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Saturday 3 December 2016

Pillar Caffrey: This summer could be the worst in history

'McIver said that Dublin set up the same way. I'm sorry ... but that's nonsense' - Pillar Caffrey

Dublin manager Jim Gavin makes his way to the pitch
Dublin manager Jim Gavin makes his way to the pitch

AS a slogan, don't expect this one emblazoned across promotional posters for this summer's All-Ireland SFC.

"I think in 2015 we're going to get possibly the most negative Championship in the history of our games," says Pillar Caffrey, fully in keeping with the theme of this week.

"And I don't think that will come down to Donegal and one or two other teams," the former Dublin boss adds.

"I think we will have 10 or 12 matches this year that are going to be appalling to watch, very low scoring, with total emphasis on not losing, as opposed to winning the game."

Which isn't quite so grim a proclamation as Jarlath Burns' reporting the sport to be on its death bed but nor is Pillar's prognosis particularly sunny.

More like Met Éireann informing the country in mid March that the real torrential rain will begin sometime in May and continue incessantly, every single day until mid-September.

Dublin, it seems, are being painted as the most obvious and high-profile victims of their sport's prevailing forces but Caffrey deems them partly culpable too.

"There was a great chance to put the blanket defence to bed in last year's All-Ireland semi-final," he notes.

"Seven minutes before half-time, nobody could have predicted the outcome of that match or the way in turned around.

"And I think, had Dublin won that match by eight or ten points - which they looked like doing - I think you would have seen a totally different reaction in football this year."

Worse.

Kerry - the last vendors of the beautiful game and, in the recent past, vocally pious about the purity of their methods - took on Donegal at their own game in an All-Ireland final that lived down to, and beyond, expectations.

"There are a lot of teams fulfilling fixtures," Caffrey reckons.

"Trying not to lose the match by too much. As opposed to going out and having a crack and trying to win the match.

READ MORE: Paul Caffrey: Prepare for worst summer ever in history of our games

"And therein lies the subtlety of the difference. No matter who you are playing against, if they are set up to try and keep the scoreline down and don't have a real ambition to score and win the match, you'll find it very, very frustrating."

Very obviously then, Caffrey was in Croke Park last Saturday night.

"Brian McIver said after last weekend that Dublin set up the same way. I'm sorry, but I was at the match and that's nonsense," Caffrey declares.

"Derry scored four points and had seven wides. Dublin scored eight and had 17 wides and dropped five short to the 'keeper. So there was at least one team trying to attack."

Next morning, Caffrey's Na Fianna senior team played a challenge against a side from Down and low and behold, their visitors unfurled their own double-stitched blanket.

As it happened, Na Fianna scored two early goals, rendering the system largely useless, and won by 3-10 to 0-9 but Caffrey's eyes were opened in a conversation afterwards with their manager.

"He said most senior clubs across Ulster are playing with some version of it.

"Even at club level in Dublin, I would estimate that every second team that you play is setting up some form of blanket defence."

"Is there a shelf life to it? I would hope so. But this has been simmering now since the famous Donegal/Dublin semi-final, when everyone there was in shock and thought it was a once-off type of thing."

Cafrey concludes: "Mickey Harte saying he has no obligation to entertain … I disagree. We're all responsible for the promotion of our games."

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