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Thursday 8 December 2016

Never mind what the purists believe ... 'a turkey shoot is not entertainment'

Jim Gavin
Jim Gavin
Laois football manager Justin McNulty. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

JUSTIN McNULTY has a simple message for those football romantics driven demented by blanket defence.

"An all-out attacking approach - that's not going to work against Dublin," he says. "Despite what the purists believe, a turkey shoot is not entertainment."

The former Armagh back himself embraced the policies of packed defence when managing Laois, but he is not averse to rule changes as a means of preventing "full-on blanket defence mode".

Overall, though, he disputes the notion of a full-blown crisis - as intimated by Jarlath Burns' recent 'Death of Football' tweet following the Dublin/Derry game.

"A game where there's a tactical battle of wits, I find that much more entertaining," says McNulty.

"If a game's not competitive, that's not entertainment. Now, the Dublin fans who travelled up to Clones at the weekend will have had a really enjoyable Easter Sunday. But for the neutral supporter or for the Monaghan supporters, they could have gone home at half-time."

As for the debate initiated by Burns, his former Armagh teammate, he agrees that issues "need to be addressed" but adds: "Managers, realising that they don't have the man-for-man firepower of many of the big gun teams they come up against, recognise they have to take a different approach. If they go out toe-for-toe, they're going to be walloped, nine times out of ten. So what do you do? You go out and make yourself hard to beat."

Managers have enjoyed "limited success" with this approach, albeit Donegal claimed one All-Ireland and nearly two. "You saw what happens when a team with that strategy went in against a team that were all-out attack, without really the soundest defensive approach. You saw it last year, between Dublin and Donegal, and who came out the better?" he says.

"It turned out to be a very exciting game, even though there was one team playing a blanket defence. Can anybody say that wasn't an entertaining game? I found it incredibly entertaining.

"There are adjustments to the rules which may eliminate teams from going into packed defence mode. Simple things like you must keep four attackers inside the opposition's half ... or to stop the short kickout game-building from your '21' out, every kickout must go beyond the '50'.

"But I don't think there are the major problems that people are claiming. The sport has become much more competitive in recent years, and that's to be applauded."

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