Selecting a team in advance is always great, except when it isn’t

The media watcher in me has always enjoyed the frequent dummy-spitting that takes place in the media over the increasing tendency of GAA managers to wait as long as possible to name their team for upcoming games. Every so often you’ll read a variation on the theme about how managers were treating their public with contempt and negatively contrasting their behaviour with the open and sunny nature of their rugby counterparts. Not once would such an article be troubled by any introspection on how the public enjoy seeing the media treated with contempt or how the rugger buggers are happy to plámás the media in their goal to sell every more cans of Heineken. These articles reek of self-pity and are all the more entertaining because of this.

For all of that, it is annoying how managers play their cards so close to their chest. The match day programme feels like an exercise in guesswork and you regularly have to take an axe to the published lineup before throw-in. It gets all the more frustrating when you consider how pointless it all feels. Do managers really think that waiting until the last minute to announce a team makes a jot of difference to the outcome? Like the policy of team rotation used in English soccer it is used by managers as a symbol that they are a serious outfit rather than the cause. Southampton, positioned in a place where they are unlikely to get to Europe via the league and even less likely to get relegated, chopped and changed their team at the weekend and were duly sunk by a team ten places below them in the table. It’s as if Mauricio Pochettino believed that if he didn’t rotate his squad then no one would see the Saints as playaz. So it was nice to see Derek McGrath eschew such nonsense by naming his team for the Tipperary game well in advance. No mind games, no acting the maggot. Just get the team on the pitch and let them do the talking there.

For all of that, the speed with which Waterford announced that there would be no change in personnel for the upcoming game against Galway is slightly unnerving. We’re meant to be living in an era of number-crunching and exhaustive study of match videos to determine player performance, yet there’s no way that could have happened here. It becomes particularly odd when you consider that they must have known that Maurice Shanahan would be a doubt, yet they still went ahead and announced the team anyway. The management team seems to have decided before playing Tipperary that they would give this team two games whatever happened. That’s a strategy that is going to muddy the waters whatever happens against Galway.  Win, and how can you change a winning formula for the Dublin game. Lose, and you’ve taken two games to decide that the current plan isn’t working. Having confidence in your plan is all very well, but no plan of battle survives contact with the enemy, and that seems to have happened for the forwards against Tipp.

The injury to Shanahan makes this all moot (read: most of this was written before news of his injury was revealed). Things will have to change for Galway and we’ll be able to decide whether things were better or worse for those changes. It’s unlikely the attitude will have changed though. Let’s hope they’ve hit on the right formula, because if they haven’t it’ll all be over before anyone can do anything about it.