IN THE Our Games feature in this week’s Gaelic Life, former Down player Kevin McGuigan says that one thing he doesn’t like about modern GAA is the narratives that some managers create to get their team motivated. He said that managers over use the adversorial nature of games. They hype up a match because of a perceived animosity that exists between two teams. McGuigan said that after playing for many years, he’d heard that line so often that it had rang hollow. I think his assessment is a fascinating insight into modern day coaching. On one hand, players need some sort of motivation, but coaches are going to have to get creative if they want to get the best from their teams. If players are expected to use every tool at their disposal to be better, so too should managers.
LAST week’s episode of Laochra Gael was a typically impressive show and a good insight into the mindset of Sean Cavanagh. By his own admission, he played fairly average in the 2003 and 2005 finals, and that weighed heavily on his mind. Personally, I think that’s understandable enough, though in fairness the ‘03 match against Armagh was a game for winning and who cares about the aesthetics? I was a bit more surprised, however, that he was disappointed that he elected to take a point rather than going for goal at one point in the 2008 final victory over Kerry. He scored five points from play, won the man of the match award, and it wasn’t the best chance of taking a goal anyway as Diarmuid Murphy had his angles well covered. It may look a little selfish that apparently he couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about it, but you can’t fault his honesty anyway.
A FEW weeks ago Jim Reilly did an interview with this paper in which he spoke about how much he enjoyed playing Railway Cup. In the interview he detailed the pleasure he had of playing alongside some of the best players in Ulster. I never saw the real heyday of the interprovincials, but I did see my fair share of matches and they really were a great spectacle. But in this day and age, when teams want success at club and county level, and we can see brilliant matches at intermediate and junior level, it feels like a real tough sell to try and squeeze an All-Star game into the calendar. I do like the argument of having an American style All-Stars game, which they do in their sports. But the big stars who play in those matches don’t have a junior championship game to tog out for the night before. Perhaps in the instance of a split season things might be different.
CAVAN have a bit of a balancing act to contend with in the coming months. Last season, after a poor league campaign, manager Mickey Graham said that the championship was all that mattered – and an Ulster title meant that it was a very good year. This season they are in Division Three North, and if they are to re-emerge as a provincial heavyweight they cannot be knocking around in the third tier. The championship, and defending their title, may be key, but the Breffni county have to find a way back into Division Two.
FERMANAGH CCC unveiled its plans for the upcoming season the other evening, and it’s fair to say that it went down like a lead balloon with some well-known names. Declan McCusker, Marty McGrath and James McMahon all wondered how in the hell of all that’s holy would players and managers cope with 18 league matches, with injuries a particular concern. I can understand why they think that, but it made me wonder – what’s so different between Fermanagh and Tyrone? The Tyrone CCC are ploughing on with a full fixtures programme and from what I can see, practically everyone’s delighted with that. Obviously there will be exceptions but there’s been no complaining on Twitter either. Anyone with any theories? Are Tyrone and Fermanagh people intrinsically different? Has Declan Bogue absorbed any Tyrone traits since moving to Aughnacloy? Feel free to let us know.
AH, the TV schedules for the National Leagues have been filtering out over the last few days – and that small matter is proving very uplifting. We haven’t reported or previewed a game in Gaelic Life since mid-December, so to now have a few fixtures just a couple of weeks away is refreshing. TG4 and eir Sport have stepped up well for the league, and it’s good to see that the former will be dipping into Division Three for a football match too. Picture it now, a Sunday afternoon, the fire is lit, you have a coffee in your hand and you’re watching two teams with 15 men behind the ball. Bliss!