Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Less obsession, more laughter

WE have barely had time to breathe after the epic league finals with championship action starting with a bang last weekend.

The standout result last weekend was undoubtedly Cavan’s massive win over neighbours Monaghan, which I don’t think a lot of people would have predicted.

Monaghan struggled during this year’s league campaign. I think a lot of us expected them to have their house in order by the time the championship swung around, but this didn’t materialise for them.

Cavan, on the other hand, have clearly got the ship sailing in the right direction with the newly appointed management team and full credit to them for this very important win.

For this week’s piece, I’d like to take a slightly different angle. Instead of talking up teams and dissecting games and how I think teams will play, I am going off-piste.

I just want to take a step back and discuss the impact that our games have on people all over the world.

We have become obsessed with winning at all levels. We all want to see our team winning and that’s okay but I think we should never lose sight of the journey along the way.

I travelled to Philadelphia last weekend for the Donegal Philadelphia GAA dinner dance.

I have gone on record here before in relation to my experiences of the GAA in America, but I’ve forgotten just how strong the connection is and how important our Gaelic games are to those people living away from home.

I met some truly amazing characters, and when I heard the stories about the work they do in order to keep the games alive over there, it simply amazed me.

Their love and passion for the game is unrivalled and I’ll go as far as to say that it won’t be matched anywhere else in the world, even at home.

The help they give each other and the opportunities they provide for each other, the one thing to bind all that together is the GAA.

When I spoke earlier about the obsession with winning and losing out on the actual experiences and journey, this is the sort of thing that I’m talking about.

The life experiences these clubs all over America offer our young players are truly amazing. When all is said and done, yes, it will be great to sit back and talk about the ones you win, but, more often than not, it’s the stories and the laughter that we will remember most.

After the dinner dance, Sarah and I headed to New York for a few days. I knew that Mayo were playing but we hadn’t made any major plans around meeting anyone or going to the game or anything like that.

Fast-forward a few beers later and here we are slam bang in the middle of a sea of Mayo jerseys in a bar in Times Square having beers with Mayo friends from the McBride’s club from our time in Chicago.

Now we didn’t speak about winning, all we spoke about was the good times and memories we had during our time there.

That connection is still there and it will be there forever and that is a very strong thing to get from the GAA. That is what we can offer each other when we focus less on the obsession with winning but rather just the journey as a whole.

To take my point to the next level, on the Monday after the game Sarah and I had just watched the solar eclipse. We decided to pop into a bar for a cold beer. Inside we met parents of Mayo players Cillian and Diarmuid O’Connor who were over for the game.

We shared a few beers and shared a few stories and the one thing that I took away from our conversation was the amazing time that they had following Mayo over the last 10 years.

When the historians look back at the roll of honour in a few years’ time it won’t say that Mayo won a number of Sam Maguires. People will call Mayo the unluckiest team in the GAA given the amount of finals they have lost.

What they don’t see is the amazing time that all of those Mayo fans had following their team during that period.

For the likes of the GAA people in Philly or the Mayo supporters who travelled to New York, yes, they would love to see their teams winning.

They are creating memories though and that will be the most important thing they have when all is said and done. So my advice for this week is less obsession, more laughter.

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