Posted by Ciarán Whelan
Sunday 16 September 2012
I think the whole Joe Canning furore was much ado about nothing. Sometimes you want a bit of honesty from players and players nowadays are almost coached by their managers to give no tricks away.
In some ways it was in fact a back-handed compliment that was twisted and contrived in another way. He was making the point that someone like Henry Shefflin has so much experience in the game and trying to get into the head of the referee or manipulate him in some way is something that experienced players always try to do.
Canning’s right. In my playing days I used to always make it my business to have a chat with the referee beforehand. It was simple stuff and general chit-chat like asking him how he was, hoping that later on it might have an effect and you get the little decisions. You try anything when you are a player so I think his comments were twisted a bit by the media.
It was a compliment to Kilkenny rather than a criticism of Shefflin. Unfortunately a lot has been made of it but I don’t think it will have any impact on what happens in the replay.
I remember in the second half of my career there was much more of a media presence around the game. Gaelic games became much higher profile and there were much more media outlets. Some managers know that in their squad there are some players who can handle the media but there are some players they might be a bit more worried about.
A lot of the time a manager won’t let those players go in front of the media for fear they will slip up. Both Pillar Caffrey and Pat Gilroy paid close attention to what was said by whom and sometimes managers will give a few direct messages to the players that they want to be out in the public arena.
It’s almost coaching the players. A manager will say, ‘Right, if you’re speaking at a press conference, here’s a few things you can focus on’. Similar to politicians, some players are well capable of not answering the question they were asked or giving an answer to a question that wasn’t asked.
It happens a lot now. It frustrates the media because they are just fed the party lines. As a former player I can spot them a mile off. Every now and again you will get a player who will break ranks but mostly they will stick to the party line and say what the manager tells them to say.
On the other side of it, there were a couple of things in the Laois papers and some stuff said by Laois players back in the early 2000s that we used as motivation before we played them. But I can’t remember any other instances where something someone said was used to get our backs up.
These days, most managers will focus on their own team. Of course, there will be focus on nullifying the opposition to some extent but taking trash talk and using it as a spur will only get you so far. It certainly wasn’t widespread when I was playing. Most managers are shrewd enough to know that the main focus must be on getting things right in their own camp rather than to be worrying about what others may or may not be saying about their team.
IT REMAINS TO be seen whether Colm O’Rourke really wants to manage Meath or whether this submission he is going to pass on to the county board is, to a certain degree, a move to highlight what needs to done with Meath football.
He has done it before and there have been problems in Meath for the past ten years. There are problems with their development structures and the chopping and changing of managers hasn’t helped. There is no great continuity from minor through under-21s to senior.
You would’ve thought there is enough quality within Meath in terms of coaching; that among the former players coaching in the county and outside there is someone there who can finally take on the mantle from Sean Boylan.
O’Rourke has been there before and his suggestions about what needs to be done within Meath football would obviously be highly respected. I worked with him in 1999 during the International Rules series. It’s a long time ago now but he was very organised at that stage and he was a good manager.
He has stayed in touch with the modern game of football and it will be interesting to see now whether he wants to put pressure on board members to make the changes necessary or if he wants the main job.
I think it would be a positive step if he took it on. Meath need stability and I often feel sorry for the players in that regard, that there has been no continuity at the top level either. They need to get someone in who has a long-term plan and work with the underage structures so that it feeds into the senior team.
It will take time and will depend on whether the board have the bravery to look at it and also whether they have the money to put into restructuring their setup. Unfortunately, that’s what it comes down to these days. It costs an awful lot to prepare teams at this level, as well as catering for all the other teams at county level all the way down the age groups.
I think there is a feeling in Meath that all the success they enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s should have bred more success over the past decade. I know the minors are in an All-Ireland final and that will give them some hope for the future but it’s almost 20 years since they won a minor All-Ireland.
From the International Rules, I remember O’Rourke as someone who was tactically aware. He was calm and composed and was well in touch with the psyche of players. You have to adapt to that type of situation, which is very different to what players are used to at inter-county level.
You’re away for a long period of time staying in hotels and he built a good team around him. He was clear and concise and knew exactly what he wanted to do and the way he wanted the team to play. Most of all it was enjoyable. Of any of the trips I went on I did enjoy that one the most.
O’Rourke also has a good pedigree from the school system and would know of a lot of the younger players. So it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks.
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