The greatest challenge for the manager of any team is to ensure that your squad maximises its potential and hits the sweet spot on the biggest day. That might mean at some stage in a season recognising that the team’s best performance just wasn’t good enough, and as a manager you have to accept that too. But as any sports person recognises there is no better feeling in the world than the winning feeling experienced at the conclusion of a performance where everything has gone brilliantly to plan.
A manager of a team will try to visualise every potential move of the opposition… the ‘what if’ scenario. If such moves have been discussed and planned for, it can make it so much easier to execute the winning of a match. Any top sports person will tell you that there is no place in the world he or she would rather be than sitting in the winner’s enclosure. Liam Sheehy, the Tipperary manager, must surely be still on cloud nine after his team delivered a brilliant, almost flawless, performance last Sunday when the pressure of the season was at its greatest. This All-Ireland hurling final was as good as I have watched for decades. I also thought it was a great result for hurling. I desperately wanted Tipperary to put a stop to Kilkenny’s march towards the historic five in a row. I have, however, met a few during the week that didn’t agree with my view as they would have loved to witness history being made. Yes, this Kilkenny side have been brilliant champions, always winning with style, not to mention the respect they had for every opposition and the wonderful dignity they displayed as they dominated the scene for the last four years. Tipp clearly realised that if they were to be in with any chance of winning this year’s Liam McCarthy, they would have to produce the game of their lives. And, my God, did they produce.
There was a wonderful manliness and an enormous intensity from every single member of the team. How they managed to sustain that ferocious intensity over the duration of the game was quite amazing. It was an epic encounter and as it unfolded I regretted that I had not gone up to see it live. As it was, I spent the previous 10 days chasing tickets for my Tipp brother-in-law. I managed not to disappoint him and that in some way mitigated my not being there.
Keeping the home fires stoked
Back at home my Crossmolina team managed to get back up on the horse after the disappointment of losing our championship encounter the previous weekend. We are keeping our necks out in front of the pack in the race for the senior league title, but the home straight can often present unexpected outcomes. We played Westport last Saturday evening in what I knew would be a difficult and tricky encounter. It had been flagged to me earlier in the week that the Coveys were up for this one, and I could sense it in the air once I arrived at the ground that we would earn our victory. As it transpired, it was a hugely entertaining match. Westport got a dream start and we found ourselves in familiar territory after 10 minutes — that is, six points behind and looking like we could be in for a hammering! But we managed to resurrect the situation and came away with the aforementioned hard earned, but deserved I believe, victory. As I said in this column last year Westport are a fine team with a number of young players that I genuinely believe could play at a higher level. We ‘entertain’ our near neighbours Ballina this Sunday in what I am sure will be another test of character!
From Newry to Carrickmacross
I had occasion to travel North two weeks ago. As it happened, I ended up in Newry on the Monday after Down had won their All-Ireland semi-final. With time on my hands, I availed of the opportunity to walk the town to savour the atmosphere of Down’s brilliant victory the previous day. The problem was, however, that there just wasn’t much of an atmosphere. In fact, with a few exceptions, there was little evidence of Gaelic football being played in this part of the country at all. I did eventually meet half a dozen taxi drivers idling in the square. They were only too delighted to engage in banter about the previous day’s performance, and in fact five of the six that I chatted to had been to Croke Park the previous day. But where was the bunting and the flags, I wanted to know. They explained that I was in a ‘mixed’ town where most of the shop owners wouldn’t even recognise a Gaelic football as it wasn’t their game. What a contrast with a number of towns and villages in Tipperary that I had the pleasure of cycling through a few days earlier.
After leaving Newry, I came down to Carrickmacross where I called on Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney. As you are probably aware, he had made his decision a few days earlier to stand down as Monaghan manager after six years in charge. We had an interesting conversation about his time in charge of the team, and I discovered that the ‘bar’ as regards preparation is continuously being raised. Banty had two coaches working with the team for the past year, with a plethora of masseurs, physios, etc (this kind of information would be music to the ears of the Mayo County treasurer ). After an hour in his company, I discovered that his love of the game has in no way diminished. In fact his one regret was that he didn’t live a bit closer to Mayo, as he would have expressed an interest in the job.
No shortage of interest in managing our team it would seem!