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27 September 2007 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

The Countdown Clock

BISHOP BERKELEY devised the famous philosophical dictum “Esse est percipi” - “To be is to be perceived” - which basically states that one can only be aware of what one actually sees. Which, in turn, leads to the interesting conundrum regarding whether something then exists if nobody sees it. And this, in turn, is one of the arguments for the existence of God as the all-seeing perceiver. Because if there was no God to see everything then things would not exist. Very clever.
Anyway you get my drift and, no, I did not stop off in the Wind Jammer for a few quiet, early pints before I wrote this. In fact, the foregoing is all by way of an excuse as to why I am not writing about the women’s football finals. I did not see them, therefore, for me, they did not take place.
Nor, in deference to my Media View colleague, did I see either of the camogie finals two weeks ago. It is difficult to be everywhere at once. Tempus fugit and all that.
I did see some of the first half of the ‘Intermediate Ladies’ Football Final’, which was won by Leitrim who recovered from a bad start to win convincingly enough. It is nice to see - or rather not see if we continue in a Berkleyian strain - Leitrim winning something even if it was at the expense of the Wexford girls who, if the amount of flags and good wishes signs along the road from Rosslare was anything to go by, carried with them huge support.
The Junior Final witnessed an unusual encounter between Kilkenny and London with the Cats winning to claim their first All-Ireland football title at any level.
The Cork seniors won their third title in a row and ended a sequence of unusually bad results for Cork teams in Croke Park. It’s nice to see them winning something. Well, it’s not actually but it’s nice to be nice.
And that’s all I have to say about the women’s football, other than to recommend that the GAA might take a serious look at possibly adapting the use of the same timing system for inter-county football and hurling. Although hurling might not be as suited to it, or need it as much.

Similar to rugby, American football and basketball, women’s football operates a countdown clock. There are, of course, stoppages for injuries and that is where I would see its usefulness with regard to the men’s game.
Anyone who closely observes senior inter-county football will be well aware that increasingly ingenious methods of running down the clock are now deployed by teams that are ahead. To the extent that in matches that I have timed myself - don’t ask, it was a bad weekend - there have often been as little as five minutes of actual playing time out of 25 or 30 minutes on the clock. Indeed, in one championship match, which will remain nameless as I still shudder at having had to endure it, little more than three minutes’ football occurred, against the run of play you might say, in the last 25 minutes of the second half. And the referee only played two minutes’ additional time. Go figure.
Which got me to pondering on the fact that had the women’s football clock been in operation that match would probably have lasted at least 20 minutes longer than it did. Which would have done nobody any favours, particularly those unfortunate enough to have paid in to see it, but it would certainly have made a point.
One of the reasons why the clock is suited to women’s football is no doubt that it is far less cynical. You can see the same attributes in under-age male competitions too where players basically get on with it and have not yet imbibed the experience and lore as to how to slow the game down and prevent the opposition getting any real chance to build up a momentum when behind.

Contrast that to many senior championship games where a winning team will often, to all intents and purposes, bring proceedings to a standstill. This can be done in a variety of ways: pulling and dragging out the field to concede frees outside the danger zone; delaying kick-outs and frees; bringing players behind the ball to make it difficult for the other team to find a player, and if they do to close them down, again often leading to the concession of further frees and further opportunities for Maor Uisces, Doctuirs, Taobh Ciceanna and Fir Tabhatach to take to the field to dispense water, medical attention and fatherly advice and thereby waste even more time.
Where once it was a mark of honour and manliness to jump straight back to one’s feet after getting a puck in the mouth and to resume one’s place in battle, nowadays some players are prone to milking even the slightest of injuries or purely imaginary injuries and cramps, real or virtual, in order to expend as much of the losing opposition’s remaining time as possible. Of course, the referee will sometimes point to his watch but never does the amount of time he adds approximate the time wasted.
It is bad enough when such stoppages occur where the ball is actually at, but oftentimes any stoppage will be taken as a cue for players in other parts of the pitch to swoon after the manner of a young Gloria Swanson, which again often adds to the delay. It is frustrating for the other team and it is extremely difficult for the referee to keep a handle on.
My suggestion therefore is that the countdown clock be employed on an experimental basis prior to next year’s championship, perhaps in the latter stages of the club football championship or in the O’Byrne or McKenna Cup competitions. In the latter, throw-in will be at 11am and you might get out at four.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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