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'We can prevent the death of Gaelic Football but it won't be easy' - Jarlath Burns

The former Armagh player is in a position to make changes.

THERE HAVE BEEN lots of opinions voiced in the wake of Dublin’s Allianz National Football League Division 1 clash with Derry on Saturday night, most notably from RTÉ pundit Joe Brolly.

However, the above tweet from Jarlath Burns also attracted a lot attention because the former Armagh footballer is now the Chairman of the GAA’s standing rules committee and actually in a position to make the changes necessary to prevent Gaelic football being ruined as a spectacle by blanket defences.

This morning, Burns told Des Cahill on Morning Ireland that he doesn’t blame Derry or other teams for adopting negative tactics and it instead up to his committee to come up with a solution.

“You don’t condemn Brian McIver at all,” he said.

“He’s looking at his team and he realises the next match he’s going to have is in June at home to Down in the championship. The team is already slightly demoralised so he doesn’t want to go to Croke Park and take a hammering like they did last year.

“So you don’t blame managers. Managers are there to win games and do the best with the team that they have.

“It’s not to managers that we should be looking it’s up to ourselves and the association to protect the skills of the game and I suppose that’s what our standing committee on playing rules is going to be doing and we do know that we’ve a fairly complex job ahead of us if we’re to change this trend that exists in Gaelic games at the moment.”

However, he does accept it won’t be as simple as some rule changes in the past.

“It’s not just a simple as other rules changes. If you remember 20 years ago, everyone was complaining that the hand pass goal was ruining the aesthetic of the game and it was very easy to just bring that out. A couple of years ago we got rid of the square ball rule, that was fairly simple.

“This is a mindset and if you talked to ten different people, they’d give you 10 different solutions to this. I see Paddy Heaney saying you should give two points for a long range score but I think that if you have anything that involves being on one side of a line or another you can create controversy because people would ask ‘was he over it, was he not’ when he took his two-point point.

“I would just ask for cool heads on this. I feel that two years ago, there was an opportunity for us to move away from this type of football when Dublin won a fantastic All-Ireland by playing brilliant, outstanding, free-flowing football but then Donegal brought it to a new level last year when they beat Dublin in the semi-final using those tactics.

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“We all know what the problem is but trying to solve it is going to be a difficult task indeed without making radical changes to the game and nobody wants to do that.”

Michael Darragh MacAuley under pressure Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

As for the tweet itself, Burns says he re-watched the game just to be sure he was right and insists preserving the skills of Gaelic football was foremost in his mind.

“It is a big statement but I felt very strongly about it. Believe it or not but I tossed and turned on Saturday night and got up to watch it again just to see if I was in bad form when I watched it because I was just after coming back from Armagh where I’d seen a really dull game there as well.

“The thing is, one of the things that we have to preserve are the skills of Gaelic football. A skill is something that, if you’re watching it, it makes you involuntarily get up off your seat. We’re talking about a high catch, a brilliant score, a block even.

“People are saying we’re trying to get rid of the art of defending but we’re not. A skill is something that one or two players will go and practise by themselves for hours on end.

“You’ll never see someone practising the art of running from the half-forward line to the half-back line to try stop a player getting into space, that’s not a skill.

“Hand passing maybe 15-20 times in a row, or hand passing backwards, they’re not skills.

“They’re strategies employed to try prevent skills from taking place and we have to try do something that brings the basic skills back into the game.”

You can listen to the full interview on Morning Ireland here.

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