I arrived home last Sunday evening from McHale Park exhausted after our championship match against Ballaghaderreen. Anyone involved in team management might understand what I am talking about here. Championship football really does sap the energy and those on the sideline, more often than not, end up suffering greater fatigue than those who actually play the game. It’s hard to explain, but the adrenaline starts to pump, in my case, as early as the Saturday morning, the day before the game. Our pre- match routine involved us meeting up as a group in Crossmolina at 11am for a kick about and a team meeting. It is at this time, when we began to discuss and analyse the strengths and perceived weaknesses of the opposition that the butterflies started to flutter.
I was comforted by the fact that both Stephen Rochford and Damien Mulligan (the other two lads who form the management team in Crossmolina ) were also suffering (that is what they admitted to me! ). I have always been nervous before championship games but I was particularly edgy before last Sunday’s game. I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that we were playing the county champions. Remember most clubs prepare for months for the championship. In our case we started our preparation on December 27 last year. It’s a huge effort on everyone’s part, but there’s only one winner at the end of the day. This is what it’s all about. Anyway I kept myself pretty much occupied for the rest of the day and after a night of tossing and turning I got up early on Sunday morning and climbed the ‘Booster station’ outside Castlebar. There was still six hours to go before the match, but an hour or two reading the Sunday papers helped kill some more time. I went into McHale Park to see the first half of the Knockmore v Ballintubber match. I was looking at it but to be honest my mind was focused on our own match that followed. Once into the environment of the dressing room I normally begin to settle and last Sunday was no different.
It was always going to be a battle between ourselves and Ballaghaderreen. They are a formidable side with plenty of good footballers spread right throughout their side. Their full forward line is particularly good and we were very conscious of the threat posed by both Andy Moran and Barry Regan. Our game plan was to cut out the supply as much as possible to their inside line and I felt we did that reasonably well for most of the game. We rode our luck on a couple of occasions, particularly in the second half, but I do feel we probably just about deserved our victory on the day. On any other day the result could just as easily have gone the other way. Understandably we were thrilled to have won the match but with the semi-final against Knockmore down for the following Sunday, there were no celebrations of any significance.
It’s not going to be any easier this weekend
The clash between Crossmolina and Knockmore is one that will tickle the fancy of a lot of neutrals. Most GAA people will recognise that there is a huge rivalry between these two north Mayo clubs and I expect there will be nothing spared in McHale Park on Sunday. We had a light workout on Wednesday evening and will meet up again on Saturday morning to chat about the game. It’s a big match for both sides with the obvious prize of a county final at stake. Enough said!
I was at the match between Castlebar and Shrule Glencorrib last Saturday evening. It wasn’t a good game and I suppose neither team deserved to win it. Castlebar will feel that they left it behind them as they got two goals that can only be described as soft! The replay on Sunday should hopefully be a better match.
Whose legs were those on the programme?
Incidentally the public relations department of the county board clearly took their eye off the ball last weekend. I was more than surprised to see that the match day programme for last weekend’s fixtures in Castlebar had an image of the lower legs of none other than soccer players as evidenced by the wearing of shin guards and the presence of a soccer ball.
Keeping young players interested
Jimmy Bradley, a former school friend of mine from Carmelite College, Moate, had been on to me for a number of weeks to travel up and take the Moate under 16s and minors for a training session. Jimmy was captain of a Hogan Cup winning team during my stint in the college and is married to Sharon Brogan from Crossmolina. His beloved mother often treated me to dinner on a weekend when my belly was practically stuck to my back with hunger during my five years as a boarder at the college. So I owed him one and didn’t want to let him down. I hit off early last Monday evening to take the boys for the session. Jimmy hadn’t told me that he had invited about 25 concerned adult members of the club for a discussion about the difficulties they are experiencing in getting their young players to continue to play for their club after they finish playing with their respective under age teams. Moate won several senior county titles during my years at school, but sadly they are now struggling at intermediate level with little prospect of competing at senior level in the immediate future. They, like a lot of clubs, are struggling to hold onto their young talented players. Too many of them pack it in once they experience the big bad world out there and just couldn’t be bothered turning out at weekends to play Gaelic football. This is a challenge for more clubs than Moate and I have flagged it as a problem that requires a very proactive approach from the GAA at the highest level. After a lengthy discussion it was agreed that former interested senior footballers would act as mentors for a number of the younger players to encourage, coerce, and demand that they don’t abandon football in their early twenties. It is going to be a long battle to restore the glory days of yore, but perseverance is the key here. With everyone making effort things can only get better.
The Oz debate keeps on moving
I have listened to the debate over the last few years regarding players departing these shores to sample life as a professional footballer in the Australian football league. With all the talk you would swear we were filling a plane load monthly of all our finest talent! The reality is we have a small trickle leaving every year for the sunnier climes and if recent trends are anything to go by quite a few of those who do go will return within a few years. I believe it mightn’t be such a bad thing at all for a sprinkling of our young players to avail of this opportunity and sample life down under for a couple of years and to then return home and spread the gospel of life as a professional. When they do return they are better players, having trained as professionals and benefited from the expertise that comes with that lifestyle. These players generally learn so much about weight training, appropriate diet for footballers, not to mention the good coaching from a professional set up. I think it’s a win- win situation that we should endorse and support. And to get the most from the player’s experience, the GAA should try to employ these guys on their return to get involved in coaching throughout the country.