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!