Sheehan: Too many athletes, not enough footballers

Awarding two points for a long-range kick that raises a white flag in Gaelic football is among the considerations for the Football Review Committee (FRC).

At the moment, the body, chaired by former Dublin boss Jim Gavin, is getting the views of the provincial councils, with any rule enhancements to be ready for a trial period by the start of the 2025 season.

No doubt purists of the game would be interested in seeing the ball being kicked more, and rewarding a score from distance, you would think, be welcomed in an era of such possession-based football.

The committee are proposing that two points be awarded for a kick between the posts from either on or beyond an arc that would be marked about a quarter of the way out the field. The proposed new marking may replace the current ‘D’.

It’s a proposal that would excite former Kingdom star Bryan Sheehan, and in simple terms he said: “I think it’s a good idea as you’ll be encouraging footballers to kick the ball over the bar.

The five-time All-Ireland winner, who was speaking at the launch of the 2024 Electric Ireland GAA Minor Championships, said the modern game does not produce enough players who can execute what is a primary skill.

“At the moment, if I’m being honest, I think we’re training athletes to play football rather than footballers to play football,” he added.

“The game is so defensive now that if you can kick the ball over the bar from 40 yards you’re just bypassing all that traffic”

“You have athletes that can cover so much ground and handpass the ball all day, get up and down the field, do tackles and turnovers. If you look at inter-county football, you’ll ask the question: how many inter-county footballers can kick the ball over from 30 or 40 yards? There are only a handful of players that can do that, I think. Maybe 15 players across the whole country who can do it on a consistent basis.”

Doubling the reward for long-range points may also led to changes in how players are coached, with Sheehan, a selector with the Kerry U-20s for the past few seasons, welcoming more specialist kickers on view.

“You have the likes of Paul Mannion and David Clifford who can kick scores from distance, but it is a skillset that is dying out. The game is so defensive now that if you can kick the ball over the bar from 40 yards, you’re just bypassing all that traffic.

“It might incentivise teams to kick scores from distance and teams will have to find footballers who can do that.”

As for where Kerry are at in their quest to retain Sam Maguire, Sheehan referenced the lack of goals so far in 2024, while adding that he expects David Clifford to exert more of an influence as the summer progresses.

“Goals don’t just come like that, you have to be tipping away scoring goals all throughout the year. Dublin are always scoring goals. Derry are always scoring goals. You can’t just flick a switch.

“Kerry aren’t creating goal chances.

David Clifford

“It’s not that they’re not converting them. But look, I still think there’s another gear in David. He’s slowly building towards the championship as well and I think once he steps up to gear, other lads will come up with him. I’ve no doubt that Jack [O’Connor], Paddy [Tally] and Micheál Quirke are working on something to come up with those chances.”

Watch an All-Ireland SFC double-header, Meath v Kerry (2pm) and Derry v Armagh (4pm), on Sunday from 1.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app and listen to commentary on Sunday Sport with RTÉ Radio 1

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