From despair to survival in a couple of days

Crossmolina played Westport in a relegation play-off match last Sunday at McHale Park. It was a glorious day for football and we arrived at the venue in a fairly confident mood. This match was a relegation play-off to ultimately decide who would join Burrishoole in the drop to division 1B of the senior league. A defeat, however, wasn’t the end of the road as the losers (Crossmolina ) had a second opportunity of survival with a match against Ballinrobe this Sunday (or so we thought ). Both teams were aware that a county Board meeting was scheduled for last Monday night that would ratify a proposal to relegate just one team to Division 1B, thus ensuring all three teams would remain in the upper division next year. However, we came to McHale Park to win the match and we failed miserably, producing, arguably, one of the worst performances I have witnessed from Crossmolina in years.

This is all alien territory for a club like Crossmolina who have been to the forefront in the county in both championship and league performances over the last 15 years. Our boys could do nothing right and the wide open spaces of McHale Park offered few hiding places. Many looked as if they had little interest in the outcome. As manager of the team, I ultimately have to take responsibility for the under-performance and, to be honest, in the immediate aftermath of the game I wasn’t quite sure how I should address the situation. You see, this is not about playing league football in a particular division next year. This is about the future of this proud club. The post-match mood in the Crossmolina dressing room was one of utter despair, demoralisation and sheer frustration. A cursory look around at the sad faces told its own story. Here were some of the club’s greatest ever players looking forlorn and weary and perhaps reflecting on former glory days. My heart went out to them. There was a sliver of light, however, when I heard last Monday night that the county board delegates had ratified a proposal to keep 12 teams in division 1A next year. And so, the final match against Ballinrobe scheduled for this Sunday has been shelved. So had the county board meeting taken place a few days earlier, there would have been no need to witness Sunday’s sad faces. And equally importantly, my good friend Tomas Tierney, manager of the Westport side wouldn’t have the bragging rights over me for the remainder of the year.

Third level exams are tough going

I am currently up and down to NUI Galway along with Tomas fairly regularly these days as we try and put some shape on a football panel for the Sigerson Cup in February. We are getting a fantastic response from almost 50 players this year who are turning out regularly for our twice weekly training sessions. Last year the commitment wasn’t nearly as good for a combination of reasons, but the fact that the finals of the competition are to be held in Galway in 2012 appears to have whetted the appetite of many of the players. With such a large eager group, we are finding it quite difficult to narrow a senior panel down to 30 players. We had two matches under lights on Wednesday and Thursday of this week and hopefully now our task will be a little easier. We expect to name a panel early next week. We have a number of players from Mayo who are training at the moment. Cathal Freeman, Caolan Crowe, Niall Freeman from Aughamore, Jason Doherty, Niall Douglas, Ronan Rochford, Keith Rodgers, Ciaran Conroy (injured at the moment ) and Conor Walsh from Balla are all striving hard to make the cut at the moment. Incidentally the match against DIT was an eye opener for our lads. We were comprehensively beaten by a much bigger and sharper Dublin outfit, which had Aidan O Shea and Alan Freeman playing. I heard after that Tom Parsons was there but wasn’t togged out as he is injured at the moment. DIT are managed by Paul Clancy and Declan Meehan and they look as though they could be a real force in the Sigerson Cup. The NUIG lads now realise the type of work that’s required to bridge the gap as this match was a real eye opener for many of them who are being exposed to this level of football for the very first time.

Be careful what you write

Not for the first time Donegal footballers have drawn the spotlight on themselves. Kevin Cassidy, their All-Star wing back, appears to be the guilty party this time. Despite the fact that he has suggested through a released press statement that he hadn’t revealed any secrets about their year’s preparation, it would seem from afar that he has spoken out of turn. I have noticed from excerpts from published sports books in recent years that there is a requirement to reveal some salacious detail in order to make a book more saleable. I personally rarely read any of these books because I genuinely find most of them uninteresting and, in lots of cases, quite boring. There are some exceptions of course, but in the main I have little interest. Incidentally, I recall getting a visit in 1996 from a well known publishing company with a very significant offer to participate in a book deal. I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in writing a book and piggy backing as a result of a privileged position that I had as manager of the Mayo team. Kevin Cassidy has no regrets, apparently, in suggesting that there was talk of a player revolt in 2010 when Donegal were managed by former player John Joe Doherty. Doherty refuted this last week, having contacted a number of players to clarify if it were true. Tony Boyle, a selector with Doherty, also defended his colleague and has rubbished Cassidy’s assertions. Cassidy as an experienced player should have foreseen possible trouble ahead. Had he informed his manager, Jim McGuinness, of his participation in the book, I don’t think Donegal would have been hitting the headlines in recent weeks. Jim McGuinness acted very swiftly in dropping Cassidy from the Donegal squad. Perhaps in hindsight, a cooling off period of a week or two would have been a wiser course of action to take by the young manager.


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