the narrative that ‘Klopp’s Kids’ (Liverpool) had beaten ‘The billion-pound bottle-jobs’ (Chelsea) in the Carabao Cup Final was swiftly turned on its head.

Aha, came the number-crunchers, in fact Chelsea’s starting side had a younger average age than the XI which lined out for Liverpool.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sent on a bunch of youngsters, though, didn’t he? Indeed he did – but the Chelsea team that finished the final, after extra time, was still younger per head than their counterparts in red. Much pricier too, of course.

Chelsea’s bold policy of buying for the future could yet work out – but their lack of experience was obvious. No players aged over 26. The bulk of their players aged 24 or younger.

The real point, of course, was the lack of experience of the Liverpool players who came on, particularly in the Premier League, compared to their Chelsea opponents.

Additionally, apart from Thiago Silva and Reece James, Chelsea were effectively at full strength, whereas Liverpool were missing more than half their starters among a lengthy injury list.

The message that Liverpool sent out to talented kids is that they can get a chance at Anfield (and even Wembley).

In contrast, kids joining Chelsea might feel that they are only valued for what they might eventually be worth in the transfer market, in an attempt to balance their books.

Speculation continues to surround the potential sale of Conor Gallagher, another player brought through the ranks who might follow fellow Englishmen out the exit door from Stamford Bridge.

Overall, a costly defeat for Chelsea, who still aren’t guaranteed European football next season.