16 Jan 2022

MCSHEA'S SAY: Let’s hope for better fare in 2022

In his weekly column, Donegal's 1974 Ulster SFC winning captain Pauric McShea outlines his hopes for the year ahead

MCSHEA'S SAY: Let’s hope for better fare in 2022

Ciaran Thompson of Donegal in action against Liam Middleton of Down during the Dr McKenna Cup fixture last Friday

The Kenna Cup saw Donegal in action on Friday night beating a new look Down side in Ballybofey in a typical start of season encounter. Let’s hope Donegal have a good year in 2022.

If 2021 the sporting year was to be judged simply on the basis of results and performances then Donegal GAA teams would have to agree that it was not a year to remember. I do believe however that it is very possible to discover success from setbacks and I clearly remember that after Donegal lost to Tyrone in last year's championship game many people spent time talking about bad luck and poor refereeing decisions.

I didn’t buy into those excuses because being successful has nothing to do with luck. Care, thought and study make something succeed. Luck is something you get when playing the lottery or gambling.

The GAA has no official closed season but football and hurling had stopped for a number of weeks, with the McKenna Cup resuming last week. With the pitches all but deserted it is the administrators who normally take centre stage and in the past the county conventions usually provided plenty of copy for newspapers as board officers and club delegates get to express the concerns of grassroots.

On a more serious note I can remember a Mayo convention back in the early nineties being told that almost 70 companies nationwide had been approached about sponsoring the county team but the response was extremely disappointing.

Around the same time Leitrim were also in a very difficult situation. The county board heard that there was no hope of getting a sponsor and the county was facing bankruptcy. The supporters club in Dublin and the generosity of their local fans kept the wolf from the door at that time and it is to the credit of those two counties and many more who were experience real financial difficulties that they survived in a time of serious economic malaise.

At that same time in the early part of the nineties there was also bad feeling in Derry where their manager Eamonn Coleman, who had taken them to their All Ireland in 1993, indicated that he might return to London where he worked before coming home to lead his county to glory.

Coleman indicated that he had not been adequately compensated by the county board for the loss of earnings and expenses he incurred while training the team and financial necessity might again force him to emigrate.

Coleman was an out and out G A A man and in no way was money a motivating factor in his time with Derry but it was sad to see a man who had achieved such outstanding success with his native county have to work so hard for fair play.

How things have changed in the modern game, with mentors, advisors or whatever title you want to give them travelling the length and breadth of the country to assist the manager in his quest for glory.

To date the influence of “outside experts” has not delivered any results of note and it does make one wonder is their journey really necessary.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney stated recently that the “players who wanted it most, will be successful”. That, to my mind, is simply the most ridiculous statement to come out of a manager’s mouth.

I well remember The Bakery Cup, a competition in Ballyshannon for under-14s which was serialised in the Democrat in recent weeks.
The will to win and the pride in the jersey in that little competition was simply incredible.
Everyone who played in that competition wanted it so much, if you had not an inbuilt desire to win you did not deserve a jersey even at under-14 level.

That statement from McGeeney is more than a little insightful. It will be an interesting month in the GAA world will another special congress pencilled in for later in the month to address the imbalance in the football championship.

I believe that a congress to deal with the football rules is a much more pertinent issue. As long as the short kick-out, the mark and the pass back starting on the opposition's 45-metre line and ending back with the goalkeeper continues, the entertainment level in Gaelic football will continue to diminish. But don’t hold your breath about common sense emerging in this area.

Yet again we had a goalkeeper making a cardinal error in the Connacht club final between Roscommon champions Padraig Pearse’s and Knockmore, when the Roscommon keeper decided to solo out the pitch when his skill level was not up to the task.

He lost possession, then got a black card and left his team in serious trouble. When will managers ever learn that the only place for goalkeepers is between the sticks?

Watching Knockmore playing in both the semi final and last Sunday's final would make one wonder about the quality of football in the county at this time and whether Mayo’s rating as third favourites behind Kerry and Dublin to win Sam this year is a realistic assessment of the counties ability to deliver this year.

Few, if any of the Knockmore players, seem ready to enter the inter-county on those two recent displays.

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