The Evolution Of Gaelic Football

Kilkenny gaelic football

Gaelic football has evolved rapidly within the last decade. The physicality, the professionalism and most notably the tactical aspect has been totally revolutionised.

The modern style has come under much scrutiny but is it just a result of the times we live in?


In the aftermath of last year’s All-Ireland Final, it was labelled ”the worst final in years.” It was a low scoring contest, with only 15 scores coming from play. Both teams lacked creativity and, the two green flags that were raised during the game, were opportunistic to say the least.

A dark cloud hung over football throughout winter, with most only remembering that game on the third Sunday in September. From a neutral’s point of view it was a dull affair, but to the trained eye, it was intriguing. The battle of two master tactictians in Jim McGuinness and Éamonn Fitzmaurice was a joy to behold. In many ways, one could say that this game was won and lost on the sideline.

However, ”on the sideline” is now a thing of the past. Both teams spent time in training camps ahead of the match. Kerry trained on Fota Island, while Donegal trained at Lough Erne. This is where the match was won and lost. Fitzmaurice organised his team, positioned his troops and by the time the battle was to begin, all players knew which blades of Croke Park they were to cover.

The game itself was heavily scrutinised because of its defensive nature. Many traditionalists believed that Fitzmaurice wouldn’t commit a sin and revert to the blanket defence. However, he did, and it ultimately paid off.

He outmastered the master in Jim McGuinness and brought Sam back to Kerry. This was an absolutely fantastic win for Kerry with many proclaiming it was the ”sweetest”.

Ultimately, it was a greater win for modern football and the future of our games. The defensive system had been beaten.

Although, the blanket system was mastered by a replica version, Kerry did not use this defensive tactic throughout the season.

Their two semi-finals against Mayo, were arguably the games of the season. Both teams went at it hammer and tongs and in the end the greater football team asserted their authority. Kerry may have been defensive in the final but they will never revert to a constant banket defence.

The battle between Footballer of the Year, James O’Donoghue and Mayo corner back, Keith Higgins was the highlight of the football season.

If one looks at the physique of O’Donoghue compared to Peter Canavan, who inspired Tyrone to their first All-Ireland win in 2003, there is a vast difference.

Canavan had the same role to play in 2003 as O’Donoghue had this year. There are many similarities between the two but the vivid difference is the sheer contrast in physical size.

One would have to question, would ‘Peter The Great’ survive in this day and age. Physically the game has evolved extensively and many of the players with the highest level of skill aren’t succeeding at inter-county level.

Our games are being revolutionised by the developments in the science and technology industries. Many are calling for changes, but we should embrace the times we live in and let our games prosper naturally.

Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena.

Read More About: croke park, donegal gaa, eamonn fitzmaurice, GAA, gaa news, Gaelic Football, james o donogue, jim mcguinness, kerry gaa, peter canavan

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. View all posts by The PA Team