As the old year fades out and the new one is just around the corner we tend to reflect on what was and what might have been.
Since 2012 we have tended to go into the New Year with more expectations rather than in hope. Last year was no different; we came out of the blocks flying at the start of the National League but we faded badly, losing five on the spin leading into the championship.
We found it difficult at times to get past a stubborn Fermanagh in the first round of the championship, but got there in the end. Leaving Ballybofey that day while there was some frustration with the result, it was the comments centred around the tactics used. It took a couple of games to get past Monaghan, who have always given us a hard time in the last few years. Tyrone have been building for the last few years, a young side with a few established players to pull the strings.
Still, like many, I felt we should have enough to get past them. We didn’t play badly but we didn’t go at them either. We showed a fear; we defended with everyone behind the ball and were in total control with ten minutes to go.
But, like 2015, we let it slip. We looked totally out on our feet and lacked that forward momentum to kill off the game when we were in control. Certain players established in Jim Mc Guinness’s time were not required. We sent on players who had been taken off earlier in the game; we lost our shape; we didn’t use all that experience that has been well earned over the last ten years. We kept running with the ball into the tackle. Murphy or McBrearty were never given the opportunity to have a go at the Tyrone defence with some long direct ball.
Defenders ran into forward positions and forwards defended en masse. It didn’t at times make a lot of sense and when Mickey Harte got his troops switched on to what we were at, they closed down the space. They ran at us and well that was that.
Against Dublin in the quarter-final we showed glimpses but if we're honest Dublin didn’t get out of third gear and we didn’t get into the game until Dublin had a man or two sent off but we were never in contention.
What of 2017? We have to develop a more attacking, direct game using Paddy McBrearty and Michael Murphy closer to goal. Dublin showed us again that attacking football wins games. We have to change what worked well for us as now other teams have copped on. We have to move on and develop further or we will have to wait another 20 years.
It would be hard to talk about 2016 without acknowledging Glenswilly's feat in capturing the county championship against a strongly fancied Kilcar side. Glenswilly went into the game with nothing to lose and had a plan to which every one of their players had a part to play. While Murphy and Neil Gallagher got many of the plaudits, it was as good a team performance as I have seen in a county final for a long time.
The Sky debate raised it’s head once again with the GAA signing a new five year deal and RTE getting their bit of the cake as well. Of course, we were told the usual few lines that the club was the heart of the organisation and what they were going to do for the club player. Introducing a round robin competition at the quarter-final stage, adding eight more games to the county calendar, should be a great help to the club player.
On the hurling front, Tipperary stopped Kilkenny from grabbing another Liam McCarthy title but I have no doubt they will come back stronger than ever. In fact, it would be hard to argue against the fact that both games(football and hurling) are being dominated by three or four sides and the rest are falling well behind and if we're not careful we will be back talking about 'B' competitions in order to help the weaker counties.
On the national front, the Irish rugby team beating the All Blacks in America was brilliant; Seamie Coleman leading out the Irish soccer team in the European championship and defeating Italy to get to the knock-out stages will not be forgotten for a long time. The Olympics and all that Rio had to offer, some great moments from Bolt and Co but you would have to wonder after all the scandals, especially around the drugs. You would have to question how clean any of the those who take part are; even when it came to the boxing and the outburst of Michael Conlon after his defeat, summed it up perfectly.
What can we expect from the year ahead? Who knows. These are strange times; a reality television star gets into the White House; the Brits are preparing to leave Europe and, of all things, there are people within the GAA who are suggesting we stop playing the National Anthem and remove the Tricolour from our pitches. Why do we have to apologise for who we are instead of being proud of our heritage?
Hats off to Donal Reid on his book; his honesty in opening up to his problems and what he went through. Hopefully, his message of helping those unable to cope with their daily problems will be of benefit and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
On that note I hope all have a prosperous New Year.