Tedious business of naming dummy teams causes more problems than it solves
Even if the secret is kept, you run the risk of messing too much with your players’ heads
It was no surprise when old rivals Noel O’Leary from Cork and Kerry’s Paul Galvin renewed acquaintances in the Munster final at Killarney. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Everything at inter-county level is about getting an edge. It’s well known now that Dublin regularly send someone out to film the challenge matches of the other big counties when they get wind of them. That might sound a bit excessive but when I heard about it, I said fair play to the Dubs. It tells you a lot about the level of planning they think you have to be doing, constantly pushing on and seeing if there is something you can do that others haven’t thought of yet.
But you can get too clever. The carry-on with the dummy teams seems to me to be a classic example of managers complicating matters more than they need to. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and trying to work out what the benefit of it might be. And I can’t work it out. To me, it looks like it causes more problems than it solves.
I’m not talking here about the like of Eoghan O’Gara coming in for Paddy Andrews the other day. Sometimes a fella will be carrying a knock and you want to give him every chance to make it. That’s fine, no problem. Or if you have some young lad that you want to keep back until the day of a game so that he doesn’t lose a week’s sleep over starting his first game, that’s fair enough. Managers have been doing that for donkey’s years.
No, what baffles me is the kind of thing Cork did ahead of their Munster final against Kerry a couple of weeks ago. I was in Killarney around 11am that morning, meeting a few fellas, sorting out a few tickets, shooting the breeze. And within the first three sentences of every conversation I had, the changes in the Cork team were all known.
Everybody knew Aidan Walsh was going to start at midfield, that Noel O’Leary was coming in at wing-back and that Donncha O’Connor would start at corner-forward. And the big topic of discussion was that Ciarán Sheehan wasn’t going to be coming in, that it was going to be a dummy change not made by Conor Counihan. This was three hours before the game and everybody knew the changes that were going to be made and the ones that weren’t.
So you have to ask yourself, what is the benefit of it all? What do you gain? If the idea is to make Kerry take their eye off the ball, then it failed badly when every man in the street knows the score three hours before throw-in.
I think what you potentially lose is far more serious than whatever little edge you might gain. You have to be careful with the mental side of things. Everybody wants to start every game. It’s a dent in your personal pride when you’re not starting.
Roar and Shout
I don’t care how together a team is or how good the team spirit might be, players live inside their own heads and they think first and foremost about their own game. We all roar and shout about how this is a 30-man squad and all the rest. But once the game starts, you have to look after your own patch and your own performance.
The 30-man squad stuff is hugely important but its real worth is in preparation for the big games rather than in the games themselves. There’s no way I would have been conditioned properly for playing intercounty football without training against the likes of Donal Daly, Séamus Scanlon, Kieran Donaghy and Mike Quirke. Unless you have big, strong, athletics guys beating the hell out of you all the way through the year, it’s impossible to be ready when the biggest games come around.