Turning the season around for the qualifiers is where managers really earn their salt
Everything you’ve been preaching has to be reworked to get everyone believing again
Peter Canavan: will be selling crazy again to the Fermanagh players. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho
Watching the golf over the weekend did the heart no end of good. The great thing about the US Open is it makes the best players in the world look like the rest of us. I saw Steve Stricker hit a pure shank on Sunday that I’d have been ashamed of myself. And when Rory McIlroy bent his club in a fit of temper, I knew exactly how he felt.
I’ve played in GAA golf classics where there could be 20 fellas standing around the first tee waiting to watch you tee off. You’d think a crowd of 20 is nothing but trust me, in that situation I’d far rather have to perform in front of 80,000 people screaming at Croke Park. At least there I’d know what I was doing. There’s a big difference between that and taking back the club not knowing where the damn thing is going to go.
When I heard the football qualifier draw on the radio the other morning, I was thinking of the various managers around the country who have been sitting down in team meetings since they lost their first game. In sport, there’s no worse feeling than being in that fog where you’re not sure of yourself. All these guys would have been holding meetings, having to make speeches about what they were going to do next. Some of them would have been feeling no more certain of their ground than me standing on the first tee.
Your first job as a manager is to set the tone. For eight months, these guys have been hammering home a certain message in training, at league matches, in challenges matches, in meetings. They’ve been talking about whatever date their first game is on and they’ve been building their players up and making them believe they’re going to do it.
That is the tone you have to set and you’ll be constantly telling your players they’re up to the job of winning that first game.
Look at Peter Canavan the other day. He would have been saying for ages he had a team that could win an Ulster Championship game. He’s known for a month Cavan would be their opponents, he’s had all that time to tell his team they’ve nothing to fear and that they’re well fit to take them.
And then Fermanagh go out and don’t score for the first 25 minutes. You could see him in the stand – he had his head in his hands. Somewhere in there he was surely questioning himself.
Licking your wounds
Imagine you’re John Evans this week, licking your wounds after the Mayo hiding. You’ve been spending months telling your players they’re the best players around, trying to get them to buy into that idea.
Everyone on the outside has been writing you off but you’ve been going the other way. You’ve convinced yourself that it’s going to happen. To get a trimming like that is shattering.
The road back starts with getting the players to believe again. Players aren’t stupid. They’re the ones who’ve been on the pitch getting beaten to every ball, getting turned around by the opposition and getting abused by the crowd. They’re going to be looking at you thinking: “Well if we were as good as you said we were, how the hell did that happen?”