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
Once you have everybody in a squad buying into that idea, even the guys who aren’t making the team know that they’re adding something and morale stays high. But I just don’t see how naming dummy teams can do anything only hurt morale. You’re basically setting a couple of players up for a fall, playing around with their emotions in the run up to really important games. How can that be good?
It happened a few weeks ago in the Fermanagh v Cavan match in the Ulster championship. Fermanagh had Barry Owens, James Sherry and Tomás Corrigan not only go through a full warm-up but also walk in the parade and stand in the huddle for the national anthem. Then, as soon as the anthem was over, the three boys went and sat in the stand and three subs hopped up out of the dug-out and went to take up their position.
Again, everybody in the stands that day knew Fermanagh were going to make changes before throw-in. These things always, always get out. You might think you have the tightest squad imaginable but in a group of 30 young lads with another heap of backroom people, these things leak out. It just happens.
Say you’re a young lad who has been named in the team but you know you’re not going to be starting. The team is named on a Wednesday so you have to keep smiling all week as people congratulate you for getting your start. They ask you how you’re feeling, tell you to enjoy the big day and all that.
Meanwhile, you’re trying to keep a straight face. You could be talking to your best friend or your father or somebody you don’t want to feel like you’re bullshitting, so you kind of go, ‘Listen, keep it to yourself, right? So-and-so is starting and I’m on the bench.’
That’s all it takes. It’s out there now. And if it isn’t the lad himself, it’s someone else. Someone half-tells their brother and the brother has a pint some night and everyone knows the brother is close to the team and suddenly the rumour is out the gap as fact. And so you get to the point where whatever purpose the manager had for naming his dummy team is lost altogether.
The knock-on effect here is what’s going on in the heads of the players. Take the player who has been named in the team but isn’t starting. You need him to be a very experienced guy to be able to handle all this messing around in the right way.
Before a game, a player will have little conversations with himself about how he has prepared. Have I trained right? Have I eaten right? Have I slept right? Have I done everything I could have for this?
If you’re going to be a sub, you need to get yourself into the right frame of mind for it. You’re going to be looking out for what sort of calls a referee makes, how a game is flowing, who’s a weakness in the opposition. You need to really concentrate. And for all of that to happen, your mind has to be clear. But it’s very hard to have a clear head if you’ve spent the week in the team and out of the team, trying to keep a secret and trying not to give anything away, wondering what the manager really thinks of you and if he really trusts you.