A s the players and supporters of Glenswilly and Killybegs get ready for this year’s county final, the players of both Ardara and Malin will reflect on what could have been.
Last week I suggested that the experience of playing in semi-finals or finals will always stand to players. Experience in games where it is winner takes all is probably worth a number of points. Last weekend showed that.
Another aspect in games that determine your whole year is nerves; how players react when the time comes to perform. Then there is always a time during a game when you can see the line in the distance but getting over it can be the thing that stops you crossing it.
You will often hear people talk of a fear of not succeeding but there is another side to that ; when you can smell that victory and you know what it will mean to everyone, your team mates, your family, friends, to everyone within the club you play for and of course yourself. It can take the best out of players but it can work the other way as well.
Ardara went out with a game plan against Glenswilly; they looked at how do we restrict the damage the likes of Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher and Ciaran Bonner can do on us; they arranged their team to stop the opposition. Straight away they gave the initiative to the opposition. Ardara played a sweeper and Glenswilly played the ball short from their kick outs, giving the Glen men possession, which they say, is nine tenths of the law.
Sometimes coaches get so carried away with tactics that they hand the ball over. I have always been of the impression that if you hadn’t got the ball you couldn’t score but once Ardara changed and pushed the sweeper further up the field they put Glenswilly under pressure and were unlucky not to have snatched a draw in the end.
But they are left with what might have been. What if we done this or what if we done that. Again I go back to the idea that at club level there are far too many club managers and coaches restricting their teams from attacking and going at the opposition in favour of a more defensive game plan. Why? Simple, the fear of losing.
Killybegs went into their game with Malin totally written off by many, even probably within our own club. Where would the form come from; we haven’t won a game in the league, but some of those games were down to a point or two and to be fair to the Killybegs management they never had the entire squad to pick from. But nonetheless, we couldn’t get a point from the league but last Sunday Killybegs lined up with six up front.
They didn’t play a sweeper but what they did do was they gave their all. And if it wasn’t good enough so be it.
But there was no pressure on them; they were written off before the game and with that came a freedom to play; no pressure; nothing expected; the shackles were off and that was the difference.
The Malin players looked nervous, they looked edgy. Their passing, both from the hand and the foot, was all over the place; they were unsure of when to shoot for goal and near the end when they needed that experience that gets you into county finals or positions where you need to keep calm, they where lacking.
To be fair it was never going to be easy for them. They put out St Eunan’s, the reigning county champions, and the expectations grew not only for the players themselves but also for the supporters.
Inishowen needs a senior championship and this placed added pressure on them plus it would have made a great story and maybe all the hype and attention got to them. They have had a great year but if they need to go forward they have to concentrate more now on taking the next step and while last Sunday will not be a day they will want to remember, it will stand them in the future.
Ardara are of different stock. They have had these blows before and will dust themselves down and get back. They, too, have struggled in the league and will have to play a relegation decider to keep their place in Division One.
I think many clubs have become over indulged in this idea that you need to be in Division One. They believe it’s the only way ahead if you’re to compete at the highest level. Every year we have games being called of in Division One because the county players are not available. Some clubs don’t want to play out their games because of the fear of relegation or being in the play-off at the end of the year.
If you are relegated it seems to be the end of the earth but you know what, next year comes about; the fixtures are made and you just get on with it.
For the next week or so the clubs of Killybegs or Glenswilly will not be too worried about Division One or Division Two of the league.
They will enjoy the huge excitement that comes with being in the county final, the colour and good humour that it brings.
But like the semi finals or any of the other championship games this year, there’s no point going to the final if you’re not going to go all the way.