Thoughts for 2011

Playing us out here on the site for 2010, I’m delighted to welcome into the guest slot FourGoal McGee whom many of you will know as a perceptive and frequent contributor to the comments section for almost as long as this site has been in existence and who has some wise words for us as we face into another year of footballing action.

Over to you, Brother FourGoal …


I have always been intrigued by the winning attitude that seems to surround great teams.

It’s not just the Kerrys and Kilkennys of this world that I am talking about, these teams exist at all levels from schools such as Blackrock in rugby, St Kieran’s and St Flannan’s in hurling, St Jarlath’s in football, to those in professional sports in teams like Manchester United, Brazil and the All Blacks. And of course they exist in all other sports as well from American Football, Ice Hockey, Basketball, etc.

And from my limited involvement with a few different winning teams, I can safely say that they all have a few specific things in common. Firstly, they see it as the norm that they will win. They do not hope, they expect. They do not think that “we can” they believe that “we will”. How else can you explain Tadhg Kennelly coming home for one year to win his All-Ireland medal in 2009? How else can you explain Ger Loughnane’s famous retort of “we are going to do it!” to Marty Morrissey’s “do you think ye are going to do it?” question at the start of the second half of the 1995 All-Ireland Hurling Final? There was no space for hope and ambiguity – just the belief in winning.

Secondly, they do not dwell on previous failures or play around with the myth that the pain of failure can be harnessed to manufacture success. Some of the Armagh footballers tried to do this when they were beaten from 2003 onward but it didn’t help them to land the second elusive All-Ireland!  Consistent winners simply get up, dust themselves down and get on with it – one match at a time. Defeats of the past don’t matter – except to historians.

Thirdly, winning teams plan for the full campaign, not just the next match. And in an era where losing in the provincial championship doesn’t end your season, everything concerning the All-Ireland doesn’t get serious till late July at the earliest. So when guys like Jack O’Connor say that they are not thinking beyond the game against Waterford, we all know that that is just bullshit.

Fourthly, there is also an inner belief that it is their right to win and if that means playing on the edge of the rules, well, so what! The rules are there for everyone to interpret and the ref is there to implement them. If I do wrong, I will be told. If I am not being told, then I am doing no wrong. Look at the guys that consistently land All Stars – very few choirboys there!  The 2009 Footballer of the Year is a fairly clear example of this.

And finally, there is leadership. This is fed through the tradition of the great players that have gone before and have worn the jersey with the same number in the past. This brings the feeling that ”now is my time” but also that it is my responsibility to be the link in the chain that will eventually be passed on into the next generation. This provides leadership, not just for the current teammates, but for future wearers of the jersey. And the list of those that have gone before is huge – just look at the debate that took place last year when Sean Rice went about picking the top 15 Mayo footballers from the last 50 years.

So if there were a few words of advice that could be sent as a New Year message to James Horan, they could be summed up as follows:

  • Believe in the right to win
  • Forget about past defeats, they have no relevance to the next 70 minutes
  • Plan for the overall goal for the year
  • Play to the limits allowed
  • Draw on the leadership of past great players
  • And realise that this is just yours for a short time – another generation will build on what you leave behind.

Here’s to a memorable 2011.

Keep the Faith!

4 thoughts on “Thoughts for 2011

  1. Inspirational article FourGoal. As for choirboys among the ranks of the All Stars, I don’t think James Nallen ever played a dirty game or a game “on the edge” in his life.

    By the way, are you the real FourGoal (like the real Santa) or is that a state secret?

  2. I can see why you were a winner. We seem to have lost that bit of simplicity. Its not rocket science and its not arrogance…its belief. Sadly its only the winners that count today, gallant runners up are depicted as lacking something. Two games v Meath in 1996, seperated by one point after 140 minutes but it was Meath that had all the answers …according to the men who know those things like the Irish Times writer. Utter rubbish of course but we dont get to write the obituarys, only read them.
    Great article Four Goal. Hope it transfers to those that wear the jersey.

  3. Glad ye enjoyed my ramblings. I wrote the article before I had seen the programme on TG4 about Ballintubber. Having now seen it I get the impression that James Horan is clear on what he is about and that the points i mentioned are already well sighted on his radar.

    On Grainne’s comment re James Nallen, I take your point. James is one of the gentlemen of the game and he well deserved his All-Star. However, the bucks I was referring to are the ones that have picked up a few of them.

    On your other question Grainne, at the risk of taking away the magic surrounding belief in the real Santa, I confirm that I am not the original Four Goal.

    Keep the Faith!

  4. Happy New Year to all Mayo football fans and thanks for all
    the hard work from your good self WJ for the year gone by. Well
    it`s center stage for James Horan and I feel we`ve got a man who
    won`t be found wanting,any man who can score 9 points from play in
    two finals in the one year won`t panic under pressure! I`ve heard
    it said many times that most if not all successful football
    managers build from the back. I`m hoping to see a solid set of
    backs,starting with two corner backs,in place well before the
    league is over. The first corner back to cross the half way line
    should be taken off immediatly,unless he`s following his man,the
    first corner back to score a point should be dropped to the subs
    until he learns what is his job on the team! We have spent too many
    years with guys playing in the backs who clearly wanted to be in
    the forewards,lovely footballers but couldn`t or wouldn`t defend.We
    need backs who will stick tight to their men and then we can look
    for the ones who can do the magic. Looking foreward to the coming
    year UP MAYO!

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