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Colm Cavanagh: After witnessing Ireland's win over the All Blacks it's clear rugby can teach us a thing or two in Gaelic football

I was lucky enough to witness Ireland's epic win over New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and can see how a lot of skills from GAA are transferable to the game.

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be in the Aviva Stadium to experience something incredible.

Not only did Ireland beat New Zealand but they dominated the game from start to finish, they were superior on so many fronts.

I must admit that my rugby knowledge is somewhat limited but as far as sport and a sporting occasion go, it really was something special.

It's not often I have been a spectator in Croke Park, never mind the Aviva, but I naturally compared all aspects of the day to All-Ireland final day a few months ago. The same buzz, a brilliant atmosphere, a top-class stadium, and everyone enjoying a fantastic display of skill on the pitch.

The physicality and power of the Irish team was something that has to be admired and commended. Every man had a different role to play but each were individually conditioned to play that role to perfection.

I compared this to the strength and conditioning of the Tyrone team in September and it further confirmed for me how vital the role of the coaches, specifically Peter Donnelly, is to the Tyrone set-up. I know he works with rugby teams as well and his adaptation, crossover and application of that knowledge is exceptional.

Rugby isn’t a sport I ever took the opportunity to play but I can see how a lot of skills from GAA are transferable to the game. There are many players who have played top level rugby and would say that their catching and ball handling skills came from the GAA pitch as youths.

Tommy Bowe has often credited his overhead catching skills to his time playing football for his local club Emyvale and county at minor level.

I’m grateful he opted to pursue his rugby career, or he would have been a formidable midfielder to have to meet had he have played for Monaghan seniors.

Rob Kearney has now retired from rugby after a very successful career for both Leinster and Ireland and has gone back to playing Gaelic football for Cooley Kickham's in Louth. He too had impressive footballing skills and like Bowe played at minor level for his county before concentrating on the oval ball.

In Tyrone, we often got comments about the number of hand-passes in a game (rather than kick passes). Fast hands were prevalent in the Aviva at the weekend and there is nothing slicker than a series of fast, well executed hand passes in either GAA or rugby.

Moving the ball smoothly to open up space for other players to run through is very hard to defend against no matter how big or nimble the defence is.

We could learn a lot in GAA about ball carrying skills and protecting the ball from our rugby players. How the ball is carried into the tackle and body positioning to get through tackles is something to be admired, albeit there would be more than a few black cards given out if we tried to emulate the actual tackle on our pitches too.

In Tyrone, we have watched Mugsy’s infamous sidestep dummy thousands of times for ‘that goal’ and on Saturday I watched James Lowe sidestepping the New Zealand defence on numerous occasions to the same devastating effect, it was a joy to watch.

Perfecting the timing of a run is something we are always striving to achieve in Gaelic football.

In rugby it is a fundamental skill of the game to avoid a forward pass but, across both codes, getting the ball from an off-the-shoulder pass and cutting through the defence is a real art.

Likewise with the kick pass, timing is everything and precision is key.

In Gaelic football, a long ball into the hands can cut out a packed defence and really open up the game. This was especially prevalent with Ireland’s kicks to touch and Joey Carberry’s impressive penalties on Saturday.

I’m not sure if Niall Morgan is taking notes from him or if Carberry is trying to master Morgan’s skills but either way it gets the right result.

Something that was notable and admirable on the pitch at the weekend was the level of respect every player had for the referee and officials.

Any time the referee had to stop play, he clearly explained and justified every decision, speaking directly to the captain of each team and, what’s more, they listened and accepted every decision and moved on.

I have been to many games in Old Trafford over the years and played football for as long as I can remember and this was something that really stood out to me.

I have heard the saying that rugby is a game for thugs played by gentlemen and this couldn’t have been more obvious to me on Saturday. In soccer, the slogan on the jerseys is ‘Give Respect, Get Respect’ - how true that is, if only we could see it played out more in both soccer and GAA at all levels.

I don’t think I will be taking up rugby in the off-season any time soon, but I can see the crossover and similarities between it and Gaelic football and can only admire the skill required to play such a physically demanding sport.

The atmosphere in the Aviva on Saturday was exceptional. The emotions of the players after the game and seeing what it meant to the Ireland fans to be there as part of history is something I will always cherish but it will always be the round ball for me.

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