Prior to the banking crisis of 2008, the government had sat back and overseen a decade of light touch regulation. The argument was that the "markets" would sort everything out naturally, and winners and losers were just part of the game. Anglo Irish Bank had made aggressive moves in the property development market, and the major players of AIB and BOI had no option but to follow suit with the introduction of loose lending themselves.
In Gaelic Football terms, The "Blanket Defence" or "The System" is like the loose lending that went on in the 2000s, everybody is now at it, and if you don’t follow suit, your team will be left behind. Just look at Kerry now. Are the GAA like the government of the time, and have decided to turn a blind eye and let the game regulate itself?
Maybe not? Earlier this year, the GAA introduced the black card, designed to reduce the amount of cynical fouling in the game. Has it worked? Absolutely, there are less cynical fouls, but the flip side has seen County teams and Club teams up and down the country playing 12 or 13 men behind the ball. It is like when the government introduced Tax Relief for the certain building projects, while good intentioned, it added fuel to the fire.
While the playing field has been leveled, the team with the better players will still generally win the game, but is the enjoyment for players and supporters at an all time low? As Joe Brolly said on the Sunday Game, "I would hate to be playing Gaelic Football at present".
To counter Joe's statement, Colm O' Rourke responded that nothing stays the same, and that the game would continue to evolve and eventually the current "cycle" of blanket defence would end. This could be true, but unlikely.
Dublin won the All-Ireland in 2013 with a swashbuckling attacking game, and every body was saying that this was the future, but look at what happened them this year. In fact, Dublin did not face a blanket defence in either the quarter final, semi final or final in 2013. Will Dublin change their style next year? It remains to be seen.
If we think that coaches in the game will eventually abandon the increased chance of success offered by "The System" in exchange for a nicer looking, more enjoyable game, we will be in for a long wait. This morning, The Kerry players will not give a dam that yesterdays final was just ok from an enjoyment point of view. And they are right to think like this, just as coaches are right to do "whatever it takes" to win matches.
But there are positives. The blanket defence has definitely made games more gripping, and intriguing, as more often than not, games are tight going into the last 10 minutes. The team that makes the mistakes are generally put to the sword. When players do score from play, they are generally great scores, and from distance. Players are now better defenders, as fouling is really a crime. So its definitely not all negative.
Maybe the GAA has the solution staring them in the face – In the Go Games, where the rules ensure that " every player gets a go", the pitch is split into 2 distinct halves, the game is played in 4 quarters, and there are different rules for each quarter. Could we have a simple rule change using the Go Games Concept, where by games are split into 4 quarters and the pitch into 2 halves
Q1+Q3: Players can only play in the half in which they line out. Midfielders can move all over the pitch
Q2+Q4: Full Rules
This may not be the solution, but there probably is a need to find one.
While the number of players playing, and supporters attending is probably up year on year, so too was the growth in the economy prior to 2008. If the government had intervened in time, perhaps there would be no banking crisis.