When I got involved managing teams a number of years ago, I was occasionally like a headless chicken running up and down the line, cajoling players, kicking every ball, often shouting at backs and forwards to get out in front, telling players where to kick the ball, etc. I recall coming home from some games totally wrecked. In fact I often came home years earlier having played a match feeling much fresher. Managing a team can milk you dry. Thankfully, and I am sure much to the relief of the players I am involved with, I have calmed down a little in recent years. But for some strange reason, I found myself getting rather excited and agitated on the line last Sunday. Crossmolina are trying to win the senior league in order to take something positive out of our season. We had a home league game against Ballina Stephenites and after the first fifteen minutes I realised that this was a game we were desperately trying to lose. We were playing absolute crap! One of our players had celebrated his 21st the night before and I could see that a number of others had helped him with the celebration. We eventually got our act together though and just about managed to hang on and win the match by two points. It was mediocre stuff, but at this stage of the season, we would be happy to pick up two points from our remaining two matches and win the league.
It’s good to talk
It is known at this stage that I had a chat with members of the County Board executive last Sunday evening at McHale Park regarding the Mayo manager’s post. A couple of lads chatting at An Sportlann, had a few shouts of encouragement for me as I made my way in. Now that I am writing this, I am beginning to wonder was it shouts of encouragement, or were they shouting at me to go home! I have received a few calls this week enquiring if I was worth a few quid at the bookies. My advice to those who asked was to keep their money in their pockets!
Keeping an eye on the next generation
I went along to a Castlebar Mitchels under 13 match against Ballina on Monday evening. It was a horrible evening for football, but both sides displayed wonderful skills in testing conditions. I was there to support the home team. They have many talented young players but one young fella continues to catch the eye with his range of skills. Fintan Borotto (a nephew of Henry Gavin ) plays at midfield on the Castlebar Mitchels team. This guy has it, and I am predicting a bright future in the years ahead.
It has all been building up to this
All Ireland final days are incredible days for GAA supporters. They generate wonderful excitement, particularly for competing counties. It normally means ex-pats flying home from all parts of the world, flags and bunting going up around the towns and villages, national school children writing songs and poems, the sense of excitement, the desire for one glorious day when your beloved county presents you with an opportunity to walk tall down O’Connell Street before and hopefully after the game. These are the highlights of people’s lives, the things they will reminiscence and talk about in the years that follow.
Neither Conor Counihan nor James McCartan will have the luxury of enjoying the day or the lead into the game as I have just described. In fact neither will have slept well these past few days. As both prepare their teams for Sunday’s All Ireland final they will have played the game a thousand times over in their heads. They will question if their team has what it takes to win the final. Both, needless to say, will have their teams in top physical shape, but they will keep questioning and wondering how the match will evolve. Where will the winning hero come from? What players will step up to the plate and display real leadership when the situation demands? There are a number of basic requirements for any team with aspirations of winning the title. I would classify the following combined elements as crucial; intensity of performance, workrate, mental strength, decision making, talent, motivation, and adaptability of players to the various challenges that will present on the day. Whatever team ticks the boxes in most or all of these categories will surely be guaranteed success. Cork look like they have the ability, class, and strength in depth to win this title. Sure they have under performed alarmingly in their run to this year’s final but it is all about timing. Last year you will recall they were mightily impressive all the way to the final, but came up short on the day. I recall vividly their impressive swagger as they literally eased their way into the final. They arrived in Croker as most people’s favourites to win, but ultimately serious frailties in their make up were exposed. They will have learned so much from last year. They will realise that they may not get another chance like this to win ‘Sam’ and that is a huge motivation in itself. I am eagerly looking forward to the final. General consensus about the place is that it will be a good one. The pressure to pull a few tickets for family and friends is like it always is for finals as they are like the proverbial hen’s teeth. But as a well known man from Castlebar said a number of years ago, the fun is in the hunt!