“Kick the bloody thing in!“
A common phrase heard in grounds up and down the country as teams look to build from the back and play patience football.
People love to hate the hand pass, but why?
The days of just catch and kick are long gone. Long gone because they no longer work. Tactically, teams are much more organised, defenders aren’t often exposed meaning long kick passes into the full forward line are mostly ineffective.
(That’s not to say the tactic of kicking long doesn’t work and Tyrone’s win over Dublin on Saturday night is a testament to that.)
In modern football, the hand pass gets a bad rap. If the kick pass is Bernie Saunders, then the hand pass is most definitely Donald Trump and things got so bad that the GAA tried to alter the rules and limit it to just three before teams were forced to kick the ball. Pure madness.
Luckily, common sense prevailed in the end and the experimental rule was scrapped before the Allianz Football Leagues.
Of course, there is indeed evidence to show that overuse of the hand pass can have a negative effect on games, however, that doesn’t mean you eliminate it.
When the GAA rules committee sat down to discuss the proposed changes last year, one has to wonder if any of its members had actually watched a Corofin game before agreeing that limited hand passing was the way forward.
Corofin retained their All-Ireland senior club title on Sunday with a dominant 12-point victory of Dr Crokes in Croke Park.
The Galway outfit have come in for plenty of praise following their third All-Ireland title in five years with many describing their style of play as ‘total football’.
Over the last five years, this utterly brilliant side has taught us that playing a running game can be attractive, that hand passing doesn’t constitute ‘boring football’ and that clinical football isn’t about long balls inside.
Corofin have consistently beaten the top teams using the hand pass to full effect and it is a joy to watch.
We didn’t have to wait long to see this style of play in action on St. Patrick’s Day as Corofin almost yielded a goal in the fifth minute following a sequence of six hand passes that had Dr Crokes at ‘sixes & sevens’.
Dylan Wall was central to the movement. Here he is receiving the ball from Liam Silke.
Wall carries the ball in-field, offloads to Daithí Burke before continuing his run.
Burke quickly moves the ball on to midfield partner Ronan Steede. Wall has continued his run and has now cut inside.
Steede runs into a block of Crokes’ defenders but is able to squeeze another hand pass over the top to the onrushing Wall.
The hand pass isn’t perfect but Wall spots Martin Farragher on his own and is able to punch the ball across once more.
At this point, most full forwards would take the ball on themselves, but that’s not how Corofin operate. They consistently pass to the player in a better position.
Farragher quickly offloads the ball back to Wall who is left one on one with the goalkeeper.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, Wall’s shot came back off the crossbar.
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
15 minutes later and Corofin lead by a single score having grabbed their first goal through Jason Leonard.
Again, Dylan Wall is central to the move as he pounces on a loose pass from Fionn Fitzgerald to set up another attack.
Wall passes to Farragher who carries the ball through the heart of Dr Crokes’ defence. The full forward has Sice and Leonard ahead of him, but he spots Burke coming through on the blindside who cuts a hole right through the middle of the defence.
All-Star hurler Burke passes to All-Star footballer Burke who is left with a shot at goal.
Again, Burke (the assist king) could take the shot on himself, but he spots Gary Sice at the back post in a better position before hand passing across and leaving Sice with the simplest of finishes.
2-3 to 0-5. Game, set, match.
Plays like this are no fluke and if you need further proof to see that it’s something this Corofin side work tirelessly on, then skip to 16 minutes in this video to see one of the finest goals in Croke Park history in last year’s All-Ireland club final against Nemo Rangers.
Corofin have shown us that there’s nothing sexier on a Gaelic field than watching one team tear another apart with a sequence of intricate hand passing that leaves them almost disorientated.
If there’s anything this simply awesome team have done in the last couple of seasons it’s that; Corofin have made the hand pass great again.