Since Stephen Cluxton arrived on the scene we all know that the position of goalkeeper has been changed utterly. Pulling on the keeper’s jersey nowadays is a vote of confidence from the manager. He’s looking for a player that can restart the game with pin point accuracy, go long or short as needed, stop shots and remain calm under pressure. Simple as that. Can you do it?
In Dublin BC – Before Cluxton - they had a history of superb keepers with the legend Paddy Culllen through to John O’Leary. Then Stephen Cluxton arrived and its all been changing utterly ever since. Since Cluxton became the latest recipient off the Dublin GAA Goalkeeper jersey, he has made it his own with his laser tracked kicking and brilliant distribution. His all Ireland winning free against Kerry GAA was the epitome of grace under pressure but in truth for Cluxton it appeared to be a bit like rewarding the post man for delivering the letters. Consistent delivery time and time again is part of his game. There was little doubt that day that he would convert the kick.
More than any other player and Cluxton has redefined the game of Gaelic football and the goalkeeping position with his ability to go short, medium or long with precision unparalleled. He can hit pockets of space, drop it into a runner’s hand, pick out a big man for a mark, or boot it right over the cover if needs must.
The keeper’s role has seen more changes in the last few years than any other single position. There’s a prestige and kudos associated with being a goalkeeper that didn’t exist before. Hurling goalkeepers always had a semi-mythical status because they faced a screaming bullet of a sliotar fired at them (often with no helmet in the not so distant past).
And the hurling cognoscenti always realised that to stand on goals you had to have a mixture of skill, courage bordering on recklessness and a cool head in proportionate measure. Football was different BC – Before Cluxton.
Last Sunday viewers remarked on the performance off Monaghan GAA netminder Rory Beggan who spent large portions of the game as the spare defender providing his backs with the opportunity for an outlet when they were under pressure.
International Rules Goalkeeper Tactics
It reminded us of the 2017 International Rules series when Aussie Rules player Brendon Goddard was the nominal goalkeeper against Ireland. For the duration of the games he had been drifting around well away from his goal-line as the AFL men played an aggressive high defensive line. He was constantly on hand for an outlet ball and the overlap. Given the Aussies started with a blank canvas, it showed their Unique interpretation of the goalkeeping role and what it offers the outfield players if there are no preconceptions. Will we see the likes of Morgan and David Clarke drifting out the field? Possibly but they’ll likely be told by the terraces to get back on their line asap! The AFL's own website was interesting on the tactic, quoting Goddard:
“While Irish forwards Michael Murphy and Conor McManus constantly kept the 32-year-old novice on his toes when in attacking mode, it was a far different story when he and fellow defenders Michael Hibberd and Kade Simpson were on the counterattack.
"When we actually won the ball, there was very little pressure from their forwards that we're accustomed to (in the AFL)," Goddard said.
"I was hesitant to switch the ball and look to the other side (of the ground, thinking) their forwards would be involved in defence but it's not at the front of their mind and it's not natural to them in their game.
"We were able to move the ball out of their back half."
Beggan’s kicking performance last Sunday also drew plaudits with well planned the movement and runs by the Monaghan team to create places and pockets of space for their keeper to hit. More than ever it showed the potential of a good keeping strategy based on kick outs and contribution to open play.
Thanks to the likes of Cluxton, Beggan, Clarke and Morgan goalkeeping is no longer the position for the chubby kid, the last one picked, the player who doesn’t want to be there. The punishment position, the last straw and the final jersey give out. The fateful words uttered in the changing room that makes a youngster’s heart sink, head bow and confidence drain. An hour of frayed nerves, panic and pain.
Now if you get the no.1 Jersey, it means you really are no.1.