The Preacherman will be back with more words of wisdom from The Pulpit in 2014

Click on the links below to read any of the weekly offerings from The Preacher Man.

September 2013

September 27th 2013 The wife of a preacherman.
September 20th 2013 Any spare tickets?
September 13th 2013 Spell GAA
September 6th 2013 The price of failure

August 2013

August 30th 2013 Bitterness and acceptance ‐ GAA style
August 23rd 2013 In another man's words.
August 16th 2013 Standards
August 9th 2013 Don't blame the player, blame the game
August 2nd 2013 When St Clarets went to Croke Park: Part 2

July 2013

July 26th 2013 When St Clarets went to Croke Park: Part 1
July 19th 2013 When the craic's not so grand
July 12th 2013 Tracking the past
July 5th 2013 Scum

June 2013

June 20th 2013 The Angry Association
June 20th 2013 Murphy's Tale
June 13th 2013 Discontent at departures
June 6th 2013 Showing some respect for the club

May 2013

May 30th 2013 Pride and Respect
May 23rd 2013 The Three Amigos
May 16th 2013 The art of management
May 10th 2013 David takes on Goliath
May 3rd 2013 The Daley Routine

April 2013

April 24th 2013 Accidents don't happen
April 18th 2013 Derry's Dynamic Duo
April 11th 2013 Dawson's Creek
April 5th 2013 No lights, no cameras, no action

March 2013

March 28th 2013 Cynical fouling in the black
March 21st 2013 Make it as intense as you can
March 15th 2013 Winning the personal battles
March 8th 2013 Giving everything you have to give

February 2013

February 28th 2013 Catching up with the present
February 22nd 2013 Getting going
February 15th 2013 Next stop Croke Park
February 6th 2013 The Mighty Quinn

January 2013

January 29th 2013 Earning the jersey

2012 issues

2012 Issues of The PulpitThe Pulpit 2012 Issues

2011 issues

2011 Issues of The PulpitThe Pulpit 2011 Issues

September 27th 2013

The wife of a preacherman

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

There are moments in the life of every preacherman when you stand in the pulpit looking down at the congregation and wonder if anyone is listening to you at all.

Often the heads buried in the weekly bulletin outnumber those that are looking towards the pulpit, while the hum of whispered conversations from the back rows can drown out what is being said by the preacher.

I once heard a fellow clergyman say that what he craved most of all while delivering a sermon was the someone would stand up in the congregation and challenge what he was saying; this man felt that such an act would at least let him know that a few souls out there were listening to his words.

Prior to my own days in the pulpit, I heard a senior figure telling the story of how one day he walked down the aisle during his sermon in order to confront a member of his church who was happily sitting reading the News of the World during the service, something which the priest took great exception to.

His reaction was to grab the paper from the man's hand and batter him around the head with it.

One thing though that every preacherman will feel secure with is the fact that those who share the same home as you, those who live under the same roof as you, listen to what you have to say and absorb the content of the message that you are trying to get across. After all, what sort of a preacherman can not convey his thoughts to those nearest and dearest to him!

To fail to achieve this would be to destroy the confidence of anyone wishing to follow the ministry of preaching and completely undermine that preacher's standing in the community.

Sadly, just a few days ago, the foundations of my own vocation were rocked as I sat and discussed matters in the GAA world with Mrs Preacherwoman.

As I flicked through the internet, I came across a rather clever picture someone had mocked up and which I have posted with this sermon.

The picture was simply a photo of the Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson being presented with a huge big spoon of mayonnaise and accompanied by the caption " Mayo for Sam ".

On the morning of an All Ireland Final, this was a witty little presentation and one that I felt every and all disciple of the good word of the GAA would understand immediately, even the late converts like my better half.

That is of course until I presented the picture to Mrs Preacherwoman, and asked her to comment on it.

What was to follow was probably the most shocking and distressing conversation of our six years together. Indeed, so shocking was it, that after the first few sentences I felt compelled to record the dialogue as it unfolded, so that I could play it back at some later stage, just to make sure that the conversation actually happened in the first place.

The following is an exact transcript of the conversation, beginning as I presented Mrs Preacherwoman with the picture of Sam and the spoon of mayonnaise.

Me: Say what you see.

Mrs Preacherwoman: It's a picture of someone attempting to spoon mayonnaise into Samuel L Jackson's mouth with the catchphrase Mayo for Sam.

Me: Ok, so what does it mean?

Mrs PW: I'm guessing that "Mayo", as opposed to being short of mayonnaise, is actually the county Mayo and "For Sam", whilst it's Samuel L Jackson in the picture, there is actually someone important in Mayo called Sam.

Me: Mayo for Sam. Think about it.

Mrs PW: Mayo for Sam. I have no idea.

Me: Seriously you have no idea and you are married to me for how many years?

Mrs PW: More than I care to remember.

Me: And you've never heard Sam mentioned before in all those years.

Mrs PW: Who is Sam?

Me: Sam and Liam.

Mrs PW: Sam and Liam?

Me: Yes, who is Sam and who is Liam?

Mrs PW: They are very famous footballers ‐ or hurlers ‐ they're hurlers ‐ they do both ‐ they hurl ‐ and they play football. But they're better at hurling.

Me: Go on, keep going.

Mrs PW: That's it. They're both hurlers.

Me: Their prowess as hurlers or footballers isn't why they are famous. It wasn't because of their ability that they have become so famous. They were key people in the early days of the GAA. Liam McCarthy was actually both born in and buried in London, and Sam Maguire played for London.

Mrs PW: Oh I don't know. They want Samuel L Jackson to be their manager.

Me: They want Samuel L Jackson to be their manager? Who wants Samuel L Jackson to be their manager? Mayo?

Mrs PW: No ‐ they want Sam to be their manager?

Me: They want someone else called Sam to be their manager?

Mrs PW: They want Sam Maguire to be their manager.

Me: Who wants Sam?

Mrs PW: Mayo

Me: So who is Sam Maguire?

Mrs PW: He used to play for London and was very involved in the GAA.

Me: When?

Mrs PW: Back in the day.

Me: What is Sam now?

Mrs PW: Sam is now retired.

Me: Oh Sam's retired alright.

Mrs PW: So he's dead?

Me: Oh yes, he's dead alright. He's well and truly dead.

Mrs PW: So they want Mayo to win for the honour of Sam. In memory of Sam ‐ who is dead.

Me: No.

Mrs PW: Oh I don't know, just tell me.

Me: They want Mayo to win for why?

Mrs PW: For Sam.

Me: What is Sam?

Mrs PW: Sam is dead. Sam is the patron saint of Mayo.

Me: Mayo for Sam. Why?

There is a pause at this point as I try to steady myself before then searching the web for another picture, this time one of a car bedecked in Mayo colours and with the slogan "Mayo for Sam" painted on the bonnet.

I then show this picture to Mrs Preacherwoman.

Me: Any thoughts at all?

Mrs PW: None at all. The Dukes of Hazard.

Me: What would the Dukes of Hazard have to do with Mayo or Sam?

Mrs PW: Oh I don't know, it was just a car that was painted funny. And anyway, why am I supposed to think that a car, Mayo and Sam would have anything in common.

Me: Well what I'm trying to show you is that it has nothing to do with Samuel L Jackson.

Mrs PW: But it has something to do with Samuel Maguire.

Me: Right. So who or what is Sam Maguire?

Mrs PW: Sam Maguire is dead.

Me: Correct ‐ he's well and truly dead.

Mrs PW: And he used to be involved in the GAA and played for London at one stage but his home county is Mayo.

Me: That's not right but it's not a bad guess. At least you're thinking.

Mrs PW: I'm not sure what relevance a car painted green and orange has to do with anything.

Me: It's green and red. The car is green and red.

Mrs PW: Doesn't matter, I've still no idea.

Me: Today is what? What event takes place today?

Mrs PW: The All Ireland Final.

Me: Who's playing in the All Ireland Final?

Mrs PW: I'm guessing Mayo.

Me: Who else?

Mrs PW: I don't know.

Me: Who are Mayo playing?

Mrs PW: Dublin.

Me: And how do we know that they are playing Dublin?

Mrs PW: Because Martin's going to be there.

Me: Martin's going to be there! Martin trains the Dublin team for God's sake. He's going to be a bit more than there. (Martin Kennedy is a close friend and one of the coaches of the Dublin team).

Pause for breath.

Me: And what are they playing in today?

Mrs PW: The final.

Me: The final of?

Mrs PW: The All Ireland Championships.

Me: And what do they win at the end of the final?

Mrs PW: A cup.

Me: And what's the cup called?

Mrs PW: Is that Sam?

Me: That's right, it's Sam.

Mrs PW: How was I supposed to have guessed that from a car and a picture of Samuel L Jackson?

It's at moments like these that I am left to regret that the News of the World is no longer published. If ever there was a legitimate reason for rolling one up and clipping someone around the ear with it, then surely this conversation was it.

And the saddest thing about this dialogue is that I know full well that on the third Sunday of September next year, if I was to present something similar to Mrs Preacherwoman again, she'd be just as confused.

Maybe I'm just not cut out to be a preacherman!

The Preacherman

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September 20th 2013

Any spare tickets?

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

They say tickets for this year's All Ireland Football Final are harder to come by than ever before; and I'm sure many of the Mayo and Dublin supporters out there will testify to just how difficult it is.

That said though, every year, hundreds of ticketless fans turn up in Dublin and somehow or other they end up inside the ground.

Divvying up tickets for the final is like a giant game of poker, and there is a lot of bluffing and double bluffing going on among those who are holding and those who are on the hunt.

I have a good friend who is involved with the Dublin team this year, and he says that his phone is hopping with texts and calls from long-forgotten acquaintances enquiring if there would be any chance of a ticket. When you find yourself getting requests from people you haven't spoken to in years, then you know things must be tough.

Another friend of mine has been to every All Ireland played since I first met him in the mid-1980s and in many of those years, he was the go-to-man for tickets come All Ireland final morning if you were still on the look-out yourself. He always seemed to be able to get his hands on a few extras.

This year though he has yet to get hold of one for himself, let alone anyone else, and as of last night, he was still without a seat for the big occasion. Indeed, such has been the consistency of his attendance over the years, one wonders if the game will go ahead in his absence should he fail to get sorted!

Another friend from Dublin would love to get to the game but he is realistic enough to know that it is unlikely to happen and what's more, he is very happy to sit at home and watch the game with his two sons.

That said though, he'd be delighted to get his hands on one and as a result, didn't think twice about entering the draw in his local club for two tickets. Obviously his chances of winning are remote but as they say, you've got to be in it to win it, so it was worth a bash on his behalf.

Upon hearing that his dad had entered the competition for the tickets, his six-year old son turned to him in what will no doubt be the first of many challenging "who do you love the most? " moments they will experience and asked: "Dad, if you win the tickets, who would you bring to the game, me or Conor (his older brother)? "

Not having the heart to tell the young lad that of the two options it wasn't going to be him, my mate simply palmed him off by explaining that it would be highly unlikely that he'd win in the first place, so there was no point in talking about it.

However, the fact of the matter was that he knew that if he were to take the younger son, no sooner would they have got to the ground, than the little boy would have been asking when would it be time to go home?

All Ireland tickets are a bit too hard to come by to be wasting them on someone who didn't want to be there in the first place, even if it is your six-year old son and it is his first All Ireland final.

Good luck to all Claretians on the hunt for tickets this weekend. As they say, there's nothing like being there.

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September 13th 2013

Spell GAA

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

Change and progress is something that we seldom take notice of when we are in the midst of it. Often we have to step out of an environment or situation for a period of time to fully appreciate the scale of the developments that have taken place.

Back when I was a mere child with romantic notions of one day growing up and becoming a Preacherman I, like most of my friends, started to play Gaelic football.

My first proper club was a small rural team that was barely able to scrape together an under-12 team. Our pitch was a local field where the owner grazed his sheep when there was no game and the changing rooms were the tumble down ruins of an old farm house, which in modern day society would have been cordoned off and decorated with a wide range of safety dictates from Brussels. Back then though, this ruin of a building was the closest we had to a club house.

Team transport was the backseat of a clubman's Mitsubishi, which when not ferrying upwards of a dozen enthusiastic young footballers to almost inevitable defeat each week, was used to cart bales of hay and sick sheep about the place.

The football itself was on a par with the facilities. As tiny little under-12s, we played on full-size pitches, with full-size goals. In the first game I ever played I never actually saw the ball the entire match, as our poor opponents were so bad that they couldn't get the ball down to our end of the field.

The accumulative score at the end of the game was 36-points to no score.

Life as custodian on this team of course was never always so easy, as was highlighted by the fact that two games later, the manager sent a supporter down to me at one stage to check to see that I had my gloves on the right way round! I'm sure you don't need me to draw you a picture as to why that enquiry was made.

Back in those days team kits were usually a mish-mash of vaguely resembling tops of different sizes and colours, although during my first year we did receive a new set of jerseys for the club's youth teams. These of course swamped our little frames, while just about fitting our under-14s, while squeezing the life out of our under-16s. However, given that the club operated a one-size-fits-all policy with underage jerseys, we just had to suffer in silence.

On my very last game for the club, some five years after joining them, bizarrely I ended up wearing the same jersey as I did on my first game. To say if was a snug fit would be to suggest that the Incredible Hulk's clothes were made to measure after he turned green.

Progress through the ranks at our club could be rapid at times and this is best demonstrated by the fact that when at 15 years of age I found myself playing under-21. I actually saw this as something of a step down, given that I already had half a season of senior football under my belt, having made my senior debut along with another youth player when we were both fourteen. As I said at the start, it was a small club and the struggle to field an under-12 team was matched only by the struggle of fielding a senior team.

But thankfully change does take place whether we recognise it or not, and on a recent trip back to my old stomping ground it was incredible to see the amount of progress and change that has taken place within clubs and with the profile of the GAA in our area.

Every school and local community has access to plenty of qualified, enthusiastic coaches, insuring that kids get coached properly and learn how to play the game in a progressive manner (unlike my generation when we just learned as we played - and often didn't learn at all). On top of this, every club has decent and on many occasions exceptional facilities, making the clubs welcoming and accommodating, while most clubs have a very public profile.

But the influence of the GAA has stretched even further and the other day I discovered just how far when a football widow I know told me that when her little girl came home from school the other day, proudly sporting her first bit of writing Those first letters were GAA, a fact that didn't impress her mother too much.

Some call it progress, others might call it brain washing!

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September 6th 2013

The price of failure

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

The decision of the Kildare County Board and clubs to dispense with the services of senior team manager Kieran McGeeney after six years has brought an interesting argument to the always raucous GAA table.

McGeeney, an All Ireland winning captain with Armagh in 2002 and an inspirational figure to a generation of young footballers, has had a pretty decent run in Kildare. During that time he has been very well supported by the County Board, both in terms of finance and also personal backing. By all accounts, he was a highly respected and well regarded figure within the county.

However, what he wasn't, was successful, and because of that, he has paid with his job.

Now I know that some will argue that success is relative and of course it is. But that argument only stacks up if you are managing some third‐rate county who view a Championship run every now and then as success. When you are managing a team like Kildare, who at times appear to have an almost bottomless pit of money to throw at the preparation of their football team, then success is all about silverware. Regardless of how much (or how little) they have won prior to McGeeney, Kildare were pitching for some major prize the day they appointed him. Sadly for McGeeney and his players, he failed to deliver this.

Does this make him a failure as manager? Well this is the question that is causing a split within Kildare at the moment.

Having lost a ballot last week by one single vote, it would appear that the majority (albeit the most slender majority) of Kildare clubs and committee members felt that McGeeney has not been a success, as for after six years there was no silverware. On the other hand, the players, who are said to be very upset by McGeeney's dismissal, felt that he has been a brilliant addition to the Kildare cause and desperately want him to continue, or in other words, they feel he has been a success.

And that is great to hear in the modern day GAA, as far too often there are players and groups of players bitching about either the person in charge or the person who is about to be put in charge. To hear a group of players defend their leader in this way says a lot about the players and also the regard they hold McGeeney in.

And that's fantastic ‐ to a point.

The flip side of the argument though is that in six years McGeeney has created an expensively prepared group of "nearly footballers". They nearly won a Leinster title, they nearly got to an All Ireland final ‐ but they didn't.

In the time that McGeeney has been in charge of Kildare, the delegates at the county board can point to someone like Jim McGuinness in Donegal, someone who in three years took a group of malfunctioning players to All Ireland glory, as well as back‐to‐back provincial titles.

They could also point to their Leinster rivals Meath, a county whose managerial seat has acted as if it is some high profile prop in a game of musical chairs over the past few years, yet and all, they have delivered a Leinster title.

They could also look at a relative minnow like Louth, and say that they, just like Kildare, have also almost won a Leinster title; while Monaghan, under Malachy O'Rourke, have landed an Ulster title at the first time of asking.

The anti‐McGeeney delegates would argue that when compared to these stats, then McGeeney has been a failure in Kildare.

There is no doubt that Kieran has everything you'd imagine is essential to be a fine football manager. On top of that, he has also been someone who has been able to recognise a few of his own shortcomings over the years.

The appointment of Jason Ryan as his coach last year was a perfect example of a man looking to find a way of plugging the gaps in his own repertoire of skills. Certainly such a move was not the actions of a man incapable of looking in the mirror and finding fault.

When all the facts are considered, it is probably safe to say that McGeeney is a good, or even slightly better than good manager, but one who still has to find his groove in terms of winning. The thing that appeared to come so easily to him as a player, is proving a lot more difficult to recreate as a manager. It could also be that he is just an unlucky manager.

Whatever way it is, I feel that the Kildare county board were right to do what they did the other night and dispense with McGeeney's services.

Some would point to results and performances and suggest that maybe Kildare had peaked under McGeeney, and that they were now on the downward slide. That's a hard one to prove, but results and scorelines would support that argument.

I don't think he will complain about having had a six year run at the job and maybe, just maybe, a little time away from the inter‐county scene and a change of environment will prove beneficial to him in the long term.

There's no doubt that many counties would love to have him at the helm, his problem is though that not too many of the top counties would be interested ‐ and that in itself is an indication that McGeeney hasn't quite earned his stripes as a top manager just yet. He has to be careful that he doesn't end up a journey‐man manager who appears to be managing teams just for the sake of it. McGeeney is one of life's natural born winners, so he needs to make sure that his environment is conducive to winning.

If the Kildare thing ultimately proves to be over for good, then he needs to be sure that the next project he undertakes has as much or more potential as Kildare's did when he took it on.

The Kildare players have to be commended for the public support of the former boss, and I am sure that those who have managed to develop strong bonds with him over the past six years will feel a great deal of regret for not having achieved something with him, as well as responsibility for the fact that he is no longer their leader. If the players feel that he has done everything and more to make them a great team, then the blame for the failure of the Kildare senior football team lies at their feet.

When the story of McGeeney in Kildare is finally written, I am sure it will be full of positive statements and tales of the good that he did for football in the county.

Sadly for McGeeney though, football at the level that the Kildare senior football team was being pitched at is all about winning, and unfortunately for Kieran, this time round, he didn't win.

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August 30th 2013

Bitterness and acceptance ‐ GAA style

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

Regular readers of this sermon will know that I'm not the greatest fan of the sports pundits on Irish television. Fair enough, they provide a bit of entertainment, but in terms of analysis or in-depth knowledge, sometimes you'd wonder if these guys ever played the game ‐ this despite their vast collection of medals.

With a few of them, there always seems to be a hint of bitterness and jealousy in much of what they have to say, particularly when their own county is doing well or another player is excelling in their former position.

Some of these guys view themselves as top-dogs, but are obviously also hugely insecure in that self-appointed position. They therefore use every opportunity they can to remind people that they are, and always will be, the main-man. It's quite pathetic really, but when you have been adored for a period of time, some people become addicted to the adoration and just can not bear to have the spotlight taken from them.

With each new wave of recruitment to the analyst chairs, so more and more insecurity seeps from beneath the porous skin of these individuals.

The recently dispensed with Sligo legend Eamonn O'Hara attacked his former manager Kevin Walsh after London defeated his home county in what was a classic example of someone virtually standing up, ripping his shirt off, flexing his biceps and screaming at the top of his voice on live TV: "If he'd pick me, we'd have won. I'm the man".

Thankfully O'Hara stopped just short of doing so, but even with his clothes on, we could see the bitterness streaming from his pores like a weeping statue of the disenfranchised former gaelic footballer.

Down south in Cork, getting rid of the old brigade has always been a problem for any manager. The rebel within the Rebels often prevents them from accepting the authority of anyone who is in a position of authority, and the soap opera of striking and moaning that has taken place down there over the past decade is proof that the Rebels still like a rebellion.

Two of the hardest to get rid of in the hurling fraternity were Sean Og O'hAilpin and Donal Og Cusack, and there is no doubt that both of them still feel that they are as good as any other hurlers in Cork, and that they should be the first two names on the team sheet.

However, and very unfortunately for Sean Og and Donal Og, one of the all time legends of the GAA in Cork, Jimmy Barry Murphy, says differently; so on this occasion, the two lads have to bite their tongues and accept that what JBM says is the law. Trying to raise a rebellion in JBM's kingdom would be a foolish exercise.

As a result, Cusack has his Sunday afternoon's to himself, and like any shrewd operator looking to keep himself in the limelight, he's jumped straight into media circus ring, just in case anyone would ever forget that he won a few All Irelands with Cork.

But in fairness to Donal Og, he seems to have managed to stay honest in the way he is conducting himself, and earlier this week he was talking about how it feels to be an ex-player watching his former team achieve something, in reference to Cork reaching the All Ireland Hurling Final.

Now of course, if Cusack was a former wing forward from Kerry, he'd be reminding everyone that this current team was no where near as good as any of the teams he played on, and that until they had a bucket load of medals to their name, then there was no point carrying on this conversation; before then wiping away the beads of insecurity and bitterness that had just squeezed out of the pores on his shiny forehead.

Thankfully though, Donal Og Cusack is a former goalkeeper with the Cork hurling team, and his take on how he feels about Cork being in the All Ireland final without him is refreshingly honest.

"Of course everybody wants to be out there," the Cloyne clubman told the The Irish Daily Mirror. "There's people been coming up to you saying, 'Isn't it great Cork are in the All Ireland final?'

"And it is great. But the closest analogy that I can give to you in my head, and this is coming from my heart now: I imagine it's like the love of your life, if they threw you out or kicked you out and a while later you heard they were getting married or whatever.

"And you have people coming up to you saying, 'Isn't it great they're getting married?' And of course it's great, I love that person, I love that game. But I'd still love to be in that relationship. That's as best as I can describe it to you now."

I'm sure we've all been there, be that on the football field or in the relationship ‐ or both.

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August 23rd 2013

In another man's words

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

The greatest sermon I ever heard was a short little two liner from my parish priest in Luton, who simply told the congregation one sweltering July morning: "If you think that this is hot, imagine what Hell is like. So behave yourselves." Short, memorable and to the point ‐ preaching perfection in my book.

Ever since I heard that sermon I have been striving to come up with something short and concise that would get my point across, but as regular readers will know, this is something beyond my talents. I tend to be a bit too wordy and it's something I am conscious of and am working hard at fixing.

Today though, in an attempt to lessen your pain of reading yet another of my sermons, I am simply going to borrow another man's work; I suppose it's a bit like those Sundays when the priest reads a letter from the bishop.

I'm doing this as I try to explain how I feel about the news that a number of London senior footballers are planning on turning their backs on their London clubs this year and in doing so, potentially make themselves ineligible for the London team in 2014.

Here's what the Irish Post's Sports Editor Ronan Early had to write on the matter and I can do little other than endorse what he is saying.

The first point we want to make is that we have the height of respect for all the members of the London football panel and that respect is not borne simply of their achievements in the Connacht SFC this summer.

The respect is rooted in the effort and commitment they put into London GAA last winter and spring when few were watching. They gave everything of themselves to get right for the championship, while having to do so with one hand tied behind their backs due to Croke Park rulings like the Seanie Johnston Rule (always more about London) and the bizarre ban on travelling home for challenge matches in advance of the Championship.

We at this paper have always spoken up for the players in such circumstances. We will of course continue to do so in future when they get a raw deal from officialdom. This, however, is not one of those times.

We hope seriously that the five players planning to transfer back to their home clubs in Ireland reconsider. There is a lot at stake.

For a start, there is the technical stuff. Under current rules, if they transfer back, even temporarily, then they will be ineligible to play for London in 2014 (unless there is yet another round of winter championship).

Try selling that one to the clubs who have bitten the bullet the past two years and seen their reserve championships seriously undermined as a result, among other inconveniences.

Then there is the bigger picture. The GAA is a pyramid: clubs at the bottom and county at the top ‐ not the other way around. The five players could well say that by going home to play for their parish teams they are showing the ultimate loyalty. Perhaps, but they cannot expect to flit between county football for London and representing a club in another country.

Put simply: if you're a London county footballer, you have to be a London club footballer too.

There is room for no ambiguity here.

If players take off in a number of different directions and then expect to return to the Exiles fold in the winter, then the credibility of London GAA would be under threat.

Given that the exploits of those five players on the field helped to enhance that credibility to unforeseen levels over the summer, it would be both ironic and hugely regretful if the players contributed to a lowering of London's stock.

Many thanks to Ronan for allowing me to re-produce this piece.

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August 16th 2013


 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

With the youth players of St Clarets off on their summer break, basking in the glow of their achievements so far this season, the senior team finds itself in a place that we always knew we would be: sitting in mid-August, facing a make or break Championship game.

Now the coin could have fallen either way for the team, given the nature of the two one-point defeats that they suffered in the opening games of the groups stages, and it is very possible that the make or break game that we would be facing into could be a Championship semi-final.

As it is though, it's a relegation play-off against a yet-to-be-confirmed opponent.

However, regardless of the title that we put on it, it's still a must-win Championship game that will determine whether the season has been a success or a failure. To lose both opening games of the campaign by a single-point was a cruel twist of coincidence, but from those two defeats, we must take the fact that we are as good as any other team in the competition. The four-point loss to Garryowen was an insignificance given that they game had little or no consequence.

What we must do as a group now is draw a line under the group stages and focus one hundred per cent on the game ahead of us. It's a winner-takes-all sort of arrangement, with staying in the Intermediate grade being a prize well worth winning.

It's crucial now that as a collective we don't decide to cash in our chips at this point and say that we gave it our best shot. That would be a very easy thing to do. What is for certain is that the team that maintains its discipline and commitment over the weeks between now and the play-off will be the team that wins. We know we're good enough as we have proved that in the group stages, but should we let standards slip, then we will be in trouble.

It's incredible how quickly a club side can be transformed from a decent Intermediate team into a pretty ropey Junior side if standards are allowed to drop. For the coming weeks the mantra of the team and the buzzword among the players has to be standards.

In my mind, it's absolutely critical that this game is approached in the same way the club would approach a Championship Final. Senior members of the group have a responsibility to hound every other member of the group into committing one hundred percent to what is going on. We do not have the depth of talent available to us to allow any players to go walk-about between now and the play-off.

So the lesson is short and sweet. It's about one word Standards.

It's about keeping those standards as high as we possibly can in order to give ourselves the best chance possible. After that we can all go walkabout ‐ or to the Walkabout if that suits better.

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August 9th 2013

Don't blame the player, blame the game

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London

Once again this week, a major Championship match has been completely overshadowed by what went on in the RTE commentary box after the game, rather that what took place on the field of play. The difference for me this time though, was that what was said was well worth saying.

Now granted, Joe Brolly did his career as a barrister no good whatsoever with the way that he completely lost the run of himself in delivering the sort of sermon that even The Preacherman could not attempt to replicate. But at the same time, he brought to the fore an issue that really does have to be addressed.

Brolly's attack on Tyrone and Sean Cavanagh was very personal, whether that was intentional or not only Brolly can really say, but certainly every follower of Tyrone football will dismiss everything and anything that Brolly has to say on any topic from this moment forward. But that's the price that every pundit or journalist has to pay for their opinions.

The difference between what Brolly said on Saturday, and for example what Pat Spillane said when he dubbed the Tyrone play of the noughties as puke football, is that people know there is a real analytical brain with a great depth of intelligence and understanding driving what Brolly has to say. Spillane on the other hand, for all his entertainment value, is driven only by the maximum amount of exposure he can achieve from everything he says.

As I've said here before, I'm no fan of RTE's analysis of games or the three man team who sit so comfortably in the studio, safe in their well-established and well-paid roles: Colm O'Rourke, the fence-dweller, who never says anything worth listening to; Spillane acting like a character from the TV series D'Unbelievables, spewing out any old crap he can think of that might grab a headline; while Brolly is the ticking time bomb, who wears his heart on his sleeve.

The one thing that separates Brolly from the other two is that when you pick through the debris after the explosion, occasionally there are a few nuggets of wisdom to be found, which is more than can be said for anything his two mates may say.

The Brolly time bomb exploded on Saturday evening in epic fashion, and since then, the world and his uncle (and The Preacherman), have had something to say on the matter.

What Sean Cavanagh did when pulling down Conor McManus was many things: it was unsporting, it was premeditated, it was cynical, it was hateful, some might even say it was an act of cheating, but it was NOT a sending-off offence. Cavanagh knew this and the referee knew this, and as blood-boiling as that fact might have been for Brolly and the entire population of Monaghan, the incident was dealt with exactly as it should have been dealt with ‐ there was a free awarded to Monaghan and Cavanagh was booked.

What was poisonous about the act was that it was the sort of scenario that will have been discussed, analysed and sanctioned by the Tyrone team and management at various stages of this season and other seasons. Very little of this sort of thing happens by accident and no one will tell me otherwise. I've sat in enough dressing rooms and team meetings and spoken to enough other players over the last thirty years to know this.

Now this isn't a bit of Tyrone or Mickey Harte bashing, not by a long way. They are just the group under the microscope at this moment in time. This sort of carry on has been standard practice with many county and elite teams for as long as I can remember.

I once sat talking to some very notable, well-decorated Ulster footballers and they told me a story from a major game they played in back in the 1980s.

In the run-up to the match, a player had been identified on the opposition team who was seen to be the key to everything his side done. One player was pulled aside by the manager and told that it was his job to "look after" this lad.

Now this piece of instruction wasn't given as a general piece of commentary. No this piece of instruction was very specific, to the point that the player was to await a signal from the sideline to indicate when to do the sorting out.

As the players lined out just after the anthem, and all eyes (and cameras) were fixed on the referee and the four players about to contest the throw-in, the manager shouted from the sideline to his chief sorter-outer "Now Jimmy, now". Jimmy was 18-years old at the time, but Jimmy did what Jimmy was told to do and what Jimmy had been coached to do.

This incident happened over twenty years ago, so it's not like this cynical play is some sort of recent development. What is important to understand though is that this act was no different whatsoever to what Cavanagh did on Saturday or what half the players playing inter-county football at this moment in time would do in the same situation.

A friend of mine once sat through a team meeting for the Sigerson Cup team he was playing for and was transfixed as a selection of the senior players on the panel talked the squad through a multitude of ways for illegally fouling or impeding an opponent without getting caught by the referee.

My mate, who was a real genuine footballer-type, had no interest in the dark arts, but was left speechless at the end of the session at just how skilled these guys were at fouling opponents as they delivered the definitive guide to personal and cynical fouling. This wasn't stuff that they had picked up in the back yard. This stuff had been coached into them and they were merely handing on the info.

I think it is fair to say that Tyrone (among others) have brought the crafty arts they practice to a very high level ‐ however it is totally unacceptable to start to castigate individuals on the team in the way that Brolly did.

However, criticising Brolly and focusing on what he said does not solve the problem of what is happening on the field of play.

This week, two different schools of thought have had their say on the matter. Eugene McGee, (a man who managed a team to an All Ireland courtesy of one of the most famous bits of cheating / foul play ever), has come out stating that the soon-to-be introduced black card initiative sanctioned after his committee reviewed the rules of the game last year, will end this practice. The system will mean that the offending player will have to be substituted once shown a black card, a sanction that might appear to punish but in reality doesn't.

The offending player's team will not suffer numerically from such an act, and while McGee may be right in insisting that the likes of Cavanagh would think twice about perpetrating such an act because of his importance to the team, the same will not apply to the easily replaced corner back, who will not worry at all about "taking one for the team". Indeed in some instances, such sacrifice would be commended.

So the black card solves nothing aside from maybe stopping the more influential players from carry out the kamikaze acts of defending.

Meanwhile, Sean Walsh, a former tour manager with the Irish Compromise Rules teams, as well as having been a Kerry and Munster Council Chairman, has come out and said that the rugby tackle executed by Cavanagh should be introduced to Gaelic games, not punished.

Now the prospect of such a development is concerning on so many levels and not least of all when you read some of the medical reports coming out of rugby with regards to the size of the hits players are taking and their long term effects on the health of players.

Walsh's words were simply foolish and ill-conceived. Anyone who has ever coached youth rugby will tell you how important technique is when teaching the tackle to young players. Get your technique wrong and you can be in all sorts of serious problems.

Getting coaches, who can't rugby tackle, to start to coach players to rugby tackle ‐ well let's just say I think the insurance premiums would be going up pretty sharply.

Sadly, one of the prices that the GAA has had to pay for playing the role of the local village slut with Australian Rules is that we have compromised our own identity. The rugby tackle is a dangerous act and it's not something that can be introduced so that a bunch of young lads can go flinging themselves full length at other players running at full speed, just hoping that they come out of the landing on the right side.

Joe Brolly opened a can of worms last weekend, but it was one that needed to be opened. Fair enough, he did it using a blunt, rusty screwdriver and lacking any of the normal finesse and composure that you'd associate with someone who earns his living standing in front of judges trying to articulate a case in favour of his client. But that's Joe's barrow, so he'll have to wheel it and live with the consequences.

That said though, by letting the worms out, it presents the GAA with the opportunity to start to re-introduce the concept of fairness and fair play to the Association.

The formations that teams use these days may not appeal to the purists but they are fine and they are all part of the puzzle solving that the managers have to engage in when they face opponents; it's all part of the evolution of the game. Where the problem lies is with the job descriptions attached to the roles that some players are given.

To use an example presented by Brolly. If your role as a sweeper is to be there to collect breaking ball and add an extra man to defensive situations, or cover runners running through, then that is fine. It is a very tough role to perfect, as has been proven by the number of people that have tried and failed to get it right.

On the other hand, if your role as a sweeper is to merely act as a cattle rustler / bouncer, pulling down anyone who dares enter your area of the field, then that's not a tactic, that's merely an act of thuggery.

Success always comes at a price. No man has ever won an All Ireland medal without shedding blood, sweat and tears throughout his long journey to Croke Park. What he never should have to do though, either as a player or as a manager, is to shed his self-respect or shred his good name in doing so.

Brolly, like what he said or not, drew a massive line in the sand last weekend and has challenged managers and players not to step over it again. It will be interesting to see how many of them are so driven by the need to win that they will happily destroy their own good names in order to achieve their stated goals.

Joe Brolly was wrong last week, but he was also right. What also has to be said though is that Sean Cavanagh wasn't wrong in what he did last week, as he was merely doing what was expected of him. He took the punishment that was associated with the crime without complaint.

It's a classic case of don't blame the player, blame the game.

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August 2nd 2013

When St Clarets went to Croke Park: Part 2

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
This week we've got the second part of our two-part look at the last time Claretians were involved in a big game in Croke Park.

Part two

From the inside, the process of selecting any gaelic football team is always a complex bit of negotiation, with each selector having his own agenda and his own rationale for how he is hoping the team will eventually line out.

From the outside, the team that is selected is often a baffling, jumbled-up jigsaw, which no one can make head or tail of.

As mentioned last week, the omission of Peter Withnell from the London Junior football panel in 1988 was a case in point. Withnell, regardless of what he went on to achieve with Down in the years after 1988, was by far the fittest, strongest and most athletic footballer training with London over the few short weeks that we were together, and on top of that he could play a bit too.

However, it was also pretty obvious that his face didn't fit with the selectors. He had that sort of cocky, northern attitude that doesn't always sit too well with people who aren't from the north, and it's fair to say that Peter fell foul of the London's selectors in 1988. Despite the fact that his two club mates and fellow Down men, Damian Carville and Maurice Somers, both made the team, Withnell appeared to be a step too far for the selectors to take.

Elsewhere, there were also a few other baffling decisions and none more so than the selection of St Clarets' Martin Hession at corner forward.

Martin had been in London a few years at this stage and was known as a central player. He was a midfielder or a centre half forward; strong as an ox, with a good engine, great attitude and a good pair of hands. Yet and all, he was selected at corner forward.

While Martin was no doubt happy to be on the starting team, one had to wonder how on earth the decision was reached to pick someone who had none of the natural attributes associated with corner forward play in his locker.

Part of the reason was undoubtedly to accommodate Ciaran White at centre half forward. White was a total mystery man, who none of us knew much about, aside from the fact that he'd hurled a bit for Cork - although at what level we didn't know. However, from that morsel of information, it appears that it was decided that he should be the fulcrum of all that the London team's forward section were to be about. The great pity of course was that this was a London football team and not a London hurling team!

But the official party-line behind Martin's selection at corner forward was that the selectors felt that his previous Croke Park experience would be invaluable when dealing with the noise of the crowd along the sidelines.

As every Claretian knows only too well, Martin Hession was an exceptionally good footballer and as a result, there were certain presumption made about where he had come from in the football world. The GAA community in London settled on the story that Martin was a former Galway minor, who had won a Connacht title with them and had gone on to play in Croke Park for the Tribesmen at some stage. Where this story came from is anyone's guess.

Of course none of this was backed up by any evidence and no one ever thought to ask Martin if any of this was true. However, these were the facts upon which Martin Hession was selected at corner forward on the London Junior team.

Martin had never played Championship football for Galway minors. He'd had trials and played in a few challenge games, but hadn't made the Championship squad. Ergo he had never played for them in Croke Park, in fact, as Martin confessed to me on the coach going to the ground, he'd never even seen Croke Park before. Yet and all, he had just been selected in a totally alien position for an All Ireland final based on a "fact" that no one ever asked Martin to verify.

On the night that the team was announced to the players, a Dublin lad called Paul Murray was named at right corner back, but by the time we had arrived in Dublin, his name had been erased from all records, for the simple reason that he had never been transferred into London when he joined his club St Michaels.

As a result, Paul's name never appeared in the programme for the final and his duties on match day were as "team physio". I don't suppose for one minute that Paul had any medical training of any sort, but regardless, he spent the game running on and off the field, dressed in his suit, carrying a large black bin liner full of half melted ice and smoking fag every time a London player hit the deck.

He mightn't have got a jersey that day, but as far as I was concerned, having watched him in action from the dugout, Paul played a stormer.

The night before the game we had gone for a run-out in Parnell Park and returned to the Ashling Hotel to hang about for the evening and meet family and the likes.

At one stage we were summonsed to meet a London county board official who then began to hand out official GAA ties that we were told we had to wear the next day to the game; all very official we thought, until we were the asked for £10 each for the ties - you couldn't help but feel someone as taking the mickey somewhere.

A couple of Kerry footballers dropped into the hotel and held court for a short while with some of the players and didn't help matters a whole pile when they started to tell yarns about Kerry footballers drinking four or five pints the night before an All Ireland Final. Some of our crew didn't need that sort of encouragement at all!

The morning of the match saw us being whisked off to Croke Park in the team coach, accompanied by two Garda motorbike outriders, who cleared an uninterrupted path all the way to the stadium. We had heads turning along the route, as punters wondered which team was passing them. You can only imagine their disappointment when they realised that it was the London team wearing the £10 GAA ties they'd just been conned into buying the night before by their own county board.

At the time Croke Park was still in its old run-down state and the changing rooms were a real disappointment, as we were shuffled into a less than salubrious pit in the bowels of the stadium. That said though, there was a sense of occasion about being there, including guys coming in with trays of tea for us before the game and at half time, as well as the strict protocol pinned to the back of the door about exactly what time we were to leave the changing rooms and how you were to go straight to the bench for the team photo. It was all very co-ordinated and a far cry from New Eltham.

Paddy Cowan was the manager of the team and in the minutes before we left the changing room he really began to earn his corn!

He settled us down and then began with his team talk. It was one of those muck and bullets talks, low on factual or tactical content but high on passion and anger, and decorated with plenty of bad language. It began: "Meath wear green, and we hate green", a variation of the team talk he had used in Ruislip for the British Final when he stated: "Warwickshire wear red, and we hate red. "

Anyway, team talk over, we skipped out onto the pitch, had our picture taken and headed down to the Hill for the warm-up.

The ground was far from full, but as ever the early birds were in on the Hill. As we busied ourselves kicking about before the game, we got dog's abuse from the crowd, but I guess that was all part of the Croke Park experience.

The game ended 1-10 to 0-3, a predictable enough result given that this was a team thrown together at the last minute and that most of us were unable to walk having been continually and brutally abused by Richie Haran in the three weeks before the game.

Afterwards of course there was the session but not before he had received the VIP treatment by getting front row seats in the upper deck of the old Hogan Stand to watch the Cork v Meath replay.

The following day we were invited to attend the after game banquet, where we mixed with the great and the good of the Association, along with those big ticket items of the day, better known as the Meath and Cork football teams. Strangely though, neither sets of players seemed remotely moved to be in the presence of the London Junior Football team, even if it did contain two St Clarets players!

No doubt they all regret that decision today when they see the way Martin has our Under 10s and Under 12s whipped into shape and when they read the club notes each week from the club's PRO. It was all an upwards trajectory for us from that moment on!

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July 26th 2013

When St Clarets went to Croke Park: Part 1

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
This week we take the first of a two part look at the last time Claretians were involved in a big game in Croke Park.

Part one

With Claretian legend Tony Murphy set to run out onto Croke Park this Saturday along with the London senior footballers for the Qualifier game against Cavan, The Preacherman has decided that this is the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and recall the last time any St Clarets players ran out at headquarters to play football.

Now of course we've had a few notable Alumni who have tore up the green stuff in Croker in recent times, with Erik Kinlon winning a Nicky Rackard medal out there with the London hurlers and former club captain Paddy Quinn strutting his stuff more recently with the Dublin footballers. However, the time I will focus on was the occasion of the All Ireland Junior Football Final of 1988.

The two St Clarets players in question at the time were the incomparable Martin Hession and The Preacherman himself, back in the days before arthritis took my limbs as the song goes. A third Claretian, Danny Grehan, missed out on the occasion, but why exactly no one could ever really explain.

But to tell the story in full, let's go right back to the start.

The London Juniors qualified for the All Ireland Final in 1988 by beating Warwickshire one September afternoon in Ruislip.

The Preacherman had turned up to watch the game and support Martin and Danny, who were both part of the London panel that day. While I was standing along the bank talking to Denis McCarthy snr, one of the London selectors walked past.

Denis exchanged a few pleasantries with him and then just as the guy was leaving, Denis popped a simple question.

"Have you a sub goalie? "

"No" came the simple reply after a moment's thought.

"Here's a good lad here" Denis commented pointing his finger at me.

The selector looked me up and down and then asked the most crucial question of all. "Have you boots? "

Before I could say a word, Denis jumped back in again.

"Course he has" which was news to me.

"Ok, you better tog out" came the non-too-enthusiastic response from the selector.

Denis tugged me by the arm and the two of us skipped off down to the bottom car park in Ruislip (you'll remember of course that Denis skipped and whistled everywhere he went), where he opened the boot of his car and pulled out a pair of boots. "What size are you? " he enquired.

"Nine. "

"They're eights, they'll do you" he replied, before sending me up to the changing room.

The game came and went and I watched from the sub's bench as an interested spectator, with the boots sitting bedside me on the ground.

Thankfully for all concerned, I wasn't called into action and when the final whistle blew London were Provincial Junior champions and set to face Meath in the All Ireland final a few weeks later in Ruislip.

In the changing room after the game we were told that there'd be training Tuesday and Thursday at New River Stadium on White Hart Lane up in north London, and that we were to be there for 7.30pm - the usual drill.

The following Tuesday, myself, Danny and Martin headed up to north London and in the days long before sat navs or anything of that nature, we managed to get ourselves totally lost (people spent half of all journeys back then lost), arriving about half an hour late for training - such as it was.

There were about four or five other bodies there and very little enthusiasm, but there was a bit of a kick-about and not much more. The following Thursday was much the same (without the getting lost bit).

That Sunday, Cork and Meath were playing each other in the All Ireland Football final, which I watched in a cinema in Hammersmith. The game was drawn and I never gave the consequence of the draw a second thought.

That is until Monday, when Croke Park announced that the All Ireland Junior Final would be the curtain raiser to the replayed senior final. All of a sudden, London's Junior footballers were heading to Croke Park.

The three of us turned up for training on the Tuesday night and we needed three changing rooms to accommodate all the players that were there, and once out on to the pitch, the management made one of the most ridiculous decisions that was ever made on a football field.

They turned to a fella called Richie Haran, who was a player on the team and asked him to train us.

Now Richie came across not so much as a graduate of the school of hard knocks, but more like its founding member and Headmaster, and what happened over the following two weeks was cruel beyond words.

The main rugby field at the New River Stadium was surrounded by steep banks and we ran up and down those banks until we could run no more. It all made perfect sense back then, as we were training hard as they say, but to today's sports scientists, it would be the sort of carry-on that would have them breaking out in cold sweats. As we know from recent developments in sports preparation, Richie's methods were the height of lunacy (younger readers need to understand here that the GAA operated on the basic principle of lunacy for many, many years).

After a couple of nights of this torture, I can remember turning up for work one morning, sticking a ladder up to a window, starring at the ladder, then the window at the top of the ladder and then the ladder again and wondering to myself how the hell I was ever going to climb that ladder - not once, but 200 times that day. I was barely able to walk, every fibre in my being was in bits.

But Richie was let loose without constraints and in the war of abuse that he had engaged us in, we all somehow come through still walking and breathing.

On the final night of training, the squad was called out. Martin had quite naturally made it and so had I, due mostly to the fact that I was the only other keeper on the panel; behind PJ Burke.

Sadly, and quite inexplicably, Danny Grehan was omitted, although it must be said that a guy called Peter Withnell was also overlooked and three years later he was playing full forward for Down as they won the All Ireland senior title, so Danny shouldn't ever take that oversight too personally.

Next week I'll tell you about the trip itself.

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July 19th 2013

When the craic's not so grand

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
A number of years ago the Preacherman had an opportunity to go to America for the summer. It was time for a change in his life and the chance to go to the States for three months seemed like the perfect pause before moving on to the next thing.

However, it all went a bit pear-shaped and it was without doubt, the most miserable, and occasionally downright dangerous, experience of my life this far.

The intimate details are not important, but the overview of the circumstances are, and this is because they are relevant to many of the Irish lads and lassies that are arriving in London each week; lads and lassies who are then joining our football club and becoming part of our circle of friends.

There is always a settling-in period whenever you arrive somewhere new. Often you are being done a favour by someone that you know and are staying with them. This is of course a temporary thing while you get yourself sorted.

In many cases too, you are reliant on someone else to get you work, just a start, again while you get yourself up and running. These people who help you will more than likely be people who in the past have found themselves in similar circumstances and are merely passing the favour on.

In many cases, when a person first arrives in a new country or city, they are totally reliant on the judgement and integrity of the people they meet; or in other words, they place their lives in the hands of these people.

And this is where the problems can start.

These temporary arrangements are fine as long as they remain temporary and as long as there is an end in sight. It's vitally important for the happiness of an individual that they get a place they can call home, no matter how basic. Meanwhile, doing work that they enjoy and feel fulfilled doing and respected for doing is also critical, as is mixing with people they connect with rather than those forced upon them by circumstances. If any or all of these elements fail to get sorted quickly, then problems can arise. Young people travelling to other countries for the first time, especially when they are what can be termed economic migrants, can have a pretty tough time.

If you consider the average life of the average youth in Ireland, it is pretty much like this.

a). Eighteen years living in the same town where they know everyone and everyone knows them.

b). A few years at college where they go along with old school mates and then meet a whole raft of new people, who are all in the same boat as them. It's an environment that is designed to accommodate these people. What follows is generally a pretty enjoyable and carefree time while gaining professional qualifications. All the time too, they are able to travel home as and when they wish.

After that though, the shock comes. The lucky ones will get work at home; the rest have to look elsewhere. Upon arriving in a place like London, their life takes on a new dimension.

a). They arrive in a place where they know few, if any, people and need direction to go anywhere they want to go. For a while at least, nothing looks familiar or feels natural.

b). They start a job, whether in construction, banking, education, health or IT, where the pressure is real and where results are all that matters. Friendly faces are sometimes hard to find.

c). They start to live with people they know little or nothing about, and hope that it works out.

For many it works out just fine, but there will be those who find themselves in an unhappy place, be that in terms of accommodation, work or general environment and they start to allow themselves to get sucked into something of a dark place.

They get up each morning and see people they don't like, they go to work to do work they hate and they come home again to see the same people they don't like. For them, it's a depressing place to be.

While many of us would simply say "Get the hell out of there", others do not have the ability, the finance or maybe the confidence to make that change, especially if they feel that the only change they can make is going back home. Pride gets in the way and no one wants to go home a failure.

And this is the point where things can become dangerous, especially for blokes.

Men will often give out about how much women talk. The fairer-sex appear to be able to natter and natter forever. However, this is a very important aspect of how they keep themselves on an even keel. They share their feelings, their worries, their concerns, their insecurities and as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Men on the other hand could think of nothing less appealing than sharing their thoughts and concerns about their life with their mates.

When blokes get together it's all about craic, it's all about ripping each other to bits, it's all about having a laugh. No matter how broken a man may be inside, there is an expectation that he puts on a show. Girls too can put on a show, but someone somewhere will be aware of what's going on with them, because they would have talked about it.

This not sharing is a poisonous activity, because the problems don't go away, they merely fester inside and multiply, and as they multiply, their consequences can become more and more dramatic.

There is nothing new about these feelings. Older generations of migrants were all too aware of how it felt to be lonely and lost in the world; you only have to listen to the Irish show band songs of the 1950s and 1960s to know that people knew all about hurting. Probably the only difference then was that people were less complex in the way they viewed things, they were more concerned with the here-and-now rather than the bigger picture that many of us focus on these days.

It seems that nowadays we have a far greater sense of what we should be achieving and what our potential is, there is a far greater pressure on us to achieve and be happy and most of this is self-imposed pressure. When we fail to meet what we feel to be our potential and when we see others striving ahead in their lives, it can hit us hard.

So why am I mentioning all of this?

Well mostly because as a club and as a group of people, we need to be aware of the issues that may affect some of the new members that join our club. Someone posed the question to me recently in terms of "when does a club really become a club?", and while that is an extremely complex and difficult question to answer, without doubt one key element has to be, that a club becomes a club when we have a greater awareness of how people's lives are going, above the very superficial: "Well, how's the craic?".

Whenever you ask a young lad "How's the craic" the answer will always be "Grand", no matter what might be happening in his life.

I'm not suggesting for one minute that we should get all touchy-feely with the players, or that we should have a talking stick and sit around in a circle sharing our inner-most thoughts, but what I am saying is that we need to make sure we let lads know that here, there is a club that is full of people who are willing to help, even if it is just to listen or point them in the right direction.

And if speaking to someone in the club doesn't appeal to them, then there are countless other groups and organisations out there who will be only too willing to listen without judgement.

Being young and alone in a city, especially a frighteningly big city like London, can be a very difficult experience for many lads, but no matter what you ask them, the craic will always be grand.

We know from far too many other experiences and stories, that the craic isn't always grand.

So let's be aware of that fact.

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July 12th 2013

Tracking the past

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
One of the great challenges for any Preacherman is to try to get the same message across over and over again without sounding like a broken record. Always the message is the same, but the way it is delivered has to be different, otherwise you risk losing your audience.

I recent weeks St Clarets GFC has been beating a drum concerning The Alumni Tracker feature that we have been running on the club's website since February of this year.

To date, each week we have been lucky to be able to add a former player to this feature and we now have twenty-one ex-players listed with another few lined up for the coming weeks.

To these players I would like to extend a huge debt of gratitude for helping to make this feature a real, ongoing, live project.

However, at this moment in time, once we have posted Player No. 23 in two weeks time, we have no more players to add. All told we have probably contacted another fifty ex-players and asked them to join those already listed, but thus far we are still waiting for a response. Such has been our desire to include these players that we have been known to contact parish priests in the parishes where these ex-players now live and volunteer organisations that these people are involved in now in order to get our message to them. We've been enthusiastic to say the least!

One of the great problems with the Gaelic Athletic Association in London is the transient nature of the participants. It's what makes the county unique and it's also what helps to make the story that is currently being played out by the London senior football team possible.

Players come and go, the team always remains and at times a unique and gifted collection of players will be assembled in the same place at the same time and from that, a good team can be delivered. Eventually the ebb and flow of people's lives will dissipate them again and we then have to wait for the next collection to come ashore. The error we always make though is that we often forget that everything is built on shifting sands in the GAA in London and that nothing, absolutely nothing has much permanency. It is because of this that The Alumni Tracker feature was started.

Many dozens of players have passed through the club over the past 35-plus years and some have had their involvement immortalised in various sections of the website through their involvement with successful spells in the club's history, even if it just through their presence in a team photo.

Alas though, many have never had their contribution recognised and in my opinion, that is wrong. The Alumni Tracker is our attempt to make sure that all past players are thanked and acknowledged for their efforts.

However, our methodology in tracking and contacting players thus far has not worked as well as we hoped originally hoped.

Our initial aim was to try and get fifty ex-players listed on the section, but we're already stalling and we aren't even half way there yet. This is a disappointment.

The Tracker is not a leader board of achievement or a "who was the greatest player" sort of thing, it is completely holistic in the way that we have approached it. If a guy stopped playing at Under-16 that’s fine, he still played for the club, or if a guy went on to win several Championships then all the better. Each and every one of them has contributed to a chapter in the St Clarets story.

This Tracker thing is a completely unique project within the GAA in London and the reasons for that are two-fold.

Firstly, I believe wholeheartedly that St Clarets is a unique GAA club within London, its history and its philosophy is unmatched in the county. And secondly, I would like to think that we are well on the way to developing one of the best websites in London in terms of information and content. It might not be the most technically advanced website, but it is up-dated regularly (three or four times a week) and we try to make best use of the information that is provided to us. The Alumni Tracker is just one of the features that we use to achieve this. The quality of the website is about presenting the club to the outside world in the best light possible.

So rather than bleat on any further, all I will do is ask each member to think of anyone they know who has played for the club and to contact them directly if they are able to and task them if they would complete the simple question that are on Tracker page on the website.

Each person is asked the same questions, so all you have to do is look at the Alumni Tracker tab on the website and you will have all the info you need. Thereafter, all that is required is a picture.

This is not a selective thing, having played for St Clarets qualifies you for inclusion. If you yourself feel that you should be included, then the message is the same, answer the questions and send it to us; the email as always is [email protected] Each person who has sent info into us to date has had their feature posted (or will have within the next two weeks) and they have been thanked for their contribution. We have taken nothing for granted in that respect.

Many ex-players have been contacted four and five times, some have continually promised to complete forms but haven't got around to it yet, while others maybe don't want to. If that is the case, then if they let us know, we'll stop bothering them.

The Tracker link is , so please try and get a former player to contact us with their answers.

I'd love to see the tally his 50, but as I've said, we're not even half way there yet and we're already stumbling.

It's over to you guys.

The Preacher Man

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July 5th 2013


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The scum are lurking in the bushes.

Way back when I was able to play football, my team returned to our changing rooms after a game to find that the rooms had been broken into.

We all checked through our pockets and found that there was fifty pound missing here and there along with the odd watch, and there weren't many of us who hadn't lost something. This of course was in the days before mobile phones and other such bits of electronic gadgetry, so the pickings were mostly wallets and more importantly cash.

The majority of us put the loss down to experience, but there was one fellow who was particularly put-out by the events that had taken place while we were out playing.

You see this guy had suffered the misfortune in the past of losing his two front teeth while playing football and now, as a matter of course, each game he played, he would exchange his teeth for a gum shield (stable doors and bolted horses come to mind here) and then put the teeth in the pocket of his jeans before hanging the jeans up on a peg.

While the thieves were busying themselves ransacking our changing rooms, they had rifled through my team mate's pockets looking for money and found nothing other than his false teeth. These fell to the ground and were either accidentally or deliberately stamped on.

The plate that held the teeth was broken and therefore the teeth were of no use, but given that this guy's usual modus operandi after a game was just to go out and drink a belly full of beer, his lack of front teeth didn't seem that terribly important to the rest of us.

However, to him, on this particular night, the teeth were extremely important as he had just met a woman who he was quite keen on and had arranged to meet her on their first official date. And now, he had to turn up without his two front teeth. Not a great look most of you will no doubt agree.

As it turns out the teeth (or lack thereof) weren't a deal-breaker for this girl and they ended up getting married some years later, so at least there was a happy ending to that story.

A year or so after that break-in we turned up at the same venue for training to find that the changing rooms had once again been broken into in our absence, and this time someone had helped themselves to the showers, the hot water tank and all the copper piping!

But it wasn't always in our absence that these things would happen. One night before training, I was talking to our manager about some ticket money I had to pay him and I took a hundred pound out of my pocket to give to him.

He asked me to hold onto it until after training and he'd sort all the ticket money out at the same time, so I stuck it back into my bag and headed off for the session.

That night there was a new face down with us, who someone had met in the pub the weekend before. He wasn't long over from Ireland and he looked like a lad who knew his way around a pint glass far better than he knew his way around a football pitch. Regardless though, he headed out onto the pitch and after about ten minutes he was puffing and panting and five minutes later he was gone……. never to be seen again.

When we returned to the changing room, the guy who had brought him down was wondering where he had disappeared to and then the mystery was solved as I went to pay the manager the money I owed him.

The guy had gone back to where he had been found - the pub - with the hundred pounds I had for ticket money. Here's hoping he got at least one bad pint and one rancid kebab for his troubles!

Unfortunately theft is all too often part and parcel of the lives we lead as amateur sportsmen. We arrive late for games, we get changed in a hurry, we forget about wallets and watches and the likes and before we know it, what should have been an hour or two of fun, turns into hour after hour of phoning people and cancelling cards and the likes.

It seems that there is a small army of scumbags out there all too willing to take whatever opportunity that they can as ordinary, law-abiding people go about relaxing, unwinding and blowing-off some steam after a tough day or week.

I was reminded of these thefts today when an email was circulated by a GAA club in London about an incident that took place at the gaelic pitches in Greenford during the week.

The club, Shalloe Pearse, had their team bus broken into on Wednesday evening while they were playing and somewhere in the region of £10,000 worth of belongings were stolen. Had the thieves left the belongings and taken the bus, the loss probably wouldn't have been as great.

You can feel nothing but sympathy for the people involved, guys who no doubt rushed from a long, hard day at work to make the game and felt that things were safe when they put all their belongings in the one place under lock and key. Sadly though, there are far too many scummy people out there for us ever to feel relaxed about leaving anything anywhere.

These people are born opportunists who have studied the behaviour of people in venues like Greenford and know full well the pattern of behaviour that we all have. They only need a sniff of a chance and they have your stuff away.

It is well over twenty years now since I experienced my first theft at Greenford, back in the days when it was Ealing Rugby Club. In the intervening years the faces on the pitches have changed and the faces of the scum lurking in the shadows have also changed, but sadly their objectives haven't.

The Preacher Man

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June 27th 2013

The Angry Association

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The GAA: an angry association.

The Gaelic Athletic Association appears to be at odds with itself in recent months and at present, it would be very hard to persuade any neutral observer that the GAA was one big happy family.

Thus far 2013 appears to have been a pretty angry year for those Gaels involved in the upper echelons of the game of football especially, and a quick look over the incidents that appear to be omnipresent in the media these days paints a pretty black picture.

One of the recurring themes of the year to date, and one that I have touched on here before myself, is the situation with the analysis of games by the star pundits employed by The Sunday Game.

It's probably fair to say that the agenda at the moment is akin to something that Simon Cowell would dream up for himself as he is presented as Dr Evil to the world each Saturday might on whatever of his ridiculous talent (or lack thereof) shows he is currently peddling. All that is missing from The Sunday Game set now is a few tight white t-shirts and a couple of pairs of aviation sunglasses.

The guys in the suits on the sofa seem to have some form of sweepstake going on among themselves as to who can garner the most column inches each week as they go about the sordid business of insulting the efforts of players and managers alike. It's a known fact that in some police stations, the cops have these sort of sweepstakes going on in terms of what cars they can pull over for motoring offences, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if something similar was taking place behind the scenes with these pundits.

These guys are to actual football analysis what Cowell and Co are to spotting real genuine talent.

One of the most striking comments I have seen recently about these fellas is that there is precious little analysis going on of these games and it is more character assassination that is taking place. Whichever way it is, these guys aren't happy with football at the moment and are loving the opportunity to let the world know that they're not happy and more importantly, whose fault it is.

Maybe the show should be renamed The Blame Game as all these pundits seems intent on doing is blaming people for defeats rather than acknowledging what it takes to win a game.

Rather than saying that Paul Coggins has done fantastically well as a manager with London, the pundits would rather highlight what they see as the shortcomings of Kevin Walsh in his role.

Likewise, Jim McGuinness will never be congratulated for creating the team he has created, but James McCartan will be blamed for failing to beat the team that Jim created.

Begrudgery and the Irish as a people walk very easily together and the red carpet seems to be rolled out for them as soon as they step into the RTE studios in Donnybrook.

The powers-that-be are also more than a bit angry at the moment because of the fact that managers aren't necessarily telling the absolute truth about their starting XV on the Tuesday ahead of a Sunday game, and as a result, are threatening to punish managers who don't toe the line.

The civil service of the GAA say that it's just not cricket (which of course this isn't) not to reveal your plans to the media and the opposition five days before a game. And what's more, they hate the fact that the match day programme won't be accurate either.

This of course is a ridiculous demand to make from the GAA and one that they should be told in no uncertain terms to go and stick where the sun does not shine. The modern day game (like it or not) is all about tactics and surprises, with every team armed to the hilt with data on their opponents. In such circumstances, why would any manager want to reveal everything there is to know about their plans five days before the battle. And what's more, why would any manager want to help the media do their job when the guys with the pens and the microphones are only going to do a hatchet job on your efforts anyway as soon as the game is over.

Many managers will have read the work of Sun Tzu The Art of War and one of the key elements of any victory in any battle is the element of surprise. Telling your opponent what you're planning five days in advance kind of ruins that notion. The simple solution to this problem is of course to name your squad of 26 players, list them in the programme, as they do at any soccer match, and wait until 15 minutes before throw-in to reveal what the starting team is. God knows the GAA has been happy enough to copy other ideas from soccer, so this idea should not to be seen by the purists as being a step too far.

Twenty years ago when you faced another county team, the name of the guy that you would possibly be facing was just a name on a piece of paper, such was the lack of intel available to most county managers at the time.

These days, as players line up against each other before the throw-in, they probably know what brand of toothpaste their opponent uses and whether they like to put their right sock or left sock on first. There's an awful lot of information out there, so protecting your secrets is very important.

Probably the biggest argument going on at the moment though is about the format of the Championship as it is, and there is a feeling that the Qualifier system is now of little or no value to the weaker counties. The school of thought at the moment is that there needs to be another serious look taken at the format of the All Ireland Football Championship.

Indeed, so uninspired are the players by this format that these days they'll head off to America at the drop of a hat rather than suffer through the pointless journey that is the Qualifiers.

Now, The Preacherman is a pretty conservative bloke and not one that likes to tamper with tradition at all, but at the same time, I also recognise when something is plain and simply not working or not attractive anymore (as if it ever was).

This weekend there isn't one Qualifier game of any real interest being played, and aside from the die-hard supporters, there won't be a great deal of attention paid to these fixtures. Indeed, the most exciting thing about the Qualifiers these days is when the draw is made on a Monday morning for the next round. The football though, fails to thrill.

Further proof of the demise of the Qualifier is evident with the fact that the GAA saw fit to take the unprecedented step and fix one of these games for a Friday night. This move just highlights how inconsequential the whole Qualifier format has become for the weaker counties and those who aren't going to be involved in the business end of the season.

I do think there is time for a change but I also think that there is room to do so within the traditional template that we have always known.

My suggestion would be that the Provincial Championship is retained and played-off in the usual way, although starting a little earlier than normal at the beginning of May, and being completed by mid-June. This will then acknowledged who the best team in each province is and nothing more. The Provincial Championships have always been about local pride and as such, it should be retained within that ethos.

However, this Provincial Championship will be a separate entity entirely from the All Ireland, and that competition will start in the middle of June and go through to September. It would be a simple 32 team open-draw knock-out competition, meaning that there will be five rounds of football to be played through to completion. Once beaten in this competition your summer is over and you can go back to club football, but the beauty of the open draw system is that there is always the chance for a team to make a fairytale run through to the later stages of the competition as the real big guns start to knock each other out.

It has long been said that there is no appetite for an open draw in the All Ireland, but that is because it has always been suggested as a replacement for the entire traditional structure.

However, by retaining the Provincial Championship this point is mute.

With this suggestion every team gets at least two Championship games each summer and if it is a case that you lose both, you are finished with your inter-county obligations by the second or third week of June, rather than the way it is now when you can be dragged like a dying dog through to July, with everyone in your county suffering because of this long, slow death that is being inflicted upon the team.

The smile is gone from the face of the GAA at the moment and everyone seems to be angry with everyone else and anger is a very damaging quality.

We need to address this rage before it does serious harm.

The Preacher Man

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June 20th 2013

Murphy's Tale

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Tony Murphy (4th left back row) along with Paul Coggins (2nd left front row) on the day
Tony made his first Championship start against Sligo in 1998. The Preacherman is in there somewhere too.

One night, way back in the mid-1990s, the Preacherman received a phone call from the manager of the London football team, Pat Griffin. Pat was looking for a favour.

The request was for the Preacherman to pick up a recent arrival in London and to bring him along to London training the following night.

The address I was given was one familiar to all Claretians, and indeed it was the venue for the beginning of my own Claretian adventure ten years earlier ‐ Jim O'Regan's house.

The following evening I called around at 7pm and out walked Tony Murphy, a bloke I'd never met before, and to me, just another in a long line of players to enter and exit the revolving door that led to the London senior football team. At times my car felt like a taxi reserved exclusively for footballers who were just passing through.

For the next two seasons or so, I collected Tony every night for training; firstly from Jim's house and later from a house beside The Grapes pub on the Uxbridge Road. And no different to myself, Murph never missed training.

As a player he was decent, better than decent actually, but maybe because he was playing for a somewhat unfashionable club in the form of St Clarets, he was often overlooked and even taken for granted at times. That said though, his spirit never dropped and he turned up night after night, displaying that dogged determination that made him such a competitor on the field. A guy like Murph is built for the hard road.

Several Connacht Championship campaigns went by without Murphy getting the start his efforts and commitments deserved, and privately I am sure he must have wondered what he had to do to be given the credit his ability warranted. However, he'd never voice his frustration, he'd merely roll his sleeves up even further past his elbows and dig in.

At this time, there was a small core group of players who were keeping the London team going, and Tony was to the fore of that group, yet and all, come Championship time he was never on that starting XV.

Finally in 1998 he got his first Championships start against Sligo, in the unfamiliar position of half-back, but in typical Murphy fashion, he didn't get bent out of shape about the fact that it wasn't natural territory for him ‐ instead he merely got on with the job of playing the best game he could.

The following year was a biggie for London, as reigning All Ireland Champions Galway were the visitors to Ruislip and the effort being put in by a hugely talented squad was enormous.

By the time the Championship game came around, Murphy was at midfield for Tommy McDermott's Exiles and by the time that game was over, Murphy's name was at midfield on the Irish Independent's Team of the Week. That was quite an achievement for a player who had just played on a side beaten by 10-points.

In 2002, after seven or eight seasons of total dedication, Murphy's time as a senior was coming to an end, but that wasn't to say that his time as a footballer with London was.

Two years later, in 2004 he was approached by fellow Offaly man Kevin Kelly to see if he would be interested in playing for the London Junior team, in an attempt to put a bit of "grey hair experience" into a side that was traditionally quite raw, and when it came to grey hair, Murph was years ahead of the rest of us!

There weren't many former senior players in the mid-thirties who would have embraced this challenge, but Kelly knew that Murphy was no ordinary bloke.

By the end of that campaign, Tony had captained London to their first Provincial Junior crown in many years and they set up an All Ireland semi-final against Meath; a game that ultimately proved a step too far for that side, which also contained another Claretian, Aidan Donaghy.

Murphy and London parted company there and for a few years he carried on squeezing every drop of effort and energy he could out of his body to help St Clarets. And then the call came again from London. This time from former county team mate Paul Coggins, and this time it was Paul who was looking for a bit of that "grey hair experience", but on this occasion, he wanted it alongside him on the sideline.

What has happened in the three years since Murphy joined forces with Coggins has seen the writing of the finest chapter in the history of the London senior football team. Epic Championship struggles against Mayo and Leitrim were complimented by a great win against Fermanagh, and then THAT victory over Sligo a few weeks ago.

London head into unchartered waters this Sunday in Carrick-on-Shannon, but with a dude like Tony Murphy with them, they've a great chance of navigating their way through those waters. When the going gets rough, Murph simply looks the storm in the eye and asks the elements if that's the best it's got.

I've never told Murphy this, but on the night I dropped him off from his first London training session, as I drove out of Johnson Close, I can remember thinking to myself, that he wouldn't last very long.

Nearly two decades later, he's still going strong. Just goes to show, even a Preacherman can be wrong sometimes.

Good luck on Sunday Murph.

The Preacher Man

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June 13th 2013

Discontent at departures

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Footballers disappearing to America after a Provincial exit could well do long-term damage
to the standing of the inter-county player

This is a desperately tricky time of year for all county managers. With all counties now having played Championship football, half the teams are now out of the respective provincial competitions and into the back-door system.

For some teams this is par-for-the-course every year, but for others, who have set their stall out for slightly bigger things, then they find themselves in a strange and unwelcome place.

For the really big teams, the top seven or eight sides, teams who feel that they will be in with a shout come August regardless of which route they follow, the players will stick with the plan come hell or high water.

One route may be more glamorous than the other, but the end destination stays the same: Croke Park, bank holiday weekend in August, quarter-final time.

For those others though, those who have failed in their stated goals, those who maybe started out last Autumn with a wee dream of a day out in a Provincial Final, then the journey through the back-door has little or no appeal.

Many of the players will know that eventually, and inevitably, they are going to get dumped out of the Championship at some stage in July, in front of a few thousand people in some small provincial ground somewhere. It's not exactly the dream they had invested so much in. They were thinking provincial decider and a live game on TV.

So what do these players do? Do they hang around and fulfil what many may feel to be their moral obligation to see out the season with the team that has often spent huge amounts of money on them over the course of the year, or do they go looking for a few handy dollars in America for the summer?

More and more, the latter is being chosen and this choice may come back and bite a future generation of county footballers hard on the backside.

We know things are tough in Ireland and we know that students especially have little or no prospect of getting work in the summer, and we also know that there are lads who haven't worked all year and stayed at home just so that they could play county football. We know this and we know that these guys make a sacrifice and it is an admirable sacrifice.

That said though, the sacrifice isn't all one way. Managers, physios, trainers, coaches, county board members, kit men, coach drivers, supporters, the whole shooting match, all make huge sacrifices all year long for the team and the responsibility lies with them to see the season through to its natural conclusion. The same should also apply to players.

Seeing six or seven players skip off to America so that someone else can benefit from all the money invested in building up the athlete for the county is not on at all.

There is much criticism of the back-door system and some of it is deserved. It is very much geared towards making sure that we'll never see Roscommon or Offaly in an All Ireland Final again.

And while these county players are amateur and all the other stuff that people trot out (newsflash here, county players have ALWAYS been amateur), if they are to show that their elevated status within the GAA (as a result of the work of the GPA) is deserved, then they need to start to make sure that to a man, the entire panel finish each season that they start.

Lads are very quick to go crying to the media every time a mileage cheque is late or if they feel the county board has been a bit mean with the leisure gear, but the flip side is that counties have a right to expect that players honour their side of the inter-county agreement. In my mind, they don't deserve anything if at the first opportunity presented to them, they head off elsewhere.

The money that county boards spend on teams is often astronomical and this is all money that the board must work hard to raise. To allow that money to be spent on players who have one eye on the departures lounge in Dublin should be unacceptable to all members of the GAA.

Yes a lad has the right to go and do what he wants, but if America is where he wants to spend his summer, then he shouldn't be allowed to join the county panel in the first place.

I think that it is also time that the GPA made some sort of statement on this matter. They were very vociferous when things weren't going their way and they were responsible for various "strikes" that took place which they used to help gain recognition. Now though, they need to say something with regards to the behaviour of the players who walk out on panels, and it needs to be something more than the usual mumbo-jumbo about work being tough to find etc etc.

The GAA has always prided itself on being an organisation that helps to build character into young people, maybe the GPA need to step in and help with a bit of character building among its members.

Typical of far too many young lads these days, an awful lot of them want to decide which cake is baked, dictate how it is baked, then when presented with the cake, they run off into a little corner somewhere and eat the whole thing by themselves, before then running off and posting something on Facebook letting everyone know just how delicious the cake was.

Such behaviour and such an attitude is nothing short of sickening.

The Preacher Man

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June 6th 2013

Showing some respect for the club

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Players need to learn to honour their side of the bargain with their club

Back in the days before I was a Preacherman I was heavily involved with the running of football teams.

Once, about a decade ago, we headed to Ireland to play a National League game which was scheduled to be played in the county ground of our host county. However, very late on in the day, it was decided to switch the game to a remote ground about an hour's bus journey from the original venue.

Given that our hotel was virtually next door to the county ground, this meant that having flown from London in the morning, and driven all the way from Dublin to our hotel, we then had to clamour on board the bus again to head to this small ground an hour away. It was less than ideal.

As was the way of things back then, we were walloped in the game and we took our beating without complaint and after changing, we hung about in the car park waiting for our coach to pick us up and take us on the hour long journey back to our hotel. While we were waiting, the home team were ushered into a room and given a huge feed, while we were not even offered a cup of tea.

At the time (and even now) I thought it the height of bad manners on behalf of our hosts, especially given that every visiting team to Ruislip is catered for like kings (an obligation that London have).

Anyway, when I returned to London I submitted a small piece to a paper which was entitled ":Food shortages reported in XXXXX". I won't name the county because this is water under the bridge and I am now a Preacherman, so I must behave accordingly.

The response to this article was passionate and defensive to say the least, and in fact the representative of this county spent the next six months at the monthly management meetings in Croke Park trying to get me suspended from the GAA for my remarks. He insisted that his county had no obligation to feed us. The sheer ignorance of that statement and how ridiculous it made him look seemed to be lost on this delegate.

Anyway, as time elapsed, it began to become very clear why the county board had taken so much offence at my article. They had planned a big fundraising drive to help pay for the refurbishment of the county ground at their county's association's annual bash in London, and the sort of publicity I had given them wasn't going to paint them in the best light. Therefore they played the victim and played it very well, ignoring some of those inconvenient truths that often spoil a good yarn.

As ever, they saw the Irish in London as an easy touch when they wanted help and needed to gather some money, this despite displaying a complete lack of respect towards the Irish who had left Ireland. While they were the guilty party on that occasion, they weren't alone in such behaviour.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I feel it typified an attitude that existed towards the GAA and the Irish in general in London for almost a generation. While the Celtic Tiger party was in full swing in Ireland, the Irish in London were like the poor relations that no one ever wanted to be seen with in public. Indeed, the London football team and its involvement in the national competitions was the subject of much debate with the general consensus from many of the public being: "What are they doing in the league, they're an embarrassment".

And we were to an extent. But, we were also very honest and hard-working and very much a victim of the times - that fact was generally ignored though and we were still treated with contempt by many.

Current day
Move forward to the current day and the party is well and truly over in Ireland and the hangover just won't go away.

In a bid to try and escape the throbbing headache that many are experiencing, it has become fashionable to head away from the island of Ireland and find pastures new. Suddenly for many young lads and lassies, their parents and relations, the GAA in London is a great thing - in fact, the best thing ever.

Players arrive and are quickly sorted out with some accommodation and some work and surrounded by friendly faces. Within a few months they are fully functioning citizens of the great city of London and very often, it is the poor old embarrassing cousins that no one would be bothered to give a cup of tea to ten years ago, who has done the helping-out and the sorting-out.

It would appear that attitudes have changed.

Or have they?

For you see there is also this issue that arises in London and in America and beyond, where the young folk coming over want a decent-sized slice of cake and also want to be able to eat it, which is something that many of us who live in the real world have come to understand is not possible.

There is no issue whatsoever with a club, be it St Clarets or any other, helping a lad out to find work and get somewhere to live and help them to make new friends. For many long-term Gaels in London they would view it as the very least they can do for a new arrival, as they can remember only too well when they were in the same position themselves.

However, hand-in-hand with the help there is quite rightly an expectation that should anyone be helped in this way, then in return they should make themselves available to play for the club for the year.

The GAA in London is not a charity nor is it a substitute for the social services. Most clubs in London are run by a small handful of very dedicated, well-meaning and passionate individuals, unlike clubs at home who may have half the parish involved in the day-to-day activities. Many clubs here are actually not much more than an extended family.

As a result, any favour given or extended has generally been at some cost to the person who has arranged it, and that fact should be respected.

While there is work in London, (well more than there is in Ireland anyway), there is not such an abundance of it that we can willy-nilly sort out jobs for lads who have no intention of making any investment in the club.

When joining St Clarets, a new arrival (if they need help) will be helped in the best way the club can, but in return, it is only right that the club expects something back. Many may have grown up laughing at the ": eejits over in London" playing GAA and getting hammered every week, but it mustn't be forgotten that those eejits carried on regardless and kept the Association going here during a period when that was a very difficult and challenging thing to do.

It must be remembered that these long term Gaels in London are formidable, resilient people. They deserve a lot more respect than many have afforded them in the past fifteen or twenty years, as the reality is that they are now the answer to many of the problems that the young people in Ireland have at this moment in time.

The newer recruits to London can start by showing their respect and gratitude for help they have been given by making sure that they become part of the club they are involved in; firstly as a fully-committed player and then also as a supporter, be that through attending a race night, selling a few tickets or, as will be the case this week, showing up at the Golf Day and meeting a few of the people who help to fund our activities each year.

A good show of faces, especially at the evening meal, would be well-received and help present St Clarets in a good light, as well as demonstrating that those who have joined the club, are doing so with the intention of being part of the club and not just using it for what they can get out of it.

The Preacher Man

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May 30th 2013

Pride and Respect

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
The London players and managemet of 2013 have restored pride and respect to the team

There were two key attitudes to emerge from London's brilliant victory over Sligo last Sunday, and they were two attributes that have all-too-often been missing from the efforts of the Exiles in the past.

The two characteristics in question were pride and respect; and both were highlighted by London defender Dave McGreevy in the hours after the match.

In an interview with The Irish Daily Star, Down man McGreevy quoted the final words of team captain Mark Gottsche just before the game started when he said: "I think they don't respect us yet lads, a couple of them were playing a match there yesterday". These were powerful words and represented a sentiment that could have been associated with almost any team London have faced over the past thirty‐five plus years.

People simply didn't respect the London football team and no matter what words the opposing managers may have muttered, or what ever platitudes would have been directed towards the London players and management, the simple fact was that for the most part, people didn't respect the London football team nor did they really have any reason to.

That fact wasn't entirely the fault of the opposition, because for many years, far too many people in London, including players who were representing the team, didn't respect themselves. As any half‐decent psychologist will tell you, how can you expect to be loved by anyone when you don't love yourself, and the same applies when talking about the R‐word.

I myself spent many years sharing training fields, changing rooms and team photos with people who didn't respect what London was about or what London were capable of. It was at times a pitiful, soul‐destroying, uninspiring and unrewarding place to be. Thankfully though, thanks to the efforts of Paul Coggins, our very own Tony Murphy, as well as the rest of the London backroom team and players over the past three years, London have now found respect, both within the group and also outside of the group.

Immediately after the game, my muse for today, Mr McGreevy took to Twitter and issued a simple but very powerful tweet which said: "Cheers for all the texts, facebook, tweets, whatsapps and vipers, proud to represent the Irish in Britain"

Once again, these were very significant words, as pride was something that many of the players I played with in my time with London never had; not for themselves as inter‐county footballers and certainly not for the jersey of London.

Far too many nights were spent in lonesome darkness in Parnell Park, Wormwood Scrubs, Greenford and other places, as a few hardy dedicated and ultra‐committed souls ploughed a very lonely furrow in the name of London football. These were people giving all they had and all that was asked of them, so as to give themselves the best chance to proudly representing London and the Irish overseas.

Sadly, for too long, there were far too few of us, and Claretians like Tony Murphy and Colm Lynott especially, were among those who invested huge amounts of time back in those dark days, trying to bring some pride to the concept of playing for London.

These men were proud to represent the county ‐ but sadly there were too few like them to ever make any of our dreams a reality.

Thankfully over the recent years pride and respect have gradually been injected into the notion of playing Gaelic football for London at county level, and for that we owe the current team and management a huge thank you.

That said though, never forget the players like Murphy and Colm, as well as current London manager Paul Coggins, who really put in the hard yards for so long, trying to drag the team out of the gutter that far too many of our number, both on the field and off it, seemed determined to make sure we stayed in.

In some ways these guys are the unsung heroes of Sunday's victory, for had it not been for their efforts over the barren years ‐ those years when the Celtic Tiger was roaring and almost half the clubs in London disappeared due to a lack of players ‐ there would be a real possibility that London would no longer be in either the League or the Championship.

Theirs was a selfless sacrifice and one which some were well aware would never bare the fruits their individual efforts deserved. That said though, I am sure as the final whistle sounded in Ruislip last Sunday, they were more than happy to have made that sacrifice.

Pride and respect have found a home in London football ‐ it is now up to the class of 2014 and beyond to make sure that it is always made welcome and comfortable in and around Ruislip, and that the county never returns to the wilderness it has been roaming around for the past 36 years.

The Preacher Man

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May 23rd 2013

The Three Amigos

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The opinions on The Sunday Game are now more important than the game on Sunday

The Championship season is only a few weeks old and already I'm tired of it. It seems that every year the games being played are of less and less significance and instead the whole focus is on the opinions of Colm, Joe, Pat et al.

Somehow or other, as a nation, along with all the other errors of judgement we have made over the past fifteen years or so, we have also decided that all the training and time that players invest in improving themselves as footballers and athletes, and all the hours and effort that managers and coaches put into trying to help these players improve, is for no other reason than to give the three amigos, and whoever they may have invited along for the day, something to talk about for an hour or so.

Sadly though, over the past couple of seasons that "or so" is becoming the real issue with me, for the "or so" is now stretching into days and weeks. A perfect example of this is how today, as the next round of Championship matches is upon us, the talk is still all about what Joe Brolly had to say last week.

Now Joe of course is loving this attention (for as great a fella as he is, he still likes to be at or near the centre of attention), while the executives at RTE are patting themselves on the back for managing to persuade Joe, Pat and Colm to accept a sack load of money in return for their opinions each weekend from now until September.

Now that's not begrudgery or anything like that, for these are three ridiculously wealthy men anyway, so a bit more is neither here nor there to them, but what it is is a fatigue at being forced to believe that what they have to say is of any consequence in the first place, and then having to listen to their inconsequential ramblings again and again throughout the week.

I purposely avoid listening to them, but still, through the blanket coverage they receive in the mass media, I can not avoid knowing what was said ‐ and it troubles me, as this isn't what all that effort the players put in is about.

What's important to remember here is that these are three men who have run considerable distances from the task of running their or any other county team, preferring instead to take the easy bucks of talking about and mostly ridiculing the work that others are doing.

The fault of course lies totally with the public who listen to their waffling and think it has any value other than to fill the space between adverts on TV, and then again with the media, who create a storm in a tea cup about what someone said about a game of football.

What matters what these guys have to say? Joe Brolly is a man who has never managed a county team before, but is somehow an authority on how to do the job. Meanwhile Pat Spillane is a man who may have won plenty, but he too has managed nobody and Colm O'Rourke, the Meath manager‐in‐waiting for the past fifteen years or more, steadfastly refuses to take the job for any number of reasons, but mostly it would seem because he's afraid of failing at it.

Their opinions should not be what is making the news on Monday morning as they are no more valid than yours or mine. What should be making the news is the football that was played and the effort put in by the players.

Increasingly among the media there is a belief, and I have witnessed this myself first‐hand in the press boxes up and down the country, that major GAA events are played solely to provide them with something to write about, to express an opinion on and thus to feed into their own grossly inflated egos and sense of self‐importance. One only has to watch some of these so called "big name" writers to see that this really is a reality in their narcissistic little worlds. Last week it was widely felt that Joe Brolly did a hatchet job on Paul Grimley the Armagh manager. Now who knows what the agenda was there (the GAA is a very small fish pond, so don't be fooled that there was no agenda). Certainly what was said, which included bizarre references to Grimley's brothers (who haven't kicked a ball for Armagh in over 20 years) was sufficient to upset a big fella like Paul Grimley. While the criticism was confusing to him, Grimley's main concern was the agenda behind it and what motivated Brolly to say what he said. Things then took an even more bizarre twist when Joe Brolly and Jarlath Burns engaged in a Twitter war of words about Joe's comments on Grimley.

To shine a bit of a light on this scenario, first consider the backgrounds of these two men.

Both are highly decorated footballers and generally acknowledged as excellent exponents of the art of Gaelic football. Both are very well educated and play an active role in the media, and while Joe likes to shoot from the hip, apparently not caring who or what he hits, Jarlath likes to play it cool. And why wouldn't he, as he appears to be playing a pretty long and studied game in making sure that at some stage in his future he ends up as President of the Association, or at least that is the general consensus.

But what makes their Twitter war so fascinating is that these are two very serious senior professionals in their real lives.

Jarlath is the Vice Principal of a secondary school and Joe is a barrister. These are not Mickey Mouse positions to hold in life, yet and all, these two family men, both in their forties, think that the best place to air their differences is on a social media site. I'd hope that if one of his pupils did the same thing Jarlath would be having a word, yet and all, he seems to think that a slanging match with Joe Brolly is a good way to spend the afternoon and set an example. I find this bizarre and concerning in equal measures.

Back when I was a young fella in the 1980s and 1990s, the Championship was about the players and the big names were the likes of Colm O'Rourke, Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly. It seems these days nothing much has changed, the Championships is till very much about Colm O'Rourke, Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly.

The Preacher Man

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May 16th 2013

The art of management

 St Clarets GFC London. The best GAA club in London. Join us if you want to play Gaelic football in London
Eamonn Coleman: A legend among managers.

For many years I have said that my mother, (who being from Cavan knows next to nothing about football!!) could pick a team, but there was a whole other science involved in managing a football team.

For those among us who have lived our sporting lives in the amateur arena, we will be all‐too‐aware of the truth behind that statement. Many of us have known nothing more than people who are capable of picking a team and getting fifteen lads into fifteen jerseys. The amount of actual management that goes on is often negligible.

That is by no means a criticism of the people who have run these amateur teams, as their justified rebuttal could just as easily be: "Well if I had some proper players to manage, I'd be a better manager."

And they'd be right too, as most of us have been no better than amateur in both ability and attitude and have therefore had no choice but to live in the amateur environment; it's a case of round pegs fitting into round holes.

In our own great Association there are many high‐profile examples of great managers ‐ or should that be successful managers ‐ because there is a difference.

Even the giants of today's ever more publicity hungry and media savvy world of GAA have been criticised for the style of management, with many of them being accused of being aloof from their players, unapproachable and dictatorial. However, they get results and that's what counts. Players will often accept and ignore these shortcomings as long as they're winning medals.

As this summer progresses you will notice little stories breaking about squad players from various county teams deciding to head to the States for the summer rather than sticking it out with their counties, and even on occasions, regular starting players will do the same.

Many times, when questioned privately, these players will confess that their decision to leave wasn't so much about the opportunity to go Stateside, nor even the frustration at not playing, but more about the wall of silence and lack of direction being offered by the management of their county team. For many of these young players, the path of their development was not much more than a guessing game for them. All they knew was that they weren't deemed good enough to be on the team, but what they had to do to improve their chances was to remain a tightly guarded secret ‐ which even they were not privy to.

Under such circumstances, who could blame any young lad for jacking it in in exchange for a few months of something very different in the States or elsewhere. While comparisons between professional and amateur environments are unfair to an extant, at the same time, given the level of professionalism that exists within the upper echelons of the amateur arena that is the GAA these days, it is my opinion that comparisons are fair and in reality, unavoidable.

Players are expected to behave in the most professional manner possible and it would appear that at all times, whether at home, at work, with friends or on the field, first and foremost these players playing at county level are players ‐ with everything else playing second fiddle. There's little or no respite for them from the standards demanded and the sacrifices they have to make.

For the most part these players live up to these standards and when they fail to do so, they're more often than not sidelined.

The question remains though, do those setting the agenda live up to the standards expected from them as managers of people.

In many cases the answer is no and a very definite no.

That's not having a dig at the quality or skills levels of these amateur managers, because by merely taking a look across the Irish Sea at the professionals in soccer will show that man‐management is a hard nut to crack in sport.

For the likes of me, who can not abide the entity that is the red side of Manchester, this week has been a slow painful march through the end of Fergie's time as manager of the Red Devils.

The world and his uncle have had to have their moment talking about the man and every media outlet has been only too happy to give his retirement as much airtime as needed to get the message of his "greatness" across.

And as tedious and repetitive as the whole process has been for us non‐Man Utd followers, there has also been one consistent message coming out from these soundbites ‐ and that is that Ferguson knew his players and that the players loved playing for him, so much so that they hated letting him down. More than one star of his teams over the years has said that letting him down was the one thing they desperately wanted to avoid.

That says a lot for the relationship that Ferguson nurtured with his players ‐ he was undoubtedly the boss, but he was also a father figure, and few of us ever want to let our father down.

Conversely, across the city at Eastlands, a completely different message was coming out as Roberto Mancini cleared his desk in readiness for the next man set to embark on what could be best described as Mission Impossible i.e. making Manchester City bigger than Manchester United.

The official statement and the whispers coming from the club both hinted at one huge failing of Mancini as a manager ‐ and that is basically he couldn't manage his players. He could coach, he could delegate, he could look the part, but when it came to that human element that is required to squeeze that extra ten per cent out of players, Mancini seemed incapable of doing so.

Some of the great managers in the GAA have had a special bond with their players. Talk to anyone who played under the late Eamonn Coleman and they will speak of a man who really bonded with his players, a man who genuinely enjoyed their company and who a real interest in their lives.

People who say the same of Sean Boylan too and in the book The Boylan Years many wrote glowing testimonies to the human side of Boylan's character.

It is no coincidence that both these men brought success to counties who had previously been starved of it for long periods of time.

Of course being great mates with the players has also been the downfall of many a manager, especially when they are lacking tactically or in discipline.

But when you come across a manager who has tactics, who has discipline and also has a relationship with his players, then you have the potential for something really special.

Just ask anyone who played for Fergie.

The Preacher Man

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May 10th 2013

David takes on Goliath

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David Moyes: Has worled hard and honest to gte to where he is

There are a few interesting lessons to be taken from the whirlwind of activity that has taken place at Old Trafford over the past few days.

While supporters of the nineteen other Premier League clubs have been celebrating like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz by singing their own adapted versions of "Ding Dong: The witch is dead", the Man Utd faithful have been walking around in a daze, befuddled by the developments over the past 48 hours or so.

However, no matter how shell‐shocked these folk may be, the reality is that all good things must come to an end and with Fergie now in his 72nd year, the sports editors of most newspapers would have already had a number of stock articles and much research completed, readying themselves for the day when (not if) Fergie went. It may have come like a bolt out of the blue, but it was a bolt that people were nonetheless well prepared for.

But anyway, the king is dead, long live the king, a new king who, in the form of David Moyes is, if not so much a look‐a‐likey of Fergie, then certainly a think‐a‐likey and sound‐a‐likey of the great Glaswegian. The show goes on at this Goliath of a club, or in Fergie speak, the bus just keeps on moving and stops for no man ‐ hence Fergie, in some people's eyes at least, being unceremoniously dumped by the side of Sir Matt Busby Way while the bus containing the spoils of the 2012‐13 season was still grinding to a halt.

While all this hullabaloo was going on, people like me are always looking for the sub‐plots or the unnoticed little gems of information and deductions that can be gleaned from these situations.

First and foremost for me it was the sight of Fergie arriving at Carrington at 6.50am on Wednesday morning, pretty much as he had done just about every morning for the past 26‐odd years. This is a man totally consumed by what he is involved in and obviously, given his dedication to the cause, someone who thoroughly enjoys what he is involved in too. He's a lucky man to be in such a great place with his profession (or maybe he is in such a great place in his profession because of the sort of dedication he shows). Either way, it said a great deal about Fergie.

The second point I took from the news from Old Trafford was the fact that Jose Mourinho was quite obviously never considered for the job ‐ and by all accounts, it was a job he was interested in. Certainly leaving Real Madrid this season to go to Chelsea will be seen as a backward step for the Portuguese coach (granted most things are after leaving Real Madrid) but Old Trafford is at least on a par, while Chelsea are probably two rungs lower down the football ladder.

The "Special One" may well be coming home, but he is obviously no where near special enough for the bosses at Man Utd.

And the reasons for this are obvious, as you just have to pick up a paper any day of the week in order to find out which section of the football world that Mourinho is at odds with at any given moment. For years it has flitted between the various Football Associations, UEFA, FIFA, referees, the politicians and executives within football clubs, the press, the opposition teams, the fixtures committees, the disciplinary committees and most recently in Madrid, his own players and the home crowd.

While Fergie liked to promote the siege mentality at Old Trafford, Mourinho's approach takes that concept to a whole other level, to the point where the guy could be mistaken for a Machiavellian paranoid schizophrenic, with complex delusion of his own global importance and no doubt some rejection (read Barcelona) issues thrown in there for good measure.

Basically Mourinho moaned, complained, fought and talked his way out of contention for the job. While that which glitters is often gold, and also brings gold with it, some times it's just more trouble than it's worth.

And finally, the biggest lesson that can be taken from the appointment of Moyes is that there are few attributes that make a person more appealing than being a hard working, dedicated, loyal, decent and genuine bloke, who gives everything he has to his job, keeps his tantrums to a minimum, doesn't wash his dirty laundry in public. Moyes just gets on with being the best he can be, for as long as he can be.

There’s no boat‐rocking with Moyes, the ego (there will of course be an ego) is well under control and his respect for the game and the authorities of the game is there to be admired.

Of course, all us Anyone But United fans will grow to hate the sight of Moyes over time, that's a given. However, before then, let's just consider the wonderful attributes that have enabled Moyes to reach the very peak of his profession and contemplate how we can apply them to ourselves as players and embed them in the fabric of our club.

The Preacher Man

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May 3rd 2013

The Daley Routine

 Daley Routine
The Lucozade gospel ‐ according to Daley

Back in the day, there was a television commercial for Lucozade featuring decathlon star Daley Thompson. In it he announced that: "The hardest thing about the decathlon was the training. Seven hours a day, seven days a week."

It was inspirational stuff for our young ears to listen to at the time, and it was made all the more inspiring by knowing that all we had to do was drink Lucozade to enable us to perform these super human feats.

Now despite the obvious product promotion that Daley was being paid to perform, there was another, less commercial message in there as well. Basically what Thompson was saying was that, Lucozade or no Lucozade, if you don't put the miles in and if you don't do the work, then there can be no success. This is as true for a star of the 1980s Olympics as it is for any star of the modern day sporting arena. There are no short cuts, there are no easy rides to the top.

Every top athlete you see these days has worked very hard as an individual to get to where they are today. Even the biggest strutting, over‐paid peacock of a Premier League footballer, who you may feel isn't worth his pay packet, has worked hard and made sacrifices to get to where they are. How they behave when they get here is an altogether different issue, but to get there, they've sweated blood and tears and made huge sacrifices and that's a fact. As I've said before, there are no accidents in sport.

Recently I was staying with some friends in Mallorca, who just so happen to live next door to Rafa Nadal.

Now coming from the very simple life that I come from, it is very surreal to look out the kitchen window in the morning to see one of the greatest tennis players ever taking the shopping out of the back of his car or heading out somewhere with his mum and dad. Away from the tennis circuit, Nadal is the most ordinary of ordinary blokes.

Anyway, at the time we were there, Nadal was on the road to recovery from his long lay‐off from injuries. He had just returned from his spell of playing in South America and was on a self‐imposed break designed to help protect his fragile knees.

That's not to say he wasn't working hard, far from it, it just was that he was working differently. So instead of pounding his knees on hard courts around Europe, he would be out on his bike, peddling the miles that were necessary to maintain his super level of fitness. A perfect example of the fact that there are no short cuts in sport, just different, equally long and arduous routes to follow, in order to get to the same place.

This morning the weekly roll‐call was circulated for training for the St Clarets senior team.

The accompanying email simply stated: "It is name and shame time again, please look at the effort you yourself are putting in."

Training has been reasonably good so far this year, with numbers way above anything that had been experienced in the recent past and that is a huge positive. However, there are still peaks and troughs appearing and the numbers in attendance can rise and fall with great frequency. More significantly too, the names on the list aren't showing the sort of consistency that needs to be displayed by a team hoping to achieve anything.

It is one thing to have good numbers, but another thing when only six or seven of those faces are there all the time and the rest are made up by occasional visitors.

It was stated recently in a newspaper match report that, on the back of the displays in the last two games of the Murphy Cup, that St Clarets could actually be outsiders for the Intermediate Championship this year.

Now some might say that that is stretching things a little, given the quality of teams that are at this grade, but at the same time, it gives the club something to aim for and is a damn sight better than talking about trying to avoid relegation as the aim for the season, as it has been for the past two or three years.

For 2013 the club can have two definite goals to aim for. Firstly, and most importantly, is to get out of the hell hole that is Division Three league football. It's a depressing place to have to play your ball and it makes preparation for the Intermediate Championship that little bit more difficult.

Secondly, there is the challenge of the Intermediate Football Championship. That's achievable too, and to do so we won't necessarily need more new players, we just need that "seven hours a day, seven days a week" attitude from the ones that we already have.

It's over you to guys.

The Preacher Man

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April 25th 2013

Accidents don't happen

McGeeney in 2003 ‐ refuelling for 2004

I have a friend whose daughter loves running. She's only six, but she is already showing signs of being someone with an extra‐ordinary talent for athletics.

My friend's challenge at the moment is to make sure that she looks upon running as a fun activity and to make sure that she is enjoying it for the physical release that it is.

Somehow or other though, despite his best efforts, it would seem that this little girl looks upon athletics as much more than fun ‐ for her, it's already a serious business.

Recently she took part in an organised race for under‐8s and her time of 6min 34 sec for a mile is commendable to say the least and she finished fourth overall.

She was delighted with her efforts and the medal she received ‐ that is, until she realised that the girl in third place got to stand on the podium and received a proper trophy. Suddenly, fourth wasn't good enough at all and she set her sights on the podium for her next race.

This of course is the behaviour of a born competitor and a passionate competitor at that. To achieve anything in life, and particularly in sport, you need to set yourself goals and targets.

Not one person who stood on the podium at last year's Olympics in London was standing there by accident. Each and every one of them had set themselves targets and worked hard to achieve them. But while the front and back page stories of the Olympics were all about the medal winners, the real stories of the Games are about those who failed to make the podium.

Each of them had set themselves targets and for many they would view the Games as a personal failure. The question after the Games is what did they do with that sense of failure?

It was well documented how after the final game of the Premier League last year, Alex Ferguson spent the entire trip back from Sunderland going around his younger players and telling them to remember the pain of not winning the title and to use that pain as their motivation for the year ahead. This was man‐management at its very best and it is not something one could ever imagine Wenger, Mancini or Benitez ever doing, as they don't seem to have a handle on the importance of the basic, raw, street‐fighter, human element of sport. This was Fergie looking at the podium and fuming that it wasn't him on it, but more importantly, using that anger to plan how he was going to be the one standing on top the following year.

One glance at the Premier League table this year shows that he planned well.

Likewise, there's a famous story of Kieran McGeeney standing watching Peter Canavan receive the Sam Maguire in 2003 when most of his team mates had disappeared into the private sanctuary of the dressing rooms. When asked why he had done it, he simply said he wanted to remember the hurt of losing the final as he would use that as his driver for the year ahead.

Every athlete, no matter at what level, needs a motivation to drive themselves on and those motivations are out there for us to grasp and make use of. It might be a particular opponent that you have, it might have been a particular defeat that has stuck in your gut, it might be something damning that a manager once said to you or it might be a moment in your career when you were over‐looked in favour of someone else.

Whatever it is, those moments are the things that drive any athlete on. If you don't have a moment to push you on, if you don't have any hurt to remember, you've not really been playing the game.

If a serial trophy winner like Fergie can find hurt in a failure, and if a six‐year old girl can find motivation in a fourth place, then every athlete and player out there must be able to as well.

No one gets to the top of any discipline by accident ‐ so as a footballer this year, don't be standing around waiting for an accident to happen.

The Preacher Man

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April 18th 2013

Derry's Dynamic Duo

The seven McGurk brothers with their father, along with the
Derry, Ulster and All Ireland Club Champions trophies.

One of the real pleasures of helping out with The Alumni Tracker, our current project on the St Clarets website, is that it has given me an opportunity to catch up with a few names and faces from the past.

Sometimes, after a long period of time has passed without contact, it feels awkward re-connecting with someone without good reason ‐ for me, The Tracker project provides that reason.

It's been quite a struggle getting in touch with some of the older guys from the club, many of them aren't exactly Facebook friendly and trying to track down email addresses and the likes can be a struggle.

Thus far we've had to be at our investigative best to nail a few of them down, and we've even had to go chasing after parish priests, club PROs in Ireland and school teachers to try to make contact, as well as the countless hours we've spent Googling people. However, when that's done, it's generally well worth it.

It the last few weeks I've had the chance to get in touch with two absolute legends of the past, in the form of Derry men John Heaney and Colm McGurk.

These two guys would have been the very best and most intense of enemies back in Derry football, with Heaney's club (Dungiven) and McGurk's side (Lavey) both being major powerhouses in football at the time.

And while their paths barely crossed with St Clarets, the legacy that both men left can not be underestimated.

In my humble opinion, without the nurturing and guidance provided by the inspirational John Heaney in 1987 and 1988, St Clarets would not have won the Intermediate Championship in 1989.

Heaney brought with him an intensity that was previously missing from the club, especially with his attitude to training and the example he set on the football field. Football really mattered to John.

Heaney lived and breathed football, while he was always available to offer advice to younger players. His opinion was also often sought out by older members of the club. John didn't play in the 1989 Championship season, as he spent the year back in Derry, but as I say, there would have been no Championship success that year without the example he had set in the previous couple of seasons. He started the ball rolling.

The great thing about speaking to John is that you know straight away that his time with St Clarets was as important to him as he was to the club.

Every Championship win is made up of a number of components, and the arrival of the fabulous McGurk brothers in the summer of 1989 was key to our triumph that year.

The full story will be revealed in the coming weeks in The Alumni Tracker, but suffice to say, it is the stuff of true GAA legend.

The McGurks are football royalty in Derry and quite rightly so.

Lavey, the tiny parish they hail from, won an All Ireland senior club title in 1991, together with numerous Derry titles along the way, while Colm and his bother Johnny were also part of the Derry senior team which won the All Ireland in 1993.

There were seven brothers in total and three of them played for St Clarets: Colm, Paddy and Kieran, while most of them represented Derry with distinction in either hurling or football, and in some instances, both codes.

It's notable from getting in touch with Colm, how he still remembers his time with the club in great detail and also hasn't forgotten the kindness and friendship shown to him by club members. This says much about the McGurks as people and it's also a wonderful tribute to the actions and attitudes of members of St Clarets.

Hopefully over the next few weeks we'll get the chance to catch up with some other ex‐players and share their memories.

As already stated, it really isn't that easy to track some of these guys down, so please, any emails addresses or the likes that you may have for former players, do send them on to us at [email protected]

The more we manage to get hold of, the better The Alumni Tracker feature will be.

No matter how short a time the player played with the club, or how successful they may have been, all ex‐players are still Claretians and we'd very much like to acknowledge their part in the story of the club.

The Preacher Man

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April 11th 2013

Dawson' Creek

Frank Dawson appeasr to have shot himself in both feet

Hootie once said: "There's a fine line in between right and wrong" and who am I to argue with someone of the global significance of Hootie.

And he was right of course, and many of us live our lives trying to figure out which side of the line is right and which side is wrong. When we finally do manage to unravel the puzzle, what often follows is regret for the time we spent on the wrong side of that line.

Today I'm thinking that maybe some day in the future, current Antrim senior football manager Frank Dawson might just consider his action from last weekend and realise that he crossed the line onto the wrong side.

For those of you who don't know the story, here's how it was reported on

Antrim's Tony Scullion was perplexed after he and Tomas McCann were axed by Frank Dawson.

The experienced Cargin pair ‐ who are brothers‐in‐law ‐ had both been named in the original starting XV but were omitted by Dawson from the Saffron' match‐day squad for Sunday's must‐win Division Three clash with Monaghan at Clones after informing the manager that they wouldn't travel on the team bus as they were attending a relative's anniversary mass that morning.

"We had a first-anniversary mass to go to for a deceased family member," a flabbergasted Scullion explains in The Irish News.

"We couldn't make the bus down at 10.30am so we were willing to take our own car down and meet the bus at The Four Seasons Hotel [in Monaghan town], where the boys were having their breakfast.

"We would have been there before the bus arrived, but the news that we got was that if we didn't travel with the bus, not to travel at all. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"I was mystified why people would hold it against you; we were in a Catch‐22 situation. We wanted to go to the mass and we wouldn't have missed out on anything.

"We had our gear on us on Sunday. We were willing to go to the match and we got contact from Frank Dawson after the mass and he was adamant that we weren't in his plans. It's very disappointing.

"Everybody's circumstances change and there are things you have to work around. Gaelic football is still an amateur sport and your family has to come first."

As a result of this incident, the county is currently in disarray, with meetings being held to try and find a solution and with Tony Scullion declaring that he will never play for Antrim again as long as Dawson is manager. To tell the truth, I wouldn't blame him either.

I'm sure Dawson has some sort of twisted logic to offer behind his thinking, although he obviously hadn't considered the potential PR disaster that he was about to create by taking his ridiculous stand.

Managers at inter‐county level are under tremendous scrutiny and pressure these days. Very few manage to survive in the bear‐pit for more than a couple of years. The stress of the whole thing just eats away at them.

Having said that, when you decide to bring a tsunami of pressure down upon yourself, and then follow that up by shooting yourself in both feet, then few could have any sympathy for you.

Managing any group of players is difficult because ultimately there will always be a selection who will act the maggot, just to see how far they can push their luck with a manager.

That said though, you have to assess each incident involving a player and decide whether someone is genuine or not.

In the past, a team I was involved with were away on a training weekend, when the players were allowed to go out for two pints one night and had an 11pm curfew imposed.

Three members of the panel decided to stay out until 4am in the morning. When they returned to the hotel we were staying in, they walked straight past the manager, who was sitting in the foyer waiting for them, and into the resident's bar to carry on drinking.

When challenged about these action the following day, one player merely said: "Well sure you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb".

Where do you go with a player with that attitude?

However, when two players, both from the same family, tell you that they need to attend a family memorial Mass the morning of the game, but that they will be at the hotel for the pre‐match meal, most people would take that as a genuine reason and allow them to go with their complete understanding. When these two players also have many years of accumulated service and excellent conduct to the county under their belt, then the reasons for suspicion are reduced even further.

That's what makes the action of Frank Dawson so confusing and certainly, in my opinion, it makes his job as manager of the Antrim senior football team a difficult one to continue with.

Thus far the Antrim County Board are stubbornly supporting their man and maybe with good reason. No doubt other little factors will be fed to the media in the coming days.

The Fermanagh County Board learned a tough lesson when standing by John O'Neill in 2011, when it was obvious to everyone that he needed to be relieved of his duties.

The GAA is an amateur sport and while the managers must be praised for their willingness to devote the time and effort they do to running these county teams, so too the players must be respected for the endless sacrifice they have to make to enable themselves to play at this level.

Most county players train at least five times a week, with many getting up at 6am each morning to get gym sessions done before heading off to work or college.

Missing family events is commonplace for anyone playing at this level and in general there is an understanding from the family. Indeed, in my own time, I missed funerals, baptisms and weddings due to my football commitments and I wasn't even any good.

So when two established and respected players make it known that they need to attend a memorial Mass for a family member, surely some little bit of leeway has to be given to them.

I'm pretty sure that had this event not been of huge significance to the family of these players they wouldn't have felt the need to attend.

The focus now turns to the Antrim County Board to see how they manage this situation. All any Antrim supporter can hope for is that they manage it better than Frank Dawson did.

The Preacher Man

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April 5th 2013

No lights, no cameras, no action

 No lights, no cameras, no action
Without TV coverage, kids in Britain won't find their GAA heroes

I know a young lad who has just started secondary school, and he has an enthusiasm for living that would put even the most outward-bound outward-bounder to shame. He's the sort of kid who happily embraces every new challenge, never concerning himself too much about the consequences. If there's a bit of fun to be had or a new experience to try out, he'll give it a bash.

Way back when he was very young, he was asked what he wanted to be in life and he told the lady making the enquiry that he wanted to be a cruise ship entertainer. For him, the notion of being up on stage, travelling the world, having a laugh and enjoying life seemed like the perfect blend of living for him.

Since then, like all children, his career plans have changed many times, and now his aim is to be a world class cyclist.

The reason for this latest obsession is part of the legacy effect of London 2012, and it's the sort of statement that will have Seb Coe organising his very own personal ticker-tape parade through London, just to further emphasise what an amazing job he did in running the Olympics last summer. Coe's mantra all the way through the summer was legacy, legacy, legacy (pity about the small matter of the stadium there Seb!).

Anyway, going back to the boy. Watching the likes of Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins last year has inspired this young man to try something that he had never previously contemplated, and over the Easter break, he took part in his very first race. He's always had a bike, but he never previously had a hero on a bike. Now, having watched the Olympics on TV last summer, he does. This example is important to remember as you read on.

For the past few weeks I have been talking at great length to the Community Development Administrators of the GAA across Britain.

There are seven of these people employed full-time and they cover a pretty extensive geographical area.

On top of that, there are at least half a dozen part-time coaches working along side these people as well as a Games Manager who they report to. These people are in place in each county in Britain, and their job is to focus on the grass roots development of Gaelic Games within their own counties, as well as to assist each other in the development of the game across Britain.

It requires a substantial sum of money each year to run this project as the CDAs busy themselves introducing GAA to schools, engaging with youth teams, coaching coaches and generally being of as much assistance to the GAA community in their region as possible.

I've no idea what the bill runs to each year, but I am sure it wouldn't be too hard to make a ball park guess.

There are quite literally thousands of young kids getting exposed to the GAA each year as a result of the work carried out by the CDAs, and it’s fair to say that they earn their money.

Given though that many of the kids that these CDAs will be training in schools will never have seen or heard of GAA before the scheme was introduced, there appears to be one crucial element missing in order to make this project sensible.

Plain and simply the scheme is missing any heroes or idols. Or in Seb speak, where will the legacy come from?

And why is this?

It's because many of these kids will probably never get to see a live game of top class Gaelic football in their lives. They will never get to understand what a Championship day feels like and never get to develop any sense of why this game is so important to many of us.

And why is this?

Well that’s simple to answer. You see, while the suits within the GAA pat themselves on the back for handing out funding to Britain to support this project, they are also taking in huge swathes of money from broadcasters to make sure that the GAA is not free to air in Britain and that if anyone wants to watch it, then they will either have to go to a pub or somehow access it over their satellite TV. Either way, the GAA cash register will ring.

What the average kid of Asian heritage in Yorkshire, or the rugby fanatic in Swansea won’t be able to do though, is to turn on BBC2, Channel 4 or Channel 5 on a Sunday afternoon and watch Dublin do battle with Kildare in Croke Park in a Leinster Championship match.

It's occasions like this that inspire generations of footballers and no matter how hard the CDAs may try in Britain, they will never be able to replicate the tension, excitement and drama that can be created in a big game of Championship football. It is in this arena that kids find their heroes.

For all the kudos the GAA gain from these projects in Britain, they are not so committed to them that they will sell the rights to their product to the broadcaster who can reach the widest audience.

Oh no. They're far too shrewd for that in Jones Road.

There, in GAA HQ, money talks and any talk of legacies is just for press releases.

The Preacher Man

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March 28th 2013

Cynical fouling in the black

 Cynical fouling in the black
Cyncial fouling is going to be punished: but will it go away?

There has been an awful lot of talk in the past few days about the introduction of the black card into Gaelic football and its potential effectiveness in trying to stop what they call cynical fouling, i.e. those attempts made by a team to prevent their opposition from building on their possession.

At Congress last week, the decision was made to implement this new black card system, and we know that it is only going to make the poor beleaguered referees even easier canon-fodder than they already are for the media. However, the fact that it was felt necessary to introduce it in the first place, speaks volumes for the way that the game at the elite level has developed.

Many top voices have come out declaring that this is an unnecessary development and that it isn't going to prevent these actions from taking pace, particularly at crucial stages of games. After all, players will commit the foul and then just be replaced by another player. It's almost an administrative exercise as opposed to a punishment and also provides a team under pressure with some breathing space and a chance to regroup.

Other big names have come out insisting that there is no such thing as cynical fouling in the game, and that it is merely a figment of the media's imagination, something to keep Joe, Pat and Colm in their well-paid jobs.

During my modest playing career, I shared changing rooms with people who have possessed a quite cynical approach to fouling, and indeed, a few managed to turn it into something of an art form.

One former team mate would quietly whisper in a colleague's ear to leave it to me, when things were getting a bit out-of-control. And sure enough, within five minutes you could be certain that the targeted player had been suitably targeted. Seldom if ever, was this player punished for this action, he was so deft at it.

I also shared a changing room once with a former inter-county player, a player who had reached the very heights in our code. This player stood up one day before an important game and announced that in his opinion, what our misfiring team needed was a melee, a right good punch-up in the middle of the game, just to help build a bit of unity within the group. This wasn't a piece of original thinking by him, this was a concept that he had seen operated in other teams that he had played in. This had been part of the game plan of these teams.

Ten minutes into the game, the player in question started swinging his fists and punching all around him for no particular reason (while also receiving a few belts in return), and a minute later, he was sitting on the bench with the subs, having been red carded for his actions.

It should be noted here that he was very much on his own in terms of wanting to start a fight, and if truth be told, he wasn't all that popular within the team. In fact, most would have felt a hiding was long overdue.

And it's not just the lunatic fringe of the playing fraternity that try to promote chaos.

I once stood in a meeting with a very experienced manager and part of his team-talk was that, should the opposition begin to get on top of us, we should start a fight, just to knock them off their stride and give us a bit of a breather and a chance to re-organise.

I must admit the whole scheme seemed nonsensical to me and thankfully my team mates chose not to follow that path, but this was being suggested by a top manager. The incident proves that many of the accidental actions you witness on the football field are actually pre-meditated. A good manager will know who to ask to do what and he'll have the relevant personnel briefed on how they should react.

He and his players will of course deny that such discussions are held or that these plans made, but that denial is no more than the bond of loyalty manifesting itself. It's an ugly part of the modern game, but it's also one of those vital inches that you will hear coaches talking about in their motivational speeches.

Those who say that cynical, deliberate, negative actions do not exist in the GAA have either been walking round with their heads in a bucket for the past twenty years or are easily duped.

Those who say that the black card is nonsense aren't necessarily wrong, but at the same time, it has to be accepted that something had to be done to try and control what is a growing and unwelcoming thread of professionalism within an amateur game.

The Preacher Man

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March 21st 2013

Make it as intense as you can

 Make it as intense as you can
Barcelona’s showing last week was all about intensity.

Last week we were given the chance to witness two examples of what can only be described as sporting perfection.

The first took place in the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, where a peerless Barcelona team dismantled AC Milan in an enthralling second leg of a Champions League tie.

The second happened last Saturday, as Wales ripped the Six Nations Championship from the grasp of a punch drunk England team.

While these two events took place in different codes, there were several crucial factors that linked the two spectacles; intensity, fitness and skill level.

The single most important of these factors in these two events was undoubtedly the intensity. At the elite level at which all the teams concerned operate, skill and fitness are generally going to be on a par with each other. However, the one variable that can be the defining factor between victory and defeat is the intensity that the whole thing is assembled with.

For a couple of years now, there has been a suggestion that Barcelona are actually quite easy to play against. The blueprint was drawn up by Jose Mourinho while managing Inter Milan, and perfected last year by Roberto di Matteo at Chelsea. Both times, the teams coached by these men won ugly, really really ugly, but they still won.

During the Champions League semi-finals in question, Barcelona went out to do what they always do, weaving mesmerising patterns of passing around the field and leavings the opposition dizzy from chasing the ball. Once the dizziness takes hold, winning is easy.

Those who follow soccer will know that the plan that both Inter and Chelsea adopted was to park their respective team buses across the edge of the penalty area and to enquire as to whether Barcelona had a way through.

On both occasions Barcelona struggled to penetrate the stubborn defences and were punished on the break by their opponents. Most lovers of the beautiful game felt that it was total football injustice, when in fact, it was merely an essential part of the refining of the tiki-taka that Barcelona like to play.

Facing an even greater challenge last week against AC Milan, few held out much hope for Barca managing to pull back the two goal deficit they had going into the game. With the team they selected, all that could be promised was that there would be loads of pretty passing and attempts to weave their way through the Milan back line. Cue the arrival of the Milan bus to be parked in front of their goal.

However, Barcelona had a different plan. Yes they were always going to play the style of football they always play (they know no other way), but they did tweak that style a little (well in fact a lot actually).

From the word go, they went about their business with an intensity that isn’t usually necessary for the Spanish giants.

The upped the tempo of their game hugely, and the lapping waves of attacks that they normally generate became a tsunami of pressure on the AC Milan rearguard. No bus, no matter how well parked, could resist the sheer force of the Barcelona attack.

By the end of the night it was safe to say that the best had just got better.

On Saturday in Cardiff, Wales adopted a similar approach in their title decider against England.

Stuart Lancaster’s team arrived as favourites, still basking in the glory of having beaten the All Blacks last Autumn, at a time when Wales couldn’t beat Samoa.

Although confident, England were by no means cocky, but by half-time they were clinging desperately to the coat-tails of the Welsh, pulverised by the perfection of the rugby that Wales played in all sections of the pitch.

Yes the skill level was amazing, the fitness level very high, but it was the intensity with which Wales went about every aspect of their game that left the English players wondering what they would have to do to get their hands on the ball.

The final score of 30-3 lets you know that England failed to come up with a solution to that riddle.

There are many aspects to every game and the make up of every team. Practice can not be skipped, skills need to be honed and fitness levels need to be respectable. However, the mindset and the industry with which you go about your work on both the training field and the football field will be the thing that will separate the winners from the losers.

This season has started well for the club. The energy levels are high, there is an enthusiasm that is almost tangible and there is hope this year that was definitely missing last year.

It’s a great place to start a season, and even more can be made of those attributes if the mental approach and the physical willingness of every player is at a high level for every game and every training session.

The Preacher Man

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March 12th 2013

Winning the personal battles

 Winning the personal battles
Fergie’s all about beating the man in front.

I read a fascinating article on the BBC website the other day concerning the way the relationship between Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez deteriorated during the Spaniards time in charge of Liverpool.

Over the course of Rafa’s tenure on Merseyside, the mutual respect and admiration that had previously existed between the two of them collapsed into a series of embarrassing (for Benitez at least) jostles conducted through the media.

Of course, in an arena like this, with Benitez struggling to contain his Mediterranean emotions and master the nuances of the Saxon tongue, Fergie was always going to be the winner. However, despite the fact that Benitez has always been seen to be the instigator of this public feud, the article does apportion some of the blame to Ferguson as well.

You see the piece claims that as long as Benitez wasn’t viewed as a threat to United’s position at the top of the football pile in England, then Fergie wasn’t too concerned about anything the Spaniard was up to, as Fergie always had bigger fish to fry.

However, once the ’Pool started to get confident and organised and began to present themselves as a threat to the Red Devils, well then the Old Trafford master’s attitude towards them and Rafa the Gaffa changed. At that point, they became fair game.

Ferguson lives by the principal set out by that doyen of coaching, Vince Lombardi, who in his book When Pride Still Mattered wrote: You never win a game unless you beat the guy in front of you. The score on the board doesn’t mean a thing. That’s for the fans. You've got to win the war with the man in front of you. You’ve got to get your man.

You’ll never see Ferguson bully the likes of Roberto Martinez or others in that bracket, because they’re no real threat. But as far as Wenger or Benitez are concerned, they’re there to be attacked. They’re the men in front of Ferguson.

Of course he struggles against the likes of Guardiola and Mourinho, because they go about their dealings with Fergie by eulogising his achievements and killing him with compliments. This puts him off his game completely, because how can you start to throw grenades at someone in front of a European wide audience, when that someone has got nothing but nice things to say about you. It’s very clever reverse psychology of behalf of these men.

But anyway, back to the matter at hand, and the games that Fergie does like to play. Football is made up of a whole series of battles within a war. Each player must go toe-to-toe with their direct opponent and their only objective is to get the better of that opponent; or in other words, to beat the man in front of them.

If you’re a corner forward, it’s not so much about setting a target of what you want to score, but it is about making sure that firstly, you win more ball than the corner back, and secondly, that you make good use of that ball when you get it, be that by scoring yourself or setting up someone else for a score.

For the corner back, again it’s not about holding your man scoreless (an obsession with such things can actually result in other’s getting scores that could have been prevented), but it’s about making sure that any ball the corner forward does get, he’s earned it and that anything he is planning on doing with it, he’s going to have to work for it.

If in doing so, the corner back prevents him for scoring anything well and good. What’s always crucial to remember though is that while your battle is a personal battle, it is also only a battle within a far greater war. Occasionally in battle, someone has to throw themselves on a land mine for the greater good!

Enough though about the goriness of war and the likes.

So with the new season upon us, I’d ask every player who pulls on a St Clarets jersey this year to bear in mind the notion of beating the man in front of them; whether that is at training or in a game.

The importance of winning those individual battles can not be underestimated. If enough of the individuals on a team can win those battles, then the war will look after itself.

And on those occasions when things aren’t going so well for one of your comrades on the pitch, remember the tactic that Guardiola and Mourinho employ when they face Fergie: You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Now, go win the war with that man in front of you.

The Preacher Man

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March 5th 2013

Giving everything you have to give

 Giving everything you have to give
Elia Kazan only liked to work with the most committed

The other day I was flitting around on YouTube when I came across a most engrossing piece of television.

The item was called Inside The Actor’s Studio, and for any thespian types among you out there, you will know that this programme is something of an institution in the world of acting.

Over the past 19 years, a veritable who’s who of Hollywood royalty have sat in a chair across from host James Lipton and revealed some of their most personal secrets regarding their profession and their route to the top.

This is by no means a “paparazzi” style show about actors trying to promote the latest film they are in or anything like that. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and it is an extremely reflective exercise. Indeed, this is a programme that for many actors is actually an honour to be asked to appear on.

Many of the studio audience are students at Pace University where the Actor’s Studio course is based, and the questioning that the guest will receive from the floor will be deep and probing in terms of their methodology, their inspirations and such like. It’s a learning exercise as much as anything else for the students.

The episode I stumbled across was the interview with Bradley Cooper, who became the first graduate from the Actor’s Studio programme at Pace University to actual sit in the chair across from James Lipton and be questioned.

The programme was absorbing, in that it took Cooper on an emotional journey, which although he was well prepared for, was one that still choked him up on a number of occasions and left him a blubbering wreck on others.

One moment in the interview really caught my attention, and it was when he was asked about one of his teachers. Walsh could barely look at the woman in the front row of the audience as he pointed her out. He put his head in his hands and then attempted to talk about her through his tears. Her role in the development of Cooper’s career was critical.

The lady in question was Elizabeth Kemp and she went on to speak glowingly about Cooper.

She said that she had been told something by one of her own mentors some years before, the late Elia Kazan, a man who was described in the New York Times as "one of the most honoured and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history”. Kazan said that: “I only want to work with people who give everything they have to give and people for whom their work is the most important thing in their life.” She went on to say that Bradley Cooper was such a person.

As someone who has spent many years coaching teams, such a notion is music to my ears. Occasionally you will encounter a player, or a group of players, for whom this statement is true. When you meet such players, then anything and everything is possible.

I have said here before that you only get one chance at a football career. It’s not like some other pursuits, for once either the mind or the body give up, sadly there is no going back. And the one thing that is certain in the whole process, is that at some stage, either the mind or the body will give up, and often earlier than you imagined it would.

So while you are willing and able to be a player, the mantra that you should try to follow is the one that would have made Elia Kazan proud.

Be the player who gives everything they have to give.

The Preacher Man

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February 28th 2013

Catching up with the present

 Catching up with the present
Using the web to promote our club

This week we have started a new feature on the website which we have entitled The Alumni Tracker.

It’s part of our attempt to keep in touch with past players and recognise their contribution to the history of St Clarets GFC.

In doing so, we have the opportunity to continue to create a more complete record of the club’s journey, and in turn, we hope this will make current and future players aware of the fact that St Clarets is a club of some substance and with a proud and successful past.

There will be no particular pecking order as to who should appear or who should not. We’re certainly not trying to create a league table of “Who was who” within the club, but what we are trying to do is reach out across the globe (and locally) and see where players are and what became of them after their time with St Clarets.

More importantly still, we’d like to find out what their memories of being a Claretian are.

In order to do this, we need help from those currently with the club and also those who have been involved in the past and have moved on.

Contact details are vitally important in all of this and as such, while we have a reasonable database of contacts, it’s far from comprehensive. Therefore, we need your help, so that we can make this project a real stand-out feature on the website.

Once this is up and running, we will also be looking to add another regular weekly article on the site, and this will kick in when the season starts.

The idea is to have a weekly interview with a player within the club, in order to gauge their opinion of what they think about life as a Claretian and what the game and the club means to them.

The purpose of this is two-fold. Firstly, it’s important that we recognise the efforts players and their families are putting in and the commitment they show to the club, and secondly, it’s a great tool to use as adverting for the club, both at senior and youth level. It will hopefully make people more aware of what’s going on at St Clarets and who’s involved with the club.

Once again though, this project is going to rely very heavily on people supporting it. There is no point at all in attempting to run something like this unless there is going to be buy-in from the players and club members.

The website is about their club and everything that we put on it, be it The Echo, The Pulpit or any of the historical stuff, is about trying to promote the club, trying to increase awareness of the club and in turn, making the club stronger.

Another key way that this can be done, and that will be a huge help to the club, is to make sure that you share and like the posting for things like The Echo that we put on Facebook (even if you think it’s rubbish!).

These tools are there to be used in order to increase circulation of the articles and they will help promote St Clarets as a club.

The same too can be said about forwarding emails etc to people you think might be interested in finding out more about the club you are involved with. It seems very basic, but it is very effective.

Hopefully this year will be a good year in all aspects of the club’s life. Within this department, there is a very limited amount that we can do to make things better on the field, but having said that, what we can do, we will do to the best of our ability.

But we can’t do it alone and we really do need your help and support.

Here’s to a great 2013 and please feel free to make suggestions of people to interview, potential subjects for The Alumni Tracker or any other aspect of what we are doing here in The Pulpit.

As always the club’s email address is:

[email protected].

The Preacher Man

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February 22nd 2013

Getting going

Getting going
New beginning for St Clarets.

There’s a fresh breeze beginning to blow through the senior ranks at St Clarets and the importance of it can not, and must not, be underestimated, nor taken for granted.

For the past few years the club has been crying out for a fresh injection of commitment, energy and enthusiasm with regards to running the senior side, and at last we are starting to put building blocks in place that should help to make this happen.

I in no way wish or want to be disrespectful to the efforts of those who have been so dedicated to running the senior team in the previous few years, however, the fact can not be ignored that there has always been a reluctance for people to take on roles, be that in managing or coaching the team. People have carried out these roles with great honesty and integrity over the past few seasons, more through a real honest sense of duty than any burning passion to actually do them.

Yes, people have taken on the roles and performed them very well, but it has almost always meant that they have had to sacrifice another aspect of their involvement in the club. Most notably it has been players trying to both train a team and also play on it. For anyone who has ever been in that situation, they will know that there is no fun in that at all. Ultimately playing is always going to be a player’s priority and anything that distracts them from their focus on that is plain and simply unfair on them.

For too long we have probably all been a little too cosy with each other and because we are such a small, tightly knit club, we haven’t necessarily always pulled people up when the needed pulling up or addressed issues when they needed addressing. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a statement of fact about where we were in the greater scheme of things, it was how we chose to run our business.

We’ve got to look to change that and while the change can not and will not be wholesale or overnight, at the same time, we do need to embrace the opportunity that we have been given to us by bringing in someone who is interested in the club and enthusiastic about his involvement.

The thing is though, and this is very, very important for everyone to remember, especially the club leaders and the players, is that enthusiasm does not power itself, and without feedback and payback from the players, an enthusiastic coach can run out of steam.

There’s a huge responsibility on the players to make this work. Indeed probably the biggest responsibility lies with the players to make this work. If they don’t take this opportunity seriously, then no matter how enthusiastic or committed the committee members are or the new coaches are, the project will not succeed.

The men that the club will be introducing over the coming weeks will have knowledge, they will have commitment, they will have a plan, but what they don’t have is a magic wand. In fact, we all know that no such thing exists in football.

What exists in football is an understanding that the more you put in the more you get out. It might seem unscientific, it might seem a little old school for these days, but it’s one of the great truths of sport.

The more you put in, the more you get out.

The coaches at St Clarets will be there to facilitate the putting in. It’s up to the players then to sort out the getting out.

The Preacher Man

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February 14th 2013

Next stop Croke Park

Next stop Croke Park
St Clarets in Croke Park: why not!.

This is old ground I am going over here, but as they used to tell us at school, repetition is the mother of all learning.

I love this time of year in the GAA. It's a time of hope and new beginnings for most teams, a time when enthusiastic managers and coaches start to put their plans in place for the year ahead, while players make private resolutions with themselves and public agreements with their team mates. It's the time of the year, in fact the only time of the year, when all things are equal among clubs and counties. At this stage, nothing has been won and all is to play for.

Well for the overwhelming majority that's the case, but there are that small handful of clubs for whom this time of year is actually the end of the cycle they have been involved in for the past twelve months, and those teams, both in hurling and football, have been having their day out in Croke Park over the past few weekends and it’s been wonderful to watch.

I wrote a piece last year stating how I had a dream that one day St Clarets could get the opportunity to play in Croke Park on one of these February nights under the lights.

This year two club sides from Britain, Fullen Gaels and St Gabriels had their moment in the sun as they played in their respective All Ireland club finals and even though I have said it once, I will say it again, the only thing stopping St Clarets from doing the same is St Clarets. An over-simplistic view some might say, but it's still true.

Croke Park is an amazing venue, whether it is packed with 82,000 people or merely hosting a few thousand for a club final. Croke Park is the Mecca of the GAA, and it's somewhere where every active GAA member should aspire to make a playing pilgrimage to at least once in their life. The format for club finals that is now in operation makes that a far greater possibility than it was for our fore fathers.

It's a place that needs to be experienced as a player. I, along with club legend Martin Hession, had the great privilege once to run out onto the hollowed turf in an All Ireland Junior Final in 1988. Martin got to play an entire hour of football there in the curtain raiser to the replayed Cork / Meath final, while I had to content myself with a view from the subs bench. Even so, the whole experience was memorable.

But the thing was, that was our only chance to play in Croke Park. I played for another 14 years after that and Martin for twenty, both of us at club and county level, but neither of us ever got anywhere near Croke Park again, save for paying handsomely at the turnstiles to take a seat and watch the action.

There are a handful of St Clarets players for whom time is not on their side from a playing point of view. It's not to say that they don't have time, but more that they don't have that much of it. Once the boots are in the bin, that's that, time's up.

I'm not suggesting for one minute that we can pick up the brittle bones of last season's mediocrity and somehow transform them into something amazing in the space of a few short months, but I am saying that there has to be some objective and timescale to what we are going to be about this year and how we are going to go about it.

A very good friend of mine trains the Dublin senior football team and as a coach his mantra is "Enjoy the journey". He quite rightly reminds me of this often and it's a mindset he encourages in the athletes he coaches.

The thing about all journeys is that there has to be a destination. For the journey that we are about to undertake this year, why not make our final destination Croke Park.

The Preacher Man

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February 6th 2013

The Mighty Quinn

The Mighty Quinn
Paddy Quinn: a legend in the colours of St Clarets.

I’m delighted this week to be able to dedicate this sermon to one of the true gentlemen to have played for St Clarets.

As most of you will know by now, former St Clarets captain Paddy Quinn made his debut for the Dublin senior football team last Saturday night in Croke Park against Cork.

It was a truly astonishing achievement for Quinn, given that firstly, he is originally from Tyrone (and proud of it), and secondly, the fact that he isn’t exactly a kid in terms of his football age.

However, over the past five years playing with Na Fianna in Dublin, Quinn has proved to the football fans of the capital what all St Clarets members already knew, and that is that Paddy Quinn is no ordinary footballer.

Quinn’s arrival with St Clarets came at a time when the club were really punching way above their weight in terms of achievement. In 2002 they had played in their first and so far only Senior Championship Final, and in 2003 they were looking to consolidate their standing as one of the new powers of London football.

Quinn, along with several other Tyrone players, such as Ciaran Slane, Michael Rouse and of course the Donaghy brothers, arrived in the middle of 2003 and by the end of the year, they had helped the club win their first ever senior trophy, when they lifted the Tipperary Cup. The contribution of these Tyrone men didn’t go unnoticed it might be added.

By the time the Connacht Championship came around in 2004, Paddy was a fixture on the London senior team, although his Championship baptism is one that he would probably really like to forget, as the Exiles were hammered by a rampant Galway team.

His second Championship game wasn’t an awful lot better, although ironically it was against Dublin, the team for whom he now plays.

The club front was a lot kinder to Paddy in 2004 and he captained St Clarets to their third Intermediate Championship success and also led them on their journey through the British Championship, a journey that ultimately fell just short at the semi-final stage. Despite that defeat though, St Clarets were a team with momentum behind them.

In 2005 Quinn almost made history in the London jersey as the Exiles buried the horrendous memories of the previous year with a stunning Championship showing against Roscommon, that saw victory denied by the width of a crossbar. It was the all-too-familiar story of so near and yet so far.

The Qualifiers drew London against Monaghan and in a fairly tame showing one sunny afternoon in Clones, Quinn put on another exceptional display for his adopted county and weighed in with a couple of points in a one-sided game.

By the following year Quinn had departed from London, and St Clarets were left to feel grateful for all that he had helped them achieve and also the way in which he had represented the club while playing in London’s colours.

For the final year he was with us, he was accompanied by his cousin James, who also went on to play for the county as well, helping to increase our profile further.

I am very aware of the work the Dublin footballers are doing at the moment and only last month, I visited the gym where they train two or three mornings a week, and the set-up, headed by former London player Martin Kennedy, is most impressive.

Playing for London is a demanding, time consuming challenge, but for Paddy, playing for Dublin is going to be on a whole other level.

That said though, when you play for the Dubs you also get to run out in Croke Park on a regular basis. The sacrifice is no doubt well worth it.

Paddy Quinn is testimony to the fact that there is no substitute for hard work, application and a great attitude. He has talent, in fact he has an abundance of it, but he also always has a fantastic work ethic.

There are few who would begrudge him the chance he has now to let the whole country see what a great player and a great ambassador for Gaelic sports that Paddy Quinn is.

Well done Paddy and we look forward to seeing plenty of you later on in the summer.

The Preacher Man

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January 29th 2013

Earning the jersey

Earning the jersey
Changing the Championship calendar is an insult to club players in London.

I’m back. It’s been a while I know, but we all need a little time away in order to re-charge the batteries. However, with the club’s AGM on the horizon, I thought it appropriate that I direct my anger at something other than the television and instead, share my thoughts with my fellow Claretians.

There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes since we last spoke, and hopefully, some of the changes that the committee have been trying to make at senior level in the club will bear fruit this year.

Certainly if the good intention and enthusiasm displayed by the committee during the closed season can be mirrored in effort and energy by the players in the year ahead, then we will have many positives to discuss regarding that sector of the club in 2013.

Club aside, I am disgusted to see that the London County Board have decided in their infinite wisdom to make a complete mockery of the county’s senior Championship competitions, as well as the county jersey, in order to facilitate a few players, most of whom have never actually kicked a ball in anger in London in the first place.

The announcement that this year’s Senior Football Championship is due to start in February, is an insult to every club player not deemed to be of county standard currently playing football in London, (some of whom have years of service to their credit).

The decision makes a nonsense of the importance of Championship football.

Given that at this stage of the year the majority of clubs have not even held their AGMs, it means that every club has been caught between a rock and a hard place, with a gun held to their head when this vote was taken.

Basically the clubs had a choice of either voting for the new format or being accused of not wanting the county team to succeed.

In the coming weeks, men will be appointed to the jobs of training or managing club teams and before they have had a chance to put any of their ideas in place, they will be given the acid test of Championship football to have their efforts judged on; albeit against an opponent who will be as ill-prepared as his own team.

At the other end of the same argument, it’s no time ago that Paddy Carr, last year’s manager of Tir Chonaill Gaels, was complaining that it was difficult to get a team to peak in October for the London SFC Final, only to then hang around for another two months trying to get them to peak again for an All Ireland quarter-final.

However, Carr’s challenge from 2012 will seem relatively easy when compared to what awaits this year’s winners, given that the county final winning manager will have to get players to peak in February, then again in mid-summer, then again in October and finally once more in December.

Back when I played, the Championship was a do-or-die competition; lads would get a haircut for the game and buy a new pair of gloves. It’s what the whole year was about. It’s what the GAA is about. These days, London as a county, have managed to turn their Championship into a circus.

I appreciate fully why this is being done, given that both football manager Paul Coggins and also Eamonn Phelan, the hurling manager, want what they consider to be the very best players in London available to play for the county. I fully understand that.

That said though, there is also the concept of earning the right to play for a county, serving your time, so that whenever that jersey is handed to a player, he feels, and his team mates feel, that over a period of time, that player has earned it.

It’s not only about how hard you run at training or how often you go to the gym, it’s also about how you have compared against your peers while playing club football in your county.

Far too many players over the past 20 years have been given a chance with London before they have proved themselves within the county, indeed sometimes before they have even played for a club. I know for sure that I sat in London changing rooms with players I had never laid eyes on before, all because they landed over with a big reputation. That’s wrong and is disrespectful to the county jersey.

In the field of football in London, few have worked harder than the likes of Coggins and St Clarets man Tony Murphy to earn their London jersey. Both trained tirelessly and without tantrum for many years to have the right to play for London. But very significantly, few players were slapped in the face as many times as these two along their journey, watching as newer, shinier (but not necessarily better) players were given preference to the old reliables like Murph and Coggs.

Too often they were taken for granted, but they stuck to their guns and eventually earned the rewards that their talents and commitment were due. But it was never made easy for either of them.

I feel that by asking the County Board to desecrate the integrity of the London SFC in order to accommodate a few Johnny-come-latelys, the delegates, the board members and yes, even the county managers themselves, have devalued the journey that the likes of Coggins and Murphy have made in the past.

They earned the right to play for London and they didn’t need some ridiculous bending of the rules to help them along the way.

Both Paul and Eamonn Phelan have done tremendously well in the roles as county managers over the past two years, and I wish them continued success, but it should not come at the expense of the club game and the average club player.

While a respectable and competitive county team is something that needs to be aspired to, it can not and must not be achieved at the expense of the club game within any county, no matter how big or small that county is.

Of course, if the London teams do have a successful 2013 with the aid of whatever new recruits there are, then everyone will say that desecrating the Championship was the right thing to do. But plain and simply, it isn’t, regardless of results. The County team is a representative team and as such, you have to earn the right to represent it.

The Preacher Man

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October 2012

October 16th 2012
That's it from me for 2012
October 16th 2012 Could we have a wee bit of manners please
October 10th 2012 It's Good To Talk
October 3rd 2012 GAA abusing its position

September 2012

September 26th 2012 Jimmy's winning matches
September 19th 2012 I have a dream
September 12th 2012 Adults dismantling the ABC
September 5th 2012 Is it can't or won't?

August 2012

August 29th 2012 The Cherry On Top Of The Icing On Top Of The Cake
August 22nd 2012 Help - we need somebody
August 15th 2012 Management - More Than The Game
August 8th 2012 Setting The Standards
August 1st 2012 Representing Yourself

July 2012

July 25th 2012 Remembering The Last Time
July 18th 2012 Simple As ABC
July 11th 2012 Beggaring Belief
July 4th 2012 Murphy's The Man

June 2012

June 26th 2012 Kids Setting The Example
June 19th 2012 Be The Best You Can Be
June 12th 2012 The Harvest Is Rich
June 5th 2012 Learning To Win

May 2012

May 30th 2012 When It's Time To Go
May 22nd 2012 Members Only
May 15th 2012 Endeavouring To Share And Sharing The Endeavour
May 8th 2012 Stretching The Point
May 1st 2012 An Angel on My Shoulder

April 2012

Apr 24th 2012 Something Is Wrong In Paradise
Apr 17th 2012 If I Had A Photograph Of You
Apr 10th 2012 Apples, Oranges And Chocolate Hobnobs
Apr 3rd 2012 The Size Of The Fight In The Dog

March 2012

Mar 27th 2012 Midnight At The Lost And Found
Mar 20th 2012 People People People
Mar 13th 2012 You're In It To Win It
Mar 6th 2012 Power To The People

February 2012

Feb 28th 2012 The Truth About VaVaVoom
Feb 21st 2012 The Journey Begins
Feb 14th 2012 Don't Look Back In Anger
Feb 6th 2012 Leading By Example
Feb 1st 2012 To give or to grab ...... that's the question

January 2012

Jan 23rd 2012 Start as you mean to go on
Jan 17th 2012 Dub Dub Dub...... it's about your club
Jan 11th 2012 Run Forrest Run - but bring a ball with you
Jan 5th 2012 No Regrets, No Tears Goodbye

October 23rd 2012

That's it from me for 2012

That's it from me for 2012
It's been a pretty decent 2012, let's make 2013 even better.

This will be the final offering from The Preacherman for 2012 and I do hope that the weekly sermon from The Pulpit has provided some food for thought for club members.

I appreciate that not everyone will be bothered to read it each week, and I certainly understand that few will agree with everything that I have had to say, but at the same time, the purpose of developing The Preacherman was to create a debate, either in the changing rooms or on the sideline. I hope it has achieved that at least.

Most of you don’t know me, and while you may know who I am, you will not know much about me personally. To that end it is probably better, as it gives me a little more scope to write, rather than if I was bumping into people on the sideline each week.

At the end of this twelve month stint as The Preacherman I’m as excited by St Clarets GFC as I was when I was asked to step into this role. Things are heading in the right direction with the club, especially at youth level, and I see no reason at all why the club won’t be able to press on for many more years.

But nothing can be taken for granted and especially now during the closed season. Now is the time that things need to get done, so that come the beginning of February and March, everything is in place ready to go for all the teams associated with the club.

Over the next few weeks, people should start to think about what they are willing to do for St Clarets GFC and then what they are able to do. The willingness to be involved and the ability to be involved are two very different things and should never be confused. If you aren’t capable for doing something, be that because of time constraints or other commitments, then don’t volunteer or allow yourself to be volunteered for a role in the club, no matter how willing you may be.

Most of the committees worked pretty well this year, and those who had volunteered to do things, in general did what they had undertaken to do.

However, in my humble opinion, there were a few too many people being asked to wear a few too many hats. This isn’t good for the club and it certainly isn’t good for the individuals concerned.

So from that point of view, we need to take care in 2013 not to overload people with too many positions or tasks. Let them enjoy what they are doing, rather than letting it become toil for them.

Despite there being little action left to take place on the field of play, the social side of the club will be busy over the next month or so, with the Presentation Evening for the youth teams, due to take place at Tir Chonaill Gaels on November 10th , kicking things off.

This group of players, mentors and parents have been exceptional all year and they really do deserve to be recognised for their efforts and achievements by all club members.

Following that on Saturday 24th November the club holds its annual Dinner and Dance and again it’s a great chance for both elements of the club to get together and celebrate another year of football with St Clarets GFC in Hayes.

I won’t be there in person, as I’m in Peru until Christmas, but I’ll be kept informed of how everything goes.

Hopefully you’ll invite me back to write for you next year, but then again, maybe some of you will be glad to see the back of me!!!!

The Preacher Man

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October 16th 2012

Could we have a wee bit of manners please

Donegal: the team have represented the county well.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Donegal. The reasons are many and varied, but the fact that I spent part of my childhood in the county certainly contributes to this fact.

Donegal is a county of great significance in the Irish ex-pat communities across the world, and there are very few areas of the world that you will travel to, where the Irish have established a foothold, that you won’t find someone of Donegal origin at or near the top of ex-pat pile.

During my many sojourns overseas, I’ve had no end of dealings with Donegal folk and I have always found them welcoming and helpful.

Against this backdrop, and supported by the fact that the export of people is the single biggest industry ever to develop in Donegal, I have forever felt that the Tir Chonaill natives have always had an understanding of what it is like to be an ex-pat, a returning exile or a second generation Irish person.

After all, the summer population in the county swells each year, as former residents and their families swarm back to the county from all over England and Scotland especially, but also further afield in New Zealand, Australia and America. This is a county that is all-too-familiar with the movement of people and the return of these same people.

Some years ago I spoke with someone who lived in the Gaeltacht area of Donegal and they told me that when they were at school, of the 30 kids in the class, 27 of them had been born outside of Ireland.

It was a time of relative prosperity in Ireland and hence the cue for exiles to return home to raise their families in the area where they themselves had been raised, as they searched for the best quality of life for their kids.

As I say, the notion of a “foreigner” in Donegal, and especially foreigners with strong Donegal roots, is not a new development in Donegal.

However, last weekend I was saddened to hear about the treatment that a second generation Irish person received at the hands of a representative of the Donegal GAA during an event where the Sam Maguire was on display.

Donegal’s recent All Ireland success is big news and obviously big business too for the GAA in the county, and the cup and the players are in huge demand to be seen at just about every location across the county.

A second generation person on holidays back in Donegal, took their young son along to see the cup and the child, all kitted out in his Donegal jersey, was excited to be in the midst of everything that was going on.

They were unable to get into the event in question, but were assured that they would get a photo opportunity once the cup was brought outside again.

They waited patiently for the Sam Maguire to come out and then approached the people in charge of the cup and asked to have their picture taken.

The response they received was something along the lines of: “We’ve no time, we have to be somewhere else now. And anyway, why would you want a picture, you’re not even Irish.”

Ignorance comes in many, many forms and there has always been a hope that as Ireland has progressed as a nation of both industrial and education, that the ignorance that has always existed, would be softened somewhat. Sadly, judging by the events that took place in Donegal last weekend, this is not the case.

What was even more offensive about this incident, was the fact that the person and the family in question are one of the most patriotic, helpful, generous and welcoming families that I have ever come across, and a family who wear their Irishness and especially their Donegal heritage, like a badge of honour no matter where they travel in the world.

They are a highly respected family within not just the Irish community where they live, but also in their home town in Donegal.

They are a family who have all played Gaelic sports, have all embraced Irish culture and who have been at the centre of all Irish activity in their city of residents from when they first arrived there. They are also a family who have poured money in these same Irish activities.

They are a family who are probably more Irish than most modern day Irish families.

I know that this matter will be pursued further and I hope that the person responsible for this insult will be held accountable for it.

It is not that long ago that an official at a major game in Donegal refused access to the car park for a wheelchair user who was attending the game, and left her with no option but to park away from the ground and make her own way from wherever she parked. It was a PR disaster for the Association in Donegal.

When this story was made public, the County Board and club involved did all they could to repair the damage and the personal hurt that had been directed towards this individual, who herself was a proven, die-hard GAA supporter, with a long established track record of excellent work, not just in Donegal, but also overseas as well.

I hope that once this most recent story finally breaks into the public domain, that Donegal will do the right thing and make amends.

Jim McGuinness and Michael Murphy have been two outstanding ambassadors for the Donegal team throughout this year of success for the team.

It’s an awful pity that some ignorant amadán can undo all of that good work with his inability to consider what he is saying and doing before he says or does it.

Donegal people have carried themselves with great dignity for many years in many countries, and have mostly been well received, no matter where they have gone.

Now they need to make sure that they return the compliment to those who come to their county.

The Preacher Man

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October 10th 2012

It's Good To Talk

It's good to talk
Boylan: a clever man-manager.

In recent months I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of people involved with elite, high performance teams and the coaching structures that exist in supporting these teams.

While the network of resources that are often available to the players in these squads can be quite mesmerising, there was one essential facet that seemed to be missing on far too many occasions.

Despite having an army of strength and conditioning coaches, psychologists, physios, skills coaches, nutritionists at their disposal, the greatest shortcoming in the preparation of the players appeared to be the people-management skills of the men at the very top of the pile: the managers.

There are a lot of very knowledgeable people running teams in all sports; people who have invested heavily in studying coaching methods, and learning how to dissect the tactics of other teams and create tactics for their own teams, or as we’ve said here before – the setting and solving of puzzles.

However, despite the vast knowledge that these people may possess, and despite the hours they may invest in developing training drills and the likes, the one area where far too many of them seem to fall down, is in dealing with players and executing the most basic of human functions – effective communication.

I’ve spoken to players who have been on county teams in Ireland, who have never had any form of a conversation with the manager of the team on which they are playing. They say that all the communication that takes place is one-way; with the manager telling them (as a group) what to do.

There are no personal discussions, no reasons provided for players not being selected, no advice or direction given to enable them to be in contention for selection in the future. It appears that it is left to the players to figure out what’s going wrong and how to solve that problem - provided of course, that they understand what the problem is in the first place.

Years ago I read an article concerning Sean Boylan in his heyday as Meath manager. Back then, Boylan was still a bachelor and would often turn up, often uninvited, at the homes of the players he had playing for him, and sit down to dinner with the player and his family.

This move was excellent management, in that it provided him with an insight into the private lives of his players, but it also opened up a more personal line of communication between manager and player. It showed he had an interest in the players and their families and appreciated that the player had another world away from the football field.

Compare that to some modern high-profile managers who never speak to their players as individuals, and merely engage with them as a group.

Most of the coaches operating at the top of the inter-county pile are much of a muchness. They’re all well-qualified, they all have a track record of success and they all have reputations.

Once appointed into a position, they will surround themselves with top professionals in their given disciplines, and then go about working their players as intensely as possible.

What these people need to understand however, is that while the hurly-burly of the training sessions and the gym work is important, indeed, vitally important, it’s what goes on in those quiet moments between manager and player that can make the world of difference.

We’re constantly reading headlines from the world of soccer about players finding out things from their agents or through the press or twitter about what their club manager has said about them or wants from them - this despite the fact that the player spends three or four hours a day in the company of the manager at training.

If the manager can not find the time to talk directly to his players and have a straight-talk session with them about whatever the issues may be, then the ability of the manager to manage any sports team or group of players must be called into question.

Pro-zone, GPS monitoring and video analysis are all part and parcel of modern day sport, but ultimately the single most effective tool that a coach or manager has at their disposal is a willingness to engage in one-to-one conversation with his or her players.

In a world of hi-tech resources and high octane activity, it’s still good to talk.

The Preacher Man

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October 3rd 2012

GAA abusing its position

GAA abusing its power
Mayo players have given a lot this year.

There are times when the GAA appear to lose sight of the fact that they are an amateur organisation and that the success of their organisation depends one hundred percent on the continued goodwill and understanding that exists between the corridors of power and the people who play the game.

In Ireland, the Association is in a very privileged position of having a real stranglehold on the heart strings of the nation, and as a result, they have virtual carte blanche to do what they want.

Every club player, official and supporter has had the experience of wondering what the hell goes on in the heads of some of the decision makers at county board and central council level, particularly with the scheduling of fixtures and the likes.

A classic example of this is the way in which during the early season competitions each province runs, some games are scheduled to be played mid-week under lights in various parts of the province.

While it is a perfectly acceptable solution to getting these competitions played in quick fire time before the National League starts, the challenges it presents to players to get to these games are considerable to say the least.

Given that most inter-county footballers are going to call on the goodwill of their employers throughout the year on a number of occasions, to start to take advantage of this goodwill so early in the year is pushing things a bit.

Some of the guys will be working in bigger cities like Dublin and Belfast, and being asked to get to another part of the respective province at the end of a day’s work and in time for a 7.30pm throw-in is asking an awful lot. However, it seems that the GAA can ask whatever it wants and like a spoilt child, get it. Meanwhile the players dutifully keep their heads down and do what they are told to do.

And this attitude was brought to a head last week when the Mayo football team announced that they wouldn’t be travelling to New York next week to fulfil their fixture in the FBD League Final against the team from the Big Apple.

The Mayo board were highly apologetic about the situation, but highlighted the difficulty that they would have in getting a team over there.

With their own club Championship having been put on hold to accommodate the county team’s efforts to win the All Ireland, the pressure is now on to get the competition finished in time to make sure that Mayo have a representative in the Connacht Club Championship competition. With ten players of Mayo’s panel tied up in these vital Championship matches, the notion of a long weekend in New York wasn’t an option for these guys. After all, the GAA keep telling us that club comes first.

Further to that, a dozen or so of the team have said that either work or family would prevent them from heading away for another extended weekend in the name of football, so they would have to duck out of the trip, leaving the Mayo management with just ten players to choose from.

So Mayo did what they had to do and announced that they wouldn’t be travelling, while also extending their sincerest apologies to New York and the sponsors of the competition FBD.

Given the year that Mayo have had and the amount of commitment that these players have given to the cause and personal sacrifice that they have made, together with the amount of money they have helped to feed into the GAA money-making machine, surely a “No problem” would have been the acceptable reaction from the powers that be in Connacht.

But no, they vented their displeasure at the fixture not taken place and said they would announce later what the sanctions they would take against Mayo. It appears that expelling them from next year’s FBD League is one of those possible sanctions.

Obviously many of these decision makers are annoyed by the fact that they won’t be going to New York in their very important “official capacities” and that Mayo need to be made aware of just how annoyed they are about this situation.

But the point these guys must never lose sight of is that without the goodwill of the players and the people who run these teams, there are no jobs or jollies for the suits in the corridors of power.

Instead of voicing their displeasure, the Connacht board should have had a look at what they could do with this trip that would benefit some other county and still meet the obligation to fulfil a fixture in New York.

Would it benefit London in their preparation for the 2013 National League? Should the trip be awarded to Sligo for their efforts in the Connacht Championship? Or should they put the money into player / coaching development in the weaker counties?

New York have lost out slightly but I am sure the players would be happy to play any county. Their Connacht Championship game is the key one in New York and as it’s fully seven months away, the quality of the opposition in this one isn’t vital to their preparation.

The decision makers need to appreciate just how much work now goes into getting ready to play inter-county football these days. For most, it’s a five or six day a week commitment for eight or nine months of the year. To expect players to continue to have the appetite to do this, for free, then an appreciation of their efforts needs to be shown, and the notion of making them feel guilty for not be able to leave their clubs, families and job in October, at the end of a tough year, is not a very productive attitude to take.

As stated at the beginning, the GAA is in a very privileged position in Ireland and it’s a position that they need to be careful not to abuse.

Goodwill has an expiry date.

The Preacher Man

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September 26th 2012

Jimmy's winning matches

Jimmy's winning matches
Jimmy McGuinness saw his plan through to completion.

The Mayo faithful among you will not wish to be reminded of this fact, but Jimmy carries on winning matches.

With Donegal’s first All Ireland in twenty-years tucked away, manager Jimmy McGuinness is quite rightly being hailed for the work he has done with the side.

For years the Tir Chonaill men were a basket-case of a football team. The drink culture that existed within the football fraternity, (although maybe exaggerated somewhat), was destroying any hope that the talent that existed within the confines of Donegal, would ever produce anything other than the wrong sort of headlines and rumours.

Years without an Ulster title provided proof that talent alone will not get you anywhere and as the players of Armagh and Tyrone gobbled down the hard work being demanded from them by their mentors and produced All Ireland titles while doing so, the Donegal players seemed content to create division within their own camp with a total lack of focus and application to what they were supposed to be doing.

As a result, a generation of footballers like Brian Roper, Kevin Cassidy and Brendan Devenney all ended their long inter-county careers without anything of any real substance to show for it.

Then along came Jimmy McGuinness with his four word bible – “Commit, Focus, Believe, Achieve”.

Today McGuinness revealed that the hardest part of that bible to get across was the commit part, and that in itself was the rod that Donegal football had been beating itself with for far too many years.

However, once they had crossed that hurdle, the rest fell into place, and in the past two years, Donegal have undergone the sort of facelift that is usually only reserved for aging Hollywood actresses.

Suddenly though, Donegal were the team to keep an eye on.

No easy road
It wasn’t an easy road and last year the criticism of Donegal’s style was pretty full on, but it was all part of the building process. You can’t build a house without a foundation and you certainly don’t worry about the colour scheme in the living room until the house is water tight. McGuinness looked after the foundations and the water -proofing in his first 18-months or so in charge, and on Sunday, they decorated the living room.

It takes a strong character to handle the abuse he has taken and an even stronger manager to keep players totally committed to the plan. No doubt at times there were concerns raised as they played out drab single-figure draws in last year’s Championship, but McGuiness made them believe.

Anyone who has ever met and spoken with McGuinness would have to be impressed by him. He’s intelligent and articulate but most importantly, he appears genuine.

Back in 2001 or so, McGuinness trained a few nights with London and despite the fact that the training that the team were doing was archaic, poorly attended and without any particular game plan, he came off the field full of praise for what was going on and spent plenty of time afterwards talking to the trainer about things that could be done differently, but also things that were being done well. It was a positive experience for everyone involved and I should know, as I was that trainer.

Jimmy’s winning matches now and he needs to take a lot of personal credit for the way he has conducted himself as manager of the Donegal team over the past two years.

His game plan has to change again now, as from this moment on, he is managing a team of All Ireland winners, which is a very different proposition to managing a team of players who desperately want to win an All Ireland, as many managers have found out in the past.

It remains to be seen whether Jimmy will still be winning matches in 2013.

The Preacher Man

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September 19th 2012

I have a dream

I have a dream
2013 will be what we make it ourselves.

I have a dream. Some would say it’s a mad crazy dream, but as it’s my dream, it’s allowed to be as far fetched as the parameters of my mind permit.

It’s the sort of dream that would have some dialling for the guys with the white coats to come along and save me from myself, but it’s also the sort of dream that will intrigue other people.

This dream is set on a cold foggy winter weekend in Dublin (Croke Park to be precise), and in the dream, St Clarets are playing in an All Ireland club final under the floodlights.

Only one team from Britain has achieved this feat before, when John Mitchells of Liverpool fell at the final hurdle in 2009, but it proves that it can be done.

Last year, a relatively new club from Newcastle, Cuchullains, managed to qualify for an All Irelands quarter-final, proof again that amazing things can be achieved by GAA clubs in Britain.

Now I appreciate that by this stage some of those reading may have switched off completely, but that doesn’t concern me. These are people who we can either convince that this can happen, or they are people that can be dispensed with along the journey that my dream is taking.

The dream doesn’t have an ending as such, as I don’t know whether St Clarets win their game in Croke Park or not, and that is almost irrelevant. What is important is that St Clarets play in Croke Park.

Without wishing to go over old ground again, we know that at senior level in St Clarets that we are a little lost at present.

However, all we need to do is take a look across at our old rival St Brendans, who were just as lost as us this time last year, to know that salvation is never too far away in London football.

Once saved, well let’s just say that anything can happen.

This time last year, St Brendans were struggling to beat Thomas McCurtains in their final group game in the Intermediate Football Championship.

Had they lost that game, they would have been playing us in relegation play-off. Last Saturday, they won the IFC and are back as a senior club again.

Dramatic turnarounds are possible in London football. However, they don’t happen by accident.

The journey that St Brendans are undertaking now into the British Provincial Championship and beyond is one that we are well capable of undertaking ourselves. However, we all know that the level of collective commitment and organisation that we displayed at senior level in 2012 is no where near enough to make this happen.

I’ve said this before here, that we are the architects of our own situation at the moment, but by the same token, what we must remember is that we are also the architects of where we will go in the future.

2012 was not a good year for St Clarets in adult football and there is no point in pretending it was. Save for the few pluses of managing to develop some of our younger players a little further and the fact that we avoided a relegation play-off, there are few real positives to be taken out of the senior side of things.

All the glory for 2012 once more belongs among the youth ranks of the club. September 2012 is when we must start planning for 2013 and not in a “put it on the long finger sort of way”.

As a club we need to collectively start to think about how we can move this thing forward and with purpose, for at the moment, all the movement is backwards and there is precious little purpose in what we are doing.

The great thing is that it’s not a doomsday scenario and we can change this situation ourselves, but it won’t happen by accident.

If St Brendans can change their fortunes so rapidly, if John Mitchells of Liverpool can end up playing in Croke Park and if Cuchullains of Newcastle can make it to an All Ireland quarter-final, then St Clarets can do the same and more.

By no means am I suggesting that this transformation will happen overnight, but we can start to lay the foundations for it next year, and who knows what the following year will hold.

I have a dream and I see no reason why that dream should not come true.

The Preacher Man

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September 12th 2012

Adults dismantling the ABC

ABC Games
The ABC Games September 15th 2012.

You may recall how during the summer, the inaugural ABC Gaelic Games tournament had to be postponed due to the state of the pitches at Greenford.

With months of preparation having been invested in the tournament, the organisers were forced to pull the plug under advice from the local council, just days before it was due to take place.

It was an unavoidable decision but still a source of huge disappointment to all concerned.

Undeterred by the set-back, the organising committee vowed to stage the event at some point later in the year, and this weekend, the first every All Britain Championship games takes place in Greenford.

The tournament itself will only be a shadow of what had been initially planned, with the three day event being reduced to just one day and the number of teams cut by 40% or so.

Nonetheless, the event promises to be a great occasion for all involved with promoting youth football in Britain.

Sadly though, it appears that certain players will miss out on the chance to play in these games and those players will come from St Clarets and St Kiernans football clubs.

With both teams struggling to field teams at Under-14 grade, the two clubs submitted a request in July that they could field a joint team, under the name St Clarets at the ABC games.

This request was granted.

Since then, the landscape appears to have changed and one is left wondering what has happened that has led the organisers to inform the clubs on Tuesday night that their invitation had been withdrawn and that the clubs could only field individually and not as a joint team.

There were two reasons given for this decision. Firstly, that there was a feeling among other clubs that this joint team might be too strong for the competition and that in the spirit of fairness it shouldn’t be allowed to field.

The other reason was that as both clubs had fielded teams in the League and Championship at this age group, they should be able to field in this tournament too.

Valid arguments? Well yes on the outside, but like all argument, sometimes you have to peel back a few layers to see the other side of the debate.

Yes St Clarets and St Kiernans did field in the League and Championship; but they both fielded teams that were made up of under-12 and sometimes under-10 players, just to get team on the field.

These were not competitive teams.

Given that some of these younger players will be involved in the Under-10 and Under-12 tournaments at the ABC games, it is not possible for them to also play in the Under 14 tournament. Therefore, the two teams need to combine to make up their numbers and ensure that the Under-14 players from both clubs get a chance to play.

And as far as the argument regarding the team being too strong is concerned, this is based on the fact that nine of these players played for North London in the Feile in Ireland in the summer.

That’s nine of the 22 players involved, with two more coming from North London Shamrocks and the remainder from Tara and Parnells - meaning that 11 of the players on duty came from those two clubs.

So while any proposed St Clarets team may have a slight advantage in terms of quality, it isn’t that great, maybe one or two players of county standard above two of their north London rivals. We can’t compare them to the teams from other counties because we have no idea of the quality of teams from Warwickshire, Lancashire or elsewhere.

The decision seems spiteful and where that spite comes from we don’t know. The fact that the ruling was made without any prior knowledge of the club is embarrassing for the organisers, with the first that either club knew of the decision, or the prospect of this decision, being when the mentors were emailed to let them know that they weren’t welcome at the tournament.

There are a lot of people wondering what has driven this? It’s certainly driven by an adult or group of adults somewhere, which to me is very concerning because any adult who is so obsessed by winning and beating the opposition when managing an Under-14 team, is not fit to be manager of an Under-14 team, or any youth team for that matter.

A great deal of care is taken these days to try and keep kids in sport safe from the unsavoury side of society and that is an ongoing battle. However, if idiots who are driven only by the number of medals that their kids win are allowed to manage teams, then there is more work to be done.

Sport at this age group is about learning, playing and developing. The minute it becomes only about winning, especially for those in charge, then the sport has a problem.

The importance of winning will come later, and while we want kids to try hard and be competitive during games, when their is a rabid obsession to achieve success coming from the mentors on the sideline, then sadly things are in a desperate state.

This action, by whichever unnamed club / clubs, stinks of small mindedness and of people with an axe to grind somewhere.

The one thing that they are not concerned about is the development of the young Gaelic footballers in London. Sadly it would appear that these people’s own personal achievements and agendas are of far greater importance to them.

We can only hope that those in charge of these games will finally see the vindictiveness and the spite that is driving this motion and that common sense will prevail so that the two clubs will be allowed to enter their under-14 team.

The Preacher Man

(The decision to exclude the St Clarets / St Kiernans team from the ABC games was reversed the day after this article was posted, when the organisers recognised the reason for the need to combine the two teams).

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September 5th 2012

Is it can't or won't?

Is it can't or won't?
Paralympian James O'Shea along with Mark Foster.

This week I enjoyed the great privilege of attending the Paralympic Games.

Part of the package we had was a talk from Olympian Mark Foster, who spoke of his association with James O'Shea, a double leg amputee, whom he met while working on a TV show, "Dancing On Wheels".

James lost his legs 15 years ago when falling under a train one New Years Eve and since then, he has had to overcome all the unimaginable obstacles that someone with his disability has to learn to face on a daily basis.

While working together on the show, Foster noticed a few things about O'Shea; of course he noticed his steely determination, but as well as that, he also noticed his natural athleticism, his almost effortless coordination and his movement.

Foster asked James if he could swim and when O'Shea said he loved to swim, Foster asked him if he would like to swim in the Paralympics in 2012.

James said he'd love to give it a go and without ever seeing him swim, Foster undertook to help O'Shea achieve this goal.

This was 2010.

He brought him to Barnet Copthall swimming pool and introduced him to a coach there and since then, bit by bit, O'Shea has progressed toward his goal.

Last March he achieved the qualifying time for his event in the Paralympics and tonight, shortly after 6pm, James will be swimming in the Olympic pool in the final of the SB5 100 metre breaststroke.

Stories like these are of course commonplace among conversations these days, as the Paralympics take centre stage. We are quite naturally in awe of what these athletes are capable of dong and the obstacles that they have overcome. However, instead of merely marvelling at their achievements, what able bodied people should be asking is: "What's stopping me from achieving something amazing for myself in my life?"

Few who have had the good fortune of attending the Paralympics could not be touched by what they have seen. It's an incredibly emotional and humbling experience, and while we would like to think that these memories, images and emotions will stay with us forever, the likelihood is that time will erase a good deal of it.

And that's a real pity, as people like James O'Shea are inspirational figures, and as sorry as we may feel for their physical plight in life, they have every bit as much right to feel sorry for the underachievement that most of us are guilty of in our lives.

The Paralympics have once again taught us that there is no such word as can't and when we say: "I can't do that" what we really mean is: "I won't even try to do that".

The day after my trip to the games, I went to the cinema, and during the trailers I saw an advert for the Paralympics.

The advert drove home the reality of just how quickly life can be turned on its head in an instant. There’s no escaping the fact that we are often merely inches or seconds away from having everything changed forever.

So often it is said that it is only in the very darkest hour that the human being finds out what they are truly capable of. Each and every one of the athletes at the Paralympics is living proof of this.

Maybe now, after seeing these athletes doing what they do, despite their limitations, the able bodied among us should vow to make the most of what we have, while the lights are still bright.

The Preacher Man

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August 29th 2012

The cherry, on top of the icing, on top of the cake

The Cherry On Top Of The Icing On Top Of The Cake
The 2012 Donegal Senior Football Squad.

Few things in top level football happen by accident. Most things are the result of planning, practice and perfect execution. These are the things that amaze the supporters, but merely please the management and players. These are the things that make all the hard work worthwhile.

Ever since the appointment of Jim McGuinness as manager of the Donegal senior team, I have had a fascination with how it would progress in the job.

I’m of the generation that remembers Jim in his “Jesus Christ” days, back when he sported the beard and the long hair, the eternal student, the guy who played in seven Sigerson competitions, a guy who - to many - was a bit of a joker, to others a joke.

What we didn’t realise back in those days, was that behind the beard, the long hair and the party boy image, was a serious mind; the sort of mind that had the capacity to re-invent a game.

No doubt encouraged by the work of the likes of Joe Kiernan and Mickey Harte a decade ago, McGuinness has not just taken on the job of managing the Donegal senior football team, but also of changing an entire mindset of how to play football and how to behave, especially when you decide to suffix your name with the words inter-county footballer.

McGuinness has quite literally re-invented the circle in Donegal and as it approaches its final test run in Croke Park in a few weeks time, the results thus far would suggest that he has improved the circle considerably.

But how does this happen and why can’t every inter-county manager achieve what McGuinness has achieved?

Well firstly McGuinness has a plan, it’s a carefully crafted plan and he has spent many years working on it, tweaking it and perfecting it.

It has been said that when he first showed members of the county board his vision for the future of Donegal football several years ago, he was quite literally laughed out of the room. The old heads sitting at the top table couldn’t take Jimmy McGuinness seriously, they knew too much about him to ever do that.

However, Championship win with Glenties in Donegal and with Donegal U21s in Ulster made people sit up and listen to him, and as Donegal football found itself in a heap on the floor in 2010, the old heads once more interviewed McGuinness, but this time they listened.

The thing about McGuinness’ plan is that it is backed up by expertise. McGuinness has someone in place for every discipline and he has belief in his ability to manage people and communicate a message. He has backed himself one hundred per cent to bring success and discipline to Donegal football.

Everything that Donegal do is thought about. Every run that a corner forward or a corner back makes has a purpose, it’s almost scripted and the players have bought into Jim’s plan with such conviction, that they are physically ready for the challenges that this very complex piece of choreography will present to them. This is the most committed group of footballers ever to come out of Donegal.

And the thing about this group of Jim’s is that they love every one of those runs because they believe in this plan.

But aside from the physical preparation, the game plan, the psychology work that the players undertake, the nutrition plans and the sense of identity that the players have with this vintage of Donegal football, there is still more that is required in order to make the difference between the Donegal of old and the new generation.

Every team they have played, especially in the later stages of the Championship, are well-drilled, highly-trained, extremely fit, hugely motivated and organised. These are not easy teams to beat.

Consider Donegal’s last four matches: Tyrone, Down, Kerry and Cork, - between them, at least one of those teams has appeared in each of the last ten All Ireland finals, and mostly there have been two of them. These were seriously motivated, ambitious and well organised teams, yet and all, Donegal were superior to them in almost every aspect of the game.

So what was the difference? Well in my mind there is one simple photograph that sums up the level of attention to detail that the present Donegal team have, that maybe most other teams don’t have. This is the “Jimmy factor” if you like.

After the last two Ulster Finals, when the crowd had gone, the Donegal team have walked back out on to the pitch in Clones and had a photograph taken with the cup.

No doubt the thirst for a few beers and the chance to catch up with family and friends was gripping after winning an Ulster title, or at least it would have been with previous Donegal teams, but instead, this Donegal team, posed for a well-organised and structured picture, a checkpoint in their march towards football perfection.

Not for this group the traditional fair of O’Neill’s tracksuit and t-shirt, but instead it was neat chinos and polo shirts, along with matching shoes and belts. Donegal are a team that looks a class apart and thus far this year, have played a class apart.

Wearing chinos isn’t what makes a player a good player, or a team a good team, but having the attention to detail that makes someone considers how the team will look when they take an historic team photo, with everyone looking very much part of a well drilled and well disciplined team, is the cherry, on top of the icing, on top of the cake mix that makes a great football team.

The Preacher Man

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August 22nd 2012

Help - we need somebody

Help - we need somebody
The 2012 St Clarets senior team.

Washing what some may perceive to be dirty linen in public is always a very dangerous occupation. It can backfire spectacularly if one isn’t careful.

I’ve been caught standing right behind that backfire on a number of occasions, and in an arena as emotionally charged as amateur sport can be, where there is such a reliance on people volunteering their time, then the risks are pretty high.

However, in my prime, such risks never bothered me too much, and the sight of blue air coming from changing rooms in which I was sitting was not an uncommon occurrence.

While I don’t regret many of the heated exchanges that I have been involved in, the one lesson that I have learned, is that if there is to be criticism dealt then firstly, never personalise it and secondly, always offer a solution.

Over the course of this piece, I am going to attempt to do both.

So far in 2012 the St Clarets senior team have played just 12 full-sided matches.

These are broken down as follows: Pre-season challenge games - 2: Murphy Cup matches - 3: Sean Shield Cup matches - 1: Div 3 League games - 3: Intermediate Championship games - 3.

Further to this, we were awarded one walk-over against Robert Emmetts and we also awarded a walk-over to Tir Chonaill Gaels in the League (although this game, in agreement with both the County Board and Tir Chonaill Gaels, will now be re-fixed).

Over the course of the twelve games that we have played, we have won one Championship game, one League game and one Murphy Cup game and in doing so, we have used a staggering 44 different players.

This is no witch-hunt, as there is nothing to gain from such things in a club like St Clarets.

Each man involved has to make his own decision as to how he has represented himself this year and whether they feel they have offered anything of value to St Clarets in 2012.

Based on the evidence provided above, St Clarets have a real struggle on our hands and it’s nothing to do with winning trophies or anything of that nature.

What it is about though is who cares if this club survives or not, who is committed to the club and who is just using it as a play thing to amuse themselves when they have nothing else to do.

If we’re honest about the whole thing, we are very lucky to have retained our Intermediate status this year, and but for our win against Garryowen, we would be in genuine trouble. Certainly judging by the attitude displayed toward our final Championship game last weekend, we currently have an adult team that doesn’t really give a hoot. However, highlighting that game is merely for the purpose of providing an example, as I could have pretty well picked any other game this year as an example.

If we are determined to make things better within the adult sector of this club, then first and foremost, we need to make sure that the mistakes of this year and the past few years are not repeated.

Failing to field, as we did two weeks ago against Tir Chonaill Gaels, is simply unforgivable, especially when the club only has a handful of games to play each year in the first place. It’s the act of a group of people who simply don’t care.

Going all year without a recognised manager is also ridiculous. People have stepped into the breach and tried to sort things out in various ways, but it is totally unsatisfactory that there is no one person in charge of this team - one man who can set the tone for how the team is going to operate.

That’s probably the single most crucial factor that is damaging the senior club at this moment in time.

The club needs to get that sorted out sooner rather than later, and in order to do so, we need to start making enquiries now and getting commitment now, as opposed to April next year. Asking someone to come in on a mission of mercy in July to repair a mess, is no good to anyone.

Somewhere in London or Hertfordshire there is a very capable person who would be delighted to manage this team, and this team desperately needs someone to manage them.

Once there is someone at the helm from Day One, then we can start to look at other aspects of the team that need to be addressed.

The Preacher Man

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August 15th 2012

Management - More Than The Game

Management - More Than The Game
Many managers know very little about the people they manage.

Back when I was starting out in football and making a break onto the county team, I experienced two very different approaches to how a manager manages the same situation.

In my first year, when in my own head I was quite literally along for the ride, I had absolutely no expectation whatsoever of playing in the Championship game.

All I did was turn up at training every night and do exactly what was asked of me every night, hoping to lay the foundations for years ahead.

On the night the Championship team was to be named, the manager approached me before the meeting and pulled me aside. He simply said; “I’m afraid you didn’t make the team this year and I’ll be honest with you, it was a close call. The vote among the selectors was one each. I had the casting vote and went against you.”

I was stunned, not by the fact that I wasn’t playing, but by the fact that the manager had been so honest about the process and that he had taken the time to deliver the news in person. To this day, I hold that man in very high regard.

The following year there was a different man in charge. What had been expected from us was altogether different from the year before. By the time the team came to be named for the Championship, we had given everything we had (and more) in our efforts to make the final XV.

The team was named and that was that. A full stop followed the name of the left corner forward and we were sent home. I wasn’t on the team and understandably, there were a lot of angry men leaving that meeting room that night.

The following night at training, the non-starters were sent away with a football to amuse themselves, while the starting team was worked with. It was an appalling piece of management and it further alienated a manager who had lost a great deal of credibility the previous night.

Later that evening, I was in the changing room on my own after training and the manager walked in. There was an uncomfortable silence between us and then after a few minutes he said: “You don’t look too happy”.

That was it, that was his reaction to a player who had just given four nights a week for the previous four months and who had gone way above the call of duty in helping the team in a multitude of ways. “You don’t look too happy”.

Talking to people involved in elite sport in Ireland these days, it is incredible how little time managers, especially in the GAA, invest in their players.

Many of these managers are merely managing the game. During the week, coaches do all the work with the players and then come match day, the manager will give a tub-thumping and passionate team talk, they pick the team, they throw a few things around the changing room at half-time, they make changes as they see fit and they do very little else with the players.

After the game they talk of devastation or bad refereeing decisions to the press and they head off. It’s quite possible that the members of the media get more one-to-one time each week with some of these managers than their players do.

There are so many variables that can be thrown in to the mix when managing people. Issues with work, with relationships, with children, with injuries with health, with money, with personal problems; they are all there and just because the player is an elite athlete, doesn’t mean that the player is any less affected by them.

On top of that, players need to be told what they are doing wrong or what is missing from their game that is preventing them from making the starting team or from finishing games each week.

As a manager, you need to know what the hell is going on in the lives of your players.

Most inter-county managers are going to demand somewhere in the region of 25 to 30 hours of commitment from their players each week. To achieve that, the players have to make enormous sacrifices.

For a manager not to understand what these sacrifices may be is criminal and for them not to have the decency to sit down with a player when he hasn’t made the team, after making all those sacrifices, is almost inhumane.

One of the difficulties that some top managers have in the GAA especially, is that many of them never had to sit in a changing room, having given everything they had in the preparation for a game and then to hear that they hadn’t made the team.

It is one of the most chilling and devastating moments you will ever experience in your sporting life. If you’ve never experienced it, you’ll never understand how it feels.

There are a lot of guys out there making a big name for themselves because they know a lot about their sport, but it’s also pretty obvious that they know very little about people or management.

The Preacher Man

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August 8th 2012

Setting The Standards

Setting The Standards
Kieran McGeeney: driven, ambitious and a winner.

Intense would be one word to describe Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney: perfectionist, driven and ambitious are others.

Those who don’t understand the Armagh native, might lean towards other descriptions such as looper, psycho, lunatic or plain and simply nuts, but that would be grossly unfair on the 2002 All Ireland winning captain.

McGeeney is the sort of guy who sets the bar high when it comes to standards of preparation and participation. He’s also the sort of guy who, as soon as he sees those that are in his pack getting close to reaching the levels he has set, then goes out and sets the bar even higher. He leads and expects others to follow.

He’s driven, he’s motivated, he’s ambitious and he’s intense. Or in other words, he’s a winner.

Last weekend his Kildare team were soundly beaten by a more physical, more dominant Cork side. For McGeeney and Kildare, this was a significant defeat. This is McGeeney’s team, one hundred per cent his creation, without so much as another man’s fingerprint on it, and McGeeney knows this.

The defeat will have hurt him badly and just as he did in 2003, when his Armagh side were defeated by Tyrone in the All Ireland final, he will have hung around long enough after the game to make sure the hurt percolated through to every last fibre of his being, making sure that he had the ammunition required for the challenges that next year may hold.

The difference though between this year and 2003, is that McGeeney doesn’t know whether he’ll be undertaking those challenges with Kildare or not.

The thing about people like McGeeney is that they are also very honest – brutally honest at times, both with themselves and with those around them. This is all part of being a driven, ambitious person.

In the aftermath of this defeat last week, McGeeney was at his brutally honest best, and when asked about his own future, he was uncertain (as all managers are at this point). However, the uncertainty didn’t appear to be about whether he wanted to continue in the job, but whether those in charge would want him to do so.

In assessing his five years with the Lilywhites, McGeeney will look upon it as a failure, a total failure, and that will hurt him.

Yes people will dress it up and talk about bad luck, All Ireland semi-finals and Leinster finals, but McGeeney didn’t take on the job to participate, he took it on to win and he said as much after the game: "We all like to talk about it being participation and people will say that but, let's be honest, it's not.

“It's great for our kids - and that's the way it should be - but when you get to this level it is about winning."

When you’re as driven as McGeeney is, then winning is everything. Whether with Queens University, his home club Mullaghbawn, his adopted club Na Fianna, Armagh, Kildare or Ireland, McGeeney has always been about winning.

Failure to win is very personal to him, even though he is just a cog in the whole set up. When you undertake to set the agenda, the tone and the standards, as well as demanding perfection from those around you, then defeat has to be personal.

McGeeney is an inspirational character, he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at the same time, most competitive people would rather have him with them than against them.

Sadly, in certain environments, characters like McGeeney aren’t appreciated as they ask far more than those around him are willing to give. And that’s a tragedy for all concerned.

Should McGeeney no longer be required in Kildare, then there will be others who would love to have him.

That said, he may well decide to bide his time and wait for the right opportunity, just to make sure that he is surrounded by people who are prepared to follow wherever he may lead.

The Preacher Man

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August 1st 2012

Representing Yourself

Representing Yourself
Tom Daley: wrongly abused.

I have long been a disciple of the school of thought that every time you step on to a football field, you are first and foremost representing yourself.

Much importance is placed on representing your club or the badge and these are valuable principles, but the fact is, that if you represent yourself well on the field of play, then by default, you will represent all the other relevant bodies with dignity as well; be that your family, your club, your school, your county or your country.

The first time I mentioned this philosophy to someone, a man who is well respected and a very senior figure in his community, he was quite taken aback by the insightfulness of it. Whether it was because of the principle itself or whether it was because it had been mentioned by me, I never quite figured out, by whichever way, he was impressed by my train of thought.

There have been times since then when I’ve found myself in situations during a game, where it would have to be said that I was “letting myself down”. Trying to correct this behaviour when the red mist is down is a difficult thing to do, and it is often only well after the event that you’re left wondering: “What the hell happened there?”

The concept of not representing yourself well can fall into several different categories. There is of course your behaviour, your ability to conduct yourself properly no matter the provocation you are faced with, be it psychological, verbal or physical.

And then there is the level of your performance. No one (unless you happen to play women’s doubles badminton to Olympic standard) ever goes out to play badly or to make mistakes, but in any sporting arena, and particularly the amateur sporting arena, mistakes are common place and unfortunately, some are regarded as more crucial than others.

A free-taker can miss a dozen frees during the course of a season that will go pretty much unnoticed. However, miss one in the dying minutes of the county final, a miss that ends up costing your team the title, then in some people’s eyes, you’ve let the team, your team mates and your parish down.

But that’s very unfair, because unless the miss was deliberate, then you haven’t let anyone down.

The recent ridiculous Twitter abuse directed towards British diver Tom Daley was wholly unacceptable and only a moron would write a tweet along the lines of “You’ve let your dad down”.

Daley had spoken openly prior to the Olympics about how difficult 2012 had been for him following on from the death of his father last year, and obviously his thoughts were with his father coming into the games.

When Daley and his diving partner Pete Waterfield came fourth in the men's synchronised 10 metre platform competition, several tweeters decided to goad him about his failure, with one in particular over-stepping the mark of good taste, by making reference to his father and how Daley had let him down.

Whether you are an Olympic standard athlete, a world class footballer or an amateur GAA player, no one has the right to judge whether you have let people down or not. Only you have the right to decide who you may or may not have let down, and that examination has to start with the simple question; “Did I let myself down?”

If you can honestly say that you have done your best and that you have not let yourself down, then you do not have to worry ever about having let other people down.

When you step out on the field of play, first and foremost you represent yourself. If you fail to meet the standards that you have set yourself in both your performance and behaviour, then you must examine how you prepared and how you performed.

If you prepared poorly, either in training or in your immediate preparation before the game, then you can say that you let yourself down.

If on the other hand you are happy with the preparation you put in, but things still didn’t go your way, then you’ll just have to put it down to the will of the sporting gods.

And if your behaviour and conduct wasn’t up to scratch, then it is you and you alone that has to live with the humiliating embarrassment of that.

The Preacher Man

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July 25th 2012

Remembering The Last Time

Remembering The Last Time
Brian McGuigan: possibly one of those to leave.

There’s a first time for everything, but there’s also a last time for everything.

The first time we generally attach great importance to: the first step, the first word, the first pint, the first car, the first girlfriend, the first house etc. There’s a card and a memory to fit just about every one of these first time occasions.

The last time though is often different. There are events that we know will be the last time we do something: our last day at school, our last day as a single person, our last day in a certain job; mostly we know these events are happening.

But then there are the unexpected and unplanned events too: the last kiss before a break up, the last time we ever see someone, the last time we ever visit somewhere; events that we fail to fully understand the significance of as they are taking place.

This thought came to mind last Saturday during the Kerry and Tyrone match. These two teams were the giants of the noughties, with Kerry winning five All Irelands and appearing in three more finals, while Tyrone won three titles. Their battles provided the backdrop to Gaelic games for a decade.

Both teams have evolved greatly over the course of time, sometimes through necessities and tragedy, while other times through the devil that is the ageing process. Therefore, the two teams lining out in Killarney last Saturday evening, although having a familiar feel to them, have actually been the product of careful evolution.

Kerry of course are the masters of this practice and with the exception of an interruption in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kerry have the evolution thing off to a fine art. Tyrone though are struggling with their process at the moment, but that’s not to say that they won’t get there.

Part of this evolution process includes the fact that people have to leave in order to create room for the new arrivals.

Some get to decide the exact moment when they leave. For example, Peter Canavan in 2005, knew that he was going to retire at the end of the season, but was lucky enough to know that the last day that Tyrone trained prior to the All Ireland Final was the last day that he would ever sit in the Tyrone changing room after a training session as a Tyrone player. It was an occasion he would have been able to reflect upon.

Same too when he walked off the field at the end of the game, he knew, whether they had won or lost, that it was the last time that he would walk off the field as a Tyrone player. He left on his terms savouring the fact that it was the last time.

However, the same privilege won’t be afforded all of his team mates. Leaving training on Thursday evening last week, there would have been no thoughts about getting beaten by Kerry; all the focus would have been on executing the game plan and winning the match.

One week later, some of them will never again sit in the Tyrone changing room.

Among these victims will be handful who have contributed very little to the Tyrone team over the years. Squad players, brought in with one eye on the potential they had, but sadly for them, not quite good enough to fulfil that potential. Leaving alongside them though may well be a crew of individuals who have quite literally dedicated their entire young lives to Tyrone football and the pursuit of excellence.

For these guys, some sitting with fifteen or sixteen years of commitment to their names stretching from minor and Under-21 through to senior, they will have left the changing room for the last time last week, not realising that that was the full stop at the end of the sentence.

In the wake of last year’s elimination from the Championship several key players decided to take their leave; men like Brian Dooher, Philip Jordan and Kevin Hughes.

This year there will be others.

And that’s just the Tyrone story, brought into focus purely because of the significance of the game in Killarney last weekend.

Over the course of the next few weeks, many inter county players will take their leave of the county team, having walked out of the changing room the night before their team’s exit from the Championship, not realising that it would be the last time.

I bet most of them can vividly remember the first time they walked in and the significance of that event in their development as a Gaelic footballer. How many will be able to do the same with the last time?

The Preacher Man

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July 18th 2012

Simple as ABC

Simple As ABC
A festival of football awaits this weekend at Greenford.

This weekend’s inaugural All Britain Championships, which are being staged at Greenford, present the GAA fraternity throughout the UK with an opportunity to admire and acknowledge the huge effort and commitment being invested in young people and Gaelic games by an army of dedicated and selfless coaches throughout this island.

The games themselves promise to be pretty spectacular in terms of size, with the organisers expecting over 1000 young players to be taking part on the first two days of the competition. It’s a massive undertaking and one that the organisers should take great credit for.

The concept of the games was conceived by current Provincial Council President Brendie Brien, a man who has spent many years working on committees, both in the UK and in Croke Park, that are designed to improve and develop the games in the various satellite states where the GAA operates. Brendie is a well known and well respected figure in the corridors of power.

Having travelled to America with one of the London minor teams a few years ago, Brendie considered the cost of that trip and the fact that it benefited very few people.

He wondered whether the same money could be put towards an event in Britain that would benefit all the young kids who play our games and not just those who are lucky enough to be boarding that 747 every year to head to Chicago, New York or Sam Francisco.

And so the ABC tournament was born, and in conjunction with Croke Park, Brendie is about to realise his vision.

The games development structures within the GAA in Britain are getting stronger and each county now has its own development officer who works with both clubs and schools to try and both maximise the footprint of the GAA in their area and also to make sure that the coaching being carried out is of a high quality.

The results of all this investment and work will be seen this weekend in Greenford.

For St Clarets it’s a wonderful opportunity too, with the club fielding teams in at least three age groups. As we’ve often said here before, the Clarets have a strong history in investing in young kids and giving them the opportunity to develop onto our adult teams. The fact that we still have eleven London born players in the senior squad, shows that there are action behind the words.

However, there is plenty we can still learn from other clubs and over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to a number of people from London clubs with youth sections and I’ve been interested to listen to the way that their clubs choose to run their youth teams.

One, our close neighbours Heston, try and make sure that there are some of their London born senior players at all the youth training sessions, firstly to provide a connection between youth and senior levels and secondly, to show the kids, that as one person put it: “There’s life after Under 14 level.”

The other club, St Kiernan’s, operates a similar idea and also emphasise the “one club” philosophy, in terms of making sure that both the senior and the youth elements of the club are considered in every decision, involved in every activity and that joined-up-thinking is employed when decisions are being made.

We’re pretty good at most aspects within the youth section especially, but this week, while the kids are playing, there is a great networking opportunity for anyone who is interested in finding out what other clubs in other parts of the country do.

It promises to be a fantastic weekend and as a club, everyone should endeavour to get down there for a few hours to enjoy what is the biggest GAA single activity ever staged in London.

The Preacher Man

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July 11th 2012

Beggaring Belief

Beggaring Belief
St Clarets Under 16s.

For those who were present in Greenford last Wednesday night, the events that took place won’t be forgotten too quickly. For those who weren’t there, here’s a quick summary of what occurred.

St Clarets and Dulwich were playing an Under-16 Championship game, when at half-time, two senior hurling teams, Granuaile and Thomas McCurtains, appeared on the sideline and announced that the young footballers had to leave the pitch, as they’d booked the field for a challenge game.

Discussions took place to try and reach a sensible solution to this impasse, with the obvious logical step being that the game in progress would be finished and then the hurlers could play their “challenge game”.

However, the hurlers were having none of it and when the footballers argued that they should be allowed to finish their game, the response from one of the hurlers was simply: “Throw the ball in and we’ll hurl around them.”

In such circumstances and in the face of such ignorance, the mentors of both youth teams had no choice but to remove their players from the field and allow the bully-boy hurlers to play. This rendered the score in the Under 16 match null and void and forces both teams to turn up again for a replay.

Ultimately the safety of the players is always the number one priority for any manager of a youth team, and there was no way they could risk the hurlers carrying through with their threat to play the game while the kids were on the field.

The events of last Wednesday evening are mind-boggling to say the least. That grown adults couldn’t appreciate the importance of the Championship game to these kids and that they could put their own hallion needs over that of a group of teenagers learning a sport, beggars belief.

That the mentors of these two teams didn’t have the cop-on either to take control of the situation doesn’t speak too highly of their abilities to lead.

It transpires that there was a genuine mix-up in the booking of the field and that someone from the Minor Board had failed to confirm the fixture with Tir Chonaill Gaels.

These things happen and it was an honest mistake, but sadly one that has led to a very regrettable situation.

The up-shot is that the game is to be replayed next Monday night at the same venue, meaning, particularly for the players from Dulwich, another long cross-city trip at rush hour. One can only feel sympathy for the mentors and players.

Aside from that though, the damage that has been done by these events could be considerable.

What does a parent think when their child returns from a game that they have just travelled all the way across London to play, only to be told upon their return, that they couldn’t finish the game because a bunch of savages wielding sticks threatened to knock lumps out of them if they didn’t get off the field?

A slight exaggeration maybe, but if you don’t understand the game of hurling and your kid tells you there were men with sticks there, what picture would be painted in your mind?

In two weeks time, on the very same fields where these events took place, the biggest youth GAA event ever to be staged in Britain will be taking place.

ABC Games
At present there are over 100 teams entered for the three day All Britain Championships, in what promises to be a carnival of youth sport. The organisers are expecting over a thousand kids to attend and play over the course of these three days.

It’s a massive undertaking and one that reflects so well on the work that youth coaches across Britain are putting into the game at grass roots level.

Let’s just hope for all concerned, that the hurlers of Thomas McCurtains and Grauaile don’t fancy a puck-about when this tournament is on.

The Preacher Man

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July 4th 2012

Murphy's The Man

Murphy's The Man
Tony Murphy in his prime.

Tony Murphy is a remarkable man. Ask anyone who knows him well and they will have nothing but admiration for him.

For over 15 years Tony has been part of the furniture of St Clarets, and despite the fact that we have lost his undivided attention in the past couple of years due to his involvement with London, it doesn’t mean that he loves us any less: far from it in fact.

This week Tony returns to the fold and the reason he is doing so is because firstly, he’s a football man and as such, it is the most natural place in the world for him to be and secondly, it’s because he knows that St Clarets need his help at this moment in time.

If everything was going smoothly, Tony’s not the sort of guy to go barging in shouting the odds.

Murphy’s journey with St Clarets and with London started back around about 1995. I myself can remember picking him up at Jim Regan’s house to bring him to his first ever London training session.

I’d been about the county scene for four or five years at that stage and to me, Murphy was just another of the countless come-day-go-day footballers that seemed to populate the London changing rooms at the time. In fact, I distinctly remember dropping him off after that first night and thinking to myself: “He won’t be around for long.”

How wrong I was.

By 2001, when my own playing days were over and I was then involved with training the county team, Murph was still in the London changing room and still a hugely important and influential character in the squad and nowadays, he’s one of the bosses down there and it’s an honour he has earned. Along with Paul Coggins and Co, Murph is helping to turn the London football team into the sort of competitive outfit that most never really thought London could produce.

When it came to the relationship between Tony Murphy and London football, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Tony was never the most elegant of footballers but what he had was heart, character and stamina, the sort of stamina you’d associate with the likes of Brian Dooher or Michael Donnellan in their heyday. The guy was a phenomenal athlete.

He always had an awkward way of going about his football, but it was mighty effective and I know from sitting in changing rooms before going out to play against St Clarets, the question of how to handle Murph was always one of the focuses of the conversations. He might have been a bit awkward, but he could play football very well.

Indeed, just how good he was was highlighted in 1999 when he played midfield for London in the Connacht Championship against the then reigning All Ireland champions Galway, and he walked away with a position on the Sunday Independent Team of The Week. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of London footballers who have achieved that honour and remember too, that his midfield partner that day was Tyrone man Jody Gormley, who had played in the All Ireland Final just four years earlier. So during that match, Murph had outshone two All Ireland winners and an All Ireland runner-up in the midfield area of the pitch. That tells you all you need to know about Tony Murphy.

If you were to sit a panel down tomorrow and ask them to name the best 15 players ever to play for St Clarets, they’d be a few players for whom no discussion would be required. In my eyes, they would be the likes of Paul Myers, Martin Hession, Kevin Gilmartin, Colm Lynott and of course Tony Murphy. There would be no question about it.

No St Clarets player has played as many times for the London senior team and on top of that, he as also captained London to a British Junior title too.

Such is the regard in which Tony is held within London circles, that when he was no longer in consideration for the seniors, the juniors were only too happy to have him. Few ex-county players would be interested in taking that step backwards, but Tony of course had no hesitation in accepting the invitation.

And now Tony’s back with St Clarets. It’s true we need him, we need him badly but he isn’t a magician.

Having a great man on the sidelines doesn’t make up for every shortcoming on the field, so over the next few weeks as the Intermediate Championship gets underway, every player has a responsibility to make sure that they give Tony everything that they have.

It’s a real test of intelligence and integrity for the majority of St Clarets players. The question that will be asked over and over again in the coming weeks is: "Are you smart enough and genuine enough to grab this great opportunity to try and turn what has been a disappointing season around?”

Remember, Tony already has eight months of football behind him so far this season. He would have every right to turn his back on St Clarets and say: "I need a bit of time off and I need to relax a little."

But that’s not Tony.

Let’s make sure that we show him that his sacrifice is going to be worthwhile.

The Preacher Man

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June 26th 2012

Kids Setting The Example

Kids Setting The Example
Rhian O'Hare (centre front row) along with her London team mates last week.

A number of years ago I had the privilege of attending the opening day of the Feile Peile na nOg in Ireland.

I’d often heard about this tournament but never had the opportunity to play in it when I was a kid, so I was blown away when I realised just how big this event is.

I stood on the Main Street of Carrickmore in County Tyrone and was flabbergasted as the procession of kids marched past us in an organised fashion, with each group proudly displaying the banner of their home club or county. There were teams from every corner of Ireland and England, and some from further-a-field as well. It was most impressive.

In the past, St Clarets have competed in this competition and indeed, once in the early 1980s, won their division outright with a team that contained current under-14 and under-16 manager Colm Lynott snr.

In more recent times, the teams travelling from London have either been representing London or an area of London.

This year the competition was held in Offaly and Laois, and St Clarets were extremely well represented with Aidan Bradshaw, Conor Bradshaw, Colm Lynott, Jordan McGirr, Marc Kilbane, Sean Rushe and Rhian O’Hare all representing both our club and the county of London with great distinction.

On top of that, many of the parents travelled over to be part of what was surely a wonderful experience for all the players, while Colm Lynott snr was the manager of the North London team.

All in all, St Clarets had a pretty impressive and full involvement in the Feile 2012 and it is something that those involved with all aspects of our youth section should be thoroughly proud of.

Earlier in the weekend, our young under-10 footballers made their first appearance of the season after six or seven weeks of training under the expert eyes of Denis McCarthy and Martin Hession. By all accounts they left a very good impression of themselves and what’s more, they enjoyed themselves, which is key for any young group of players.

And the kids weren’t finished there. Come Saturday, the under-12s, along with the hard working Steve McElroy, were busy playing in a blitz, where they were beaten in the Shield semi-final.

It's fair to say that last weekend was a great weekend to be involved in the youth section of St Clarets GFC.

Around about the same time that our young players were wrapping up their involvement with Feile 2012 last Sunday, our senior team were taking the field against St Anthonys in what was a pretty important league game.

The importance of this league game was two-fold. Firstly, with the Championship just around the corner, confidence is a precious commodity and every opportunity to build it in the run-up to the season’s premier competition should be grabbed with both hands. The last thing we want is to have to go through the nail-biting season finale that we had to endure last year in order to preserve our Intermediate status.

So, even if we aren’t to win the Intermediate crown, we certainly don’t want to be going down to Junior.

The other focus of this game was about accumulating those precious league points that will extract us from the hellish torture that is Junior League football; where too many games are called off at short notice and where the pitches we have to play on are generally pretty poor.

Remember, St Clarets is a club who just ten years ago played in the Senior County Final; we’ve no business playing Junior League football.

Against this backdrop, we took the field against St Anthonys with just 15 players, that’s right, the bare fifteen.

The question that now faces the club is what’s wrong within the senior group? Why the lack of commitment, why the obvious lack of interest and what can we do to rectify it? There’s need for an open and honest discussion within the senior group, it’s time for men to lay their cards on the table and explain what the problems are. Without it, I fear we’re in big trouble.

Generally in life we expect older people to set the example to the younger folk coming up. This is especially relevant in sport, where young kids find a hero they want to aspire to be and then work hard to try and be as good as that person.

The hero doesn’t always have to be from the Ronaldo mould; local heroes are just as relevant.

At this moment in time, it appears to me that the local heroes around St Clarets are all from the youth teams and maybe, some of our senior players should aspire to be like one of the kids who are carrying the torch of St Clarets with such distinction.

The Preacher Man

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June 19th 2012

Be The Best You Can Be

Be The Best
You don't want to hear her sing.

I’ve said this before and no doubt I’ll say it again many times over: as a player, whether you’re the worst player ever to kick a ball or you’re the best player ever to slip on a pair of boots or even the player who thinks he’s the latter but is actually the former, you only get one opportunity in life to be a footballer. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

With such a sentence hanging over you as a player, you’ve a responsibility to make the most of your playing days, to play as much as you can, to be the best you can be, to practice as well as you can and to make the most of your talent and your physical fitness.

It’s hard to explain to someone who is still playing, but once you stop, even after six months of inactivity, the body stops working in the way that you once expected it to. The muscles aren’t as supple as you remember, the joints are a bit stiffer, the flexibility is gone and the tasks that you once took for granted, purely because of the frequency with which you practiced them, no longer seems so natural.

Once you turn your back on football, football will turn its back on you. It’s a lover that does not like to be scorned.

As an old geezer now, long past any form of usefulness in football, but one who nonetheless stood beyond reproach during my playing days in terms of commitment and application, it angers me to see the blasé attitude that some players display to their sport, their team and their ability to execute the various skills required to be considered proficient in their chosen discipline.

There are far too many who take far too much for granted in sport and feel that merely by turning up and playing the game that they are a player; nonsense, absolute nonsense.

There’s so much more to being a player. To be a player, a proper player, you need to attempt to be the best player you can be, not some half-fit, poorly-prepared, shadow of the player you could be.

As I said at the opening, when it’s over, it’s over; the fat lady doesn’t do encores, or at least none that are worth waiting around for anyway. So as a young, healthy, reasonably fit person, you have a responsibility to yourself to be the best you can be.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, then personally I don’t see the point in being involved in the first place.

The Preacher Man

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June 12th 2012

The Harvest Is Rich

The harvest is rich
St Clarets Under 16 Team: our future.

There was something hugely important about our Under -16 team winning the League last weekend against Tir Chonaill Gaels. In many ways it marked the beginning of the next chapter of St Clarets GFC.

Here within St Clarets, we’ve a long and healthy tradition of developing young players and promoting them through to senior football. There’s a belief here that this is a local club for local people. History proves that too.

In 1982, of the sixteen players on duty the day of the club’s first ever appearance in an Intermediate County Final, fourteen were London-born players.

In 1989, of the team that won the Intermediate Final, ten of the starting XV had played under-age football for the club, while a further four of the substitutes had also come through the system.

And then in 2002, the first time the club ever played in a Senior Final, there were five London-born starters on the team. No other club in London can boast those sorts of numbers.

Even today, we’ve eleven English-born players in our senior squad, proof that we’ve never wandered far from our principle of promoting young players.

The current crop coming through from Under-14 and Under-16 give us great hope that we will be able to continue with this ethos in years to come.

Of course, there’s a way to go yet for these young lads and the worst thing that can be done is to push them into senior football when they are not ready.

Hopefully there’s enough experience within the club to know that young players are ready when they are ready, and some will take longer than others, but there’s no doubt this group have potential.

Of course a huge amount of praise has to be heaped on to the people who have resurrected the youth football in the club and the current group coming through from Under-14 and Under-16 have been under the guardianship of Colm Lynott and Mick Buckley pretty much all the way through. There’s a real sense of identity about these guys and what’s important as well, is that there is a real buy-in from the parents and friends as well.

All this is good for the club and hopefully it will provide the springboard for the next generation of London-born players to be donning the St Clarets jersey at senior level too.

But this transition needs to be very carefully managed. If it isn’t thought through, if it isn’t planned, if players aren’t given the help, support and coaching they need to make the step up, then there is a real danger that all that hard work, all those selfless hours of dedication that the youth coaches have committed to these young players, will be wasted.

There really does need to be a plan to help these players mature and the senior team management and the youth team coaches need to be talking to each other and figuring out how to do this in the best way possible.

Certainly there’s no rush, most of these player are at least two to three years away from physically been able to handle senior football and some even a little more.

However, in the interim, while they are progressing through to minor, help can be given; they can get involved in what the seniors are doing at training, but it has to be done intelligently and constructively.

Throwing a lad in to training, who is nervous and intimidated about being with the men’s team, and then bawling him out every time he makes an error, never works. It happens in every club and in every sport, but it can’t be allowed to happen with our next crop of players.

They need encouragement, they need guidance and instruction, they need to be made feel welcome and they need to be made to understand that this is their club, every bit as much as it is the most senior player in the adult team.

They are the future, they have the ability to make it a great future and thus far they have had the grounding to be sure they are well enough equipped to more than hold their own when they are physically ready.

The harvest in rich at St Clarets at the moment, let’s make hay while the sun shines.

The Preacher Man

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June 5th 2012

Learning To Win

Learning to win
Coggins: needs to be winning more tight league games.

I know the feeling and God only knows the likes of Paul Coggins and Tony Murphy know the feeling too.

The gut wrenching disappointment that you experience walking off the field in a Connacht Championship match having failed, oh so narrowly, to achieve what you had set out to do.

Defeats don’t come any more painful than a one-point reverse and the analysis that follows on from that, the questioning, the wondering, the what if?, the if only, the should we have?, the why did we?, well they’re all part and parcel of losing a big game like last Sunday’s in Ruislip. The closer the losing margin, the more painful the questioning becomes.

When Galway rode into town in 2004 and walloped London off the park, there was no post mortem, there was no need, there was nothing left there to examine. Galway had obliterated London.

However, after Sunday’s game, Paul and Tony and the rest of them have a million different fragments to analyse and try to put back together.

The analysis, while enlightening, is every bit as painful and the defeat itself.

Before last Sunday’s game, I was asked several times by people, how I thought it would go.

My information was no more informed than the bookies, and when you’re not involved in the bosom of things, then you really aren’t aware of the strengths of every individual, what the game plan is in attack and what the tactic is in defence. When you make a call, it’s about gut feeling.

All you can do is take the sum total of the visible parts from one side and weigh them against the sum total of the visible parts of the other and make an assessment.

The bookies, despite their lack of intimate knowledge, were certainly fancying London and I did to, but only in a very specific set of circumstances.

I believed that if London were five-points or more ahead with fifteen minutes to play, then they’d win. Any less than that and they’d lose.

Fair enough, five points is a sizeable enough margin to be able to hang your jacket on, but it was sizeable for a reason.

There’s a knack to winning tight Championship matches, there’s a bit of football savvy required to do it, whether it is to claw your way back into a game when you’re four down with the clock ticking away, or whether it is holding on to four-points as the pressure builds and the opposition start to squeeze and squeeze.

The only way you can learn this art is by doing it, over and over again; by understanding the moments in the game when it’s time to push and when it’s time to frustrate. The trouble for London going into this game, was that they hadn’t managed to win one of those tight matches in a very long time.

Paul Coggins and his backroom team have been exceptional for London. Yes, he is advantaged by the fact that there are more footballers in London now than at any stage since London entered the National League in 1993, but it’s more than that.

Paul has a quiet, unassuming, modest way of going about his business, but behind all of that, Paul is razor sharp. Always has been.

As a player he was ridiculously popular because he often dumbed-himself-down deliberately and acted a bit of an innocent country lad in front of his team mates, but all the time, he was taking everything on board.

If you had asked anyone who shared a changing room with Paul as a player, could they ever see him as a competent inter-county manager, most would have given you a definite no. And that just proves how clever Paul is.

But despite his intelligence and understanding of football, despite the excellent job he has done in managing the team and despite the fact that he has more talent available to him now than most London managers have had, there is still something missing from his armoury and something that Paul needs to get a handle on very quickly.

You see the thing is, no one involved in London football knows how to win a tight, important match in the name of London football.

For almost 30 years the London Champions have been rocking up to play in an All Ireland Club quarter-final and on each and every occasion they have failed.

Paul himself has been part of at least half a dozen of those failures during his playing and managing time with Tir Chonaill Gaels.

Likewise, the county team over the past 15 years have had chances to overturn teams in the Connacht Championship and each time they have failed to do so. They’ve come mighty close against Leitrim (twice), Mayo last year, Roscommon in 2005, but they’ve never done it. Why? Well because no one knows how to get over the line in the name of London football.

In this year’s NFL the game that sticks out for me in the league was the final game against Waterford. London were holding on to a lead against the home side but ended with a draw. A commendable result against a team that had been playing Division 3 the previous year, but crucially, it was an opportunity to win a tight game that they failed to take.

That game was the reason why I felt London would need five-points with fifteen minutes to go in order to ensure they won the Championship match.

Club football
Club football in London is no arena for learning how to win big games. Maybe going forward that will change as more and more clubs get stronger and stronger, but club football in London is too recruitment driven and not focused enough on building a team.

Generally the team with the best players wins the Championship here. Tactics, training, psychology, diet, strength and conditioning don’t come in to it in London club football. The team with the greatest number of quality players wins. If it wasn’t so, then the top clubs wouldn’t be busting their backs trying to recruit as many players as they can.

For London to break their jinx I feel they need to start to become a lot more competitive in the league. They can no longer view the league as something to try players out in, even in the first two or three games. They now have the FBD competition for that, thereafter, you pick you best 20 players and you teach them to win, so that by the time the Championship comes around, the whole group believes they can win, knows they can win. If the remaining ten players get upset or frustrated, well that’s just part of learning to win.

Realistically, under deep analysis, a farcical win over Kilkenny and a draw with Waterford does not really convince any player that they have the ability within the group to win a Championship match, no matter what they may say publicly, no matter how well training may have gone.

With the history that London are battling, 35 years and counting, they need to be going into the Connacht Championship with three league wins under their belts, and hopefully two of them real “backs against the walls” victories.

They need to be going to places like Carrick-on-Shannon on a wet, windy February afternoon and holding on for dear life. That’s where you start to learn how to win Championship matches.

Maybe the back door will present London with another opportunity to start to win tight important matches.

The Preacher Man

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May 30th 2012

When It's Time To Go

Time to go
Some day we all pack our bags

I once had an incredible parish priest. He was a young man, who had the entire parish eating out of the palm of his hand.

He was energetic, enthusiastic, personable, engaging and tireless in his work for the parish, the school, the social club and the parishioners.

The church really was an oasis of happiness for everyone who walked through the door. At every Mass, the PP could be found standing in the front porch to greet everyone by name, and then standing there again at the end of Mass, to say goodbye to everyone by name on their way out.

As PPs go, he was one in a million and the parishioners, well I guess you could call them lucky people.

One Sunday morning he stood to preach his sermon and he opened it with a line that took the breath away from just about every person in the congregation.

“I’m leaving” he said.

There was a collective gasp among the parishioners, as for a fleeting moment the congregation were paralysed with shock. That pause, that intake of breath, those looks of disbelief that bounced between people, said all that needed to be said about just how important this man was to the parishioners.

He continued: “I’m not going just yet, but I’m going. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but I’ll be leaving at some stage.”

Cue the huge sigh of relief among those gathered, reassured by the news that their favourite padre was going nowhere any time soon.

However, he hadn’t made the announcement as a test of his own popularity or to boost his ego. He made it as a bit of a wake up call to everyone in the parish.

He explained that in the seven years he had been in the parish, with the exception of his two week’s holiday every year, he had not missed a single Sunday in all that time. He explained too how he was involved in almost everything that went on in the social club and also all the stuff he did with schools, the community, the elderly and the sick, as well as all the administration work associated with the parish.

Full-time job
He had a lot more than a full-time job on his hands and the point that he made was that when it was time for him to go, there was a strong possibility that the next priest wouldn’t be in-residence, as plain and simply, there weren’t enough priests in the diocese to ensure that that parish always had a live-in PP.

If that was the case, then he advised the parishioners, it would be up to them to step up to the plate and take charge of certain aspects of the parish life, and he felt that now was as good a time as any for people to get started.

So, what’s the purpose of this story?

Well let’s start by saying that this isn’t about me, it’s about everyone in the club; every position that anyone has, every role that someone fulfils.

Eventually we all move on, and when that happens, then someone has to step up to the plate and take over.

Key roles on the committee, the ones that demand a lot of time and commitment every week, are always a challenge to fill and we have found too, especially over the past couple of years, that roles like manager and team trainer fall into the “difficult” bracket too.

They get filled, but sometimes it can take a lot of persuasion to get a volunteer; many people would like to do it, but to do it well requires time and not everyone has the sort of time that is required and that is fully understandable.

Let’s use the PR area as an example? At the minute, I’d say we’re about sixty per cent there with what we’d like to be doing in this sector.

The difficulty is that we’re only as good as the information that is made available to us, and at times, well let’s just say that it would be easier to pull teeth from a ravenous lioness protecting her new born cubs, than it is to get information out of the club. It shouldn’t be that hard.

What will happen in this department when it’s time for the current incumbent to walk away?

Most likely, whoever takes over will start with much enthusiasm but may well end up getting disillusioned and then stop trying. They may not have the time to go chasing people for information. The website, the club notes and all the other add-ons will disappear with that and, whilst it’s not a vital part of the club, nor the most important, it is a useful part of the club.

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango and at the moment, those involved with the PR element of the club feel like they are dancing a slow dance with themselves, when what they really want is a bit of disco with the dance floor full.

No matter what role we talk about in the club, if the present officer / practitioner steps down, the job will get done, it always has done, but are others sufficiently interested in what is trying to be achieved to make sure that there is a seamless transition?

No one in the club should be looking for praise. Jobs and responsibilities are taken on because the person doing so thinks they have something to offer. If you are doing it for praise then firstly, you’ll probably be disappointed and secondly, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

What club officers and volunteers want is engagement from the club members. They want club members to buy into what it is that person is trying to do, be they Chairman, Treasurer, PRO, team trainer or kit washer.

What they want is to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile, not praiseworthy, but worthwhile. There’s a huge difference.

Worthwhile is the fuel that drives the committee men. Praise is the drug of the egotist.

I’m leaving. Not today, or tomorrow, but some day.

The Preacher Man

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May 22nd 2012

Members Only

Members only
We shouldn't let just anyone in

Some time ago I attended the Annual General Meeting for a club that I was involved with.

Like so many amateur clubs, it was an organisation that survived financially from week to week, relying on the generosity of certain sponsors and the limits set on the credit cards of certain members.

At the AGM the normal process was followed in terms of Chairman’s report, Secretary’s report and Treasurer’s report.

During the delivery of the Treasurer’s report it had been observed by one club member, that the amount of money that had been spent on the hiring of a training facility for the season was almost identical to that which had been raised in membership.

This point was confirmed by the Treasurer, who added that it was just a coincidence that these two sums were the same and that membership and the cost of the training facility were in no way connected.

The discussion then moved on to membership and the usual pleas were made for members to pay their dues so that the club could have some form of kitty available to them for registrations etc.

However, somewhere along the line, the fact that the amount of money spent on training and the amount taken in for membership the previous year became a point of obsession for some of those present, and the point that everyone was fixating on was how people’s membership was being “wasted” on a training facility.

Maybe it was due to poor chairing of the meeting, but this coincidence soon became “fact” and as the discussion followed, there were members, or so called members, who were claiming that there was no way that they were going to pay membership as they never trained on the nights when the facility was being used. Plain and simply they weren’t going to pay for something that they weren’t using.

As far as they were concerned, they deserved a free ride with the club. The wonderful irony of their argument was of course the fact that most of them hadn’t paid their membership the previous year either, so they actually had nothing to cry about in the first place.

Suggestions were made that on the nights that this particular training facility was being used, which by the way was a state-of-the art 3G pitch with top class floodlights and excellent changing facilities, that maybe the players present would pay €2 each towards it.

If the human head actually has a head gasket, then several were blown at the suggestion that players should be asked to pay for anything to do with the club they represent and what’s more, weren’t they already paying for the training in their membership (no, for the umpteenth time, no!).

Eventually, after two and a half hours of going around and around the same financial roundabout, I got up and left the meeting and have never been back near the club again.

Pettiness like that is a real deal-breaker for someone like me. You’re either involved or your not involved, you’re either committed or your not. It’s very black and white and the more shades of grey you try and introduce, the more you devalue and destabilise the organisation you are involved with.

I was disgusted with how little people were prepared to invest in the sporting body that they played in, either financially or physically, and it appeared to me, as is so often the case with amateur teams everywhere, that the club should be glad that the player is playing for them, not the other way round.

Generally as a rule of thumb in these instances, the less the player actually has to offer the club, the more beholden to them they appear to feel the club should be. We’ve a similar problem here in St Clarets at the moment. We’ve a lot of people using the club to their own benefit as and when it suits them, while contributing little or nothing along the way.

We’ve players who don’t pay membership, we’ve players who are unable to go to matches and training, but are able to plaster their every movement all over Facebook and Twitter, advertising which watering-hole they fell out of either on the day of or the night before a game. We’ve other’s who will happily head off to some other social activity when training is on, never even thinking that the least they could do was to pick up the phone and offer an apology.

Sadly the lack of joined-up thinking exercised by many of these people means that they fail to realise that if they tell the world, they also tell the club. Players aside, there are people who work tirelessly for the club and do things way above and beyond the call of duty, as well as those who do very little, who do not feel it worthwhile to become a member of the club.

The membership of this football club shouldn’t be about the money. People will complain about the £20 fee, but if the membership was 50p, many of them still wouldn’t pay it.

Financial commitments
Without ever adding anything fancy to the financial commitments that the club has every year, and not considering the generous gestures that people make for free to help with the day-to-day functioning of the club, the financial demands put on St Clarets are sizeable.

I don’t know exactly how many members have paid membership so far this year, but I do know that it is a lot less than the amount of people who claim to be members and who function as members.

Almost 40 players have played senior football for the club this year and I know that there are a great many of them who aren’t members and who will probably try and avoid paying membership if they can.

The money taken in for membership every year doesn’t even cover the bare essential required for this football club. Registering and insuring players, along with hiring pitches and training facilities, devours everything and more that the club takes in through membership. The people who wash the kits do so out of the generosity of their nature, not because they are compensated for it in any way.

Meanwhile the kits themselves are generally donated to us, as is training and match day equipment and without these sorts of actions, well let’s just say there would be no club. However, if the people making these donations knew that the people representing the club thought so little of the organisation that they weren’t even prepared to pay £20 to become a member, then maybe they would think twice about parting with the sizeable amounts of money they do every year to help with the running of St Clarets.

For many people involved with St Clarets, the paying of membership is something that has merely slipped their mind. It certainly was for me, but I have since rectified that situation.

Hopefully this will be a little reminder to those who haven’t yet paid that you can’t actually call yourself a member, unless you have paid your membership.

The Preacher Man

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May 15th 2012

Endeavouring To Share And Sharing The Endeavour

Mr Flexible
City fans: The shared endeavour of being Champions

Occasionally I get the chance to dine with people whose seat in life is well above my own station.

These events are always fraught with danger for a guy like me, someone a little rough around the edges and lacking in the finer social skills.

However, given that Mrs Preacher Woman is a proper lady and well versed in the etiquette that these occasions demand, I take my lead from her and thus far thankfully, I haven’t embarrassed either myself or herself too much, well at least not to the point that I haven’t been asked back anywhere yet.

Recently I had the honour of having dinner with a leading member of the law profession in Britain; a fascinating, down-to-earth sort of guy, who proved to be a born entertainer and exceptional company.

During our evening and our conversation, he began to talk about his own past as a professional actor. By all accounts, or at least reading between the lines of what he had to say, his ten-year career treading the boards and dashing around London on a bicycle heading from one audition to another, wasn’t in anyway remotely successful.

His eventual decision to turn his attention away from thespian pursuits and into the legal profession was driven by a number of things.

Firstly, it was the fact that he was more than intelligent enough to be able to make the transition, a crucial factor when one wants to pursue the law as a career. After all, he is the sort of guy who will happily read a 3000 page tome on Greek mythology just to help him relax at night.

Secondly, it was the realisation that he couldn’t continue to keep a house, a wife, three kids, a cat and a dog on the monthly royalty cheque of £1.49 he occasionally received for the repeat screening of an episode of “The Bill” he had appeared in five years previously.

And thirdly, and almost as crucially as the previous two, was due to a conversation he had had with a former British Ambassador, a man who introduced him to the concept of “shared endeavour”.

This topic was fascinating to me, for like an actor, being a Preacher Man can be a lonely enough pursuit, with moments of intense involvement in your professional life, interspersed with long periods of time in isolation, alone with your thoughts - a dangerous thing to be left alone with in my case at least.

What my esteemed dinner companion went on to tell me was that it was the belief of his Ambassador friend that “shared endeavour” is critical to the human psyche and that without it, we, as human beings, can be in danger of becoming de-motivated and disenchanted.

However with it, he believed that people are capable of achieving monumental feats, regardless of whatever discipline they choose to pursue.

It was a fascinating argument and one that I could buy into very easily. Modern day working is all about team work, sharing ideas, bouncing thoughts and concepts off each other, think-tanks, brain-storming sessions, building straw men and developing things as a unit, as well as buying into the philosophies of companies and work colleagues. Very little of it is about working alone and pursuing your vocation with no feed back and no help.

“Shared endeavour” is a critical component of the world that we live in these days.

And it is crucial in sport as well and particularly in amateur sport.

Within a team “shared endeavour” should be a naturally occurring phenomenon. As a group, the team train together, travel together, play together, win together and lose together. That applies for players and coaches alike, everyone is in it together; everyone is sharing the endeavour.

Often too in amateur sport, families are heavily involved in what one of their members is committed to and they too add another component to the “shared endeavour”.

Watching scenes from The Etihad Stadium on Sunday was the perfect depiction of “shared endeavour”, the players, the managers and most importantly, the fans, had all bought into the project and dared to dream the dream. As the final whistle sounded, they all had the opportunity to share the rewards and celebrate the achievement. They had all been part of the process and all felt entitled to enjoy the rewards and savour the moment.

Even individual athletes enjoy the benefits of this sharing, working with coaches, physios and family members; they too improve together, win together and lose together.

However, there are times when it is possible to feel that the endeavour isn’t been shared. It’s possible at times to feel that no one else really cares about what is going on and whether the whole thing is a boom or a bust.

And that’s where people become disillusioned and that’s when people fall away, that’s when people ask: “What’s the point?” And that’s when people go looking for another source of “shared endeavour”.

It’s crucial for the well-being of any club, especially an amateur one, that no one, whatever their standing in the club, every feels the need to ask; “What’s the point?”

The Preacher Man

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May 8th 2012

Stretching The Point

Mr Flexible
Pilates: don't be a stiff

I’ve a confession to make. It’s nothing too serious, but at the same time, it’s nothing to be proud of either.

You see, twice a week, every week, I attend a pilates class. It’s not something I particularly enjoy doing or even want to do, but it’s something that I simply have to do.

My classmates, for want of a better word, are all older than me, and are all women, mostly the housewife type, who have raised their families and are just looking to do something for themselves with the free time that they now have. For most of them, it’s as much about the social aspect of it as it is anything else.

For me though, it’s become a necessity. The years of playing football, working in a physical job and training too much, have taken their toll on my body and without these classes, well let’s just say, I’m a bit of a mess. Basically, I’m a 43-year old with the elasticity of a seventy-year old. It wasn’t so much under advice from my physio that I joined the classes, it was more under instruction.

In the group, I’m something of a freak show. Our teacher is a classically trained dancer, who can virtually tie herself in knots, while without exception, and by some considerable distance, I am the least flexible person in the room. There are items of furniture in the room that display greater mobility than I do.

It’s quite shocking really and there have been times when the teacher has inadvertently said out loud: “Good God” when she’s been watching me attempting some basic stretch or another. She’s been embarrassed by her vocal faux-pas, but I can only laugh, because I know exactly what she’s thinking and I know exactly what I must look like. Watching me in action is akin to watching a glacier… you know it’s moving, but you’re not totally convinced of the fact.

I’ve noticed too, that my classmates have taken to watching me, such is their disbelief with the state of my joints and muscles. The groans coming from my little corner of the room each time I try and untangle myself from my latest position, provides a constant reminder to them that “he” is in the session. I know from the way they regard me, that some of them want to mother me when they see how pathetic I am, while the more hard-hearted would prefer if I spent my evenings elsewhere.

Every person’s body is different. Some people have this tremendous natural flexibility that has stayed with them throughout their lives, while others have zero flexibility to start with, and their pursuit of sport and their way of training has caused further complication to what was an already complicated situation. Sadly, I fall into the latter category.

After over 20 years of doing the wrong sort of training and taking the wrong care of myself (or on many occasions, no care of myself), I’m now paying a pretty hefty price for my sporting activity. Pain is pretty much a constant companion to me.

But I’m not alone. A week or so ago, I was talking to one of the top GAA coaches in Ireland, a highly-qualified and well-respected individual, and he was telling me that flexibility issues were one the biggest challenges that he faces with player in Ireland.

He applauded my attempts at pilates but also recognised that it was a few years too late for me from a sporting perspective and that I had a long, slow road ahead of me to undo all the damage I had done to myself. However, like my pilates teacher, he assured me that it was never too late and that progress could be made.

The same person also told me a story of when he had worked with professional athletes in Australia. Because these players were so reluctant to assume responsibility for their own flexibility, the club forced the players to come in on their days off to do pilates and yoga sessions.

From a sport science point of view, it’s a preventative thing and a very worthwhile exercise. From a player’s point of view, it’s just a drag.

And for anyone who is currently playing sport at an amateur level, the probability is that they don’t look after their own flexibility and muscles anywhere near well enough. Stretching at the start and end of training session is always rudimentary and more about ticking a box than actually achieving anything meaningful. For the most part, the person taking the session, while probably being an expert-of-sorts in their specific field of coaching, may not be an expert in strength and conditioning or personal training.

As a result of this, it’s very much a responsibility for all players to look after their own bodies in this respect. Plenty go to the gym to try and “pump the guns up a bit” or develop their quads, and often you wonder are the players in the gym for the benefit of the sporting life or their social life?

How many make the trip to the gym with the purpose of trying to improve their flexibility?

From where I sit on the floor twice a week, I wish I had, because I can tell you from experience, it’s very humbling trying to keep up with a bunch of middle-aged pilates enthusiasts, who can twist and bend in all sorts of shapes and who don't wake up every morning lamenting the battered state of their bodies.

The Preacher Man

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May 1st 2012

An Angel On My Shoulder

Marathon Effort
Sometimes life asks more from us than we alone can achieve

Back in my school days, a teacher once asked our class: “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?”

Given that even by this stage of my teenage life, it was obvious to everyone that the whole Pat Jennings thing was never going to happen, I, like so many of my class mates, automatically opted for our fathers, while a number of the more “outside of the box thinkers” chose famous figures or local heroes of some description.

Only the very few astute minds decided that the person they would most like to be in the future was themselves. In these few wise mortals, our teacher found hope, albeit limited hope.

A number of years later, I can remember reading an article about the Wexford hurling team which won the All Ireland in 1996.

During the preparation for the final, the team manager Liam Griffin sat his players down and asked them who did they want to win the All Ireland for?

The responses were exactly what you’d expect from any group of people as selfless as an amateur sports team, one that trains and behaves like a professional team and makes all the personal sacrifices that are required to do so, for nothing more than pride and honour.

Almost to a man, the squad responded that they wanted to win it for their families, their friends or their parishes and clubs.

As I say, a selfless answer from a group of selfless people.

However, it wasn’t the answer that Griffin wanted and his response to them was along the lines of: “If you don’t want to win this for yourself first and foremost, then you’re wasting your time going out there.”

Basically what Griffin was saying to them was that this is THE moment in their lives, and that they had an enormous responsibility to themselves to win the title. By doing so, everyone else would benefit anyway.

These stories came to mind last week when I was looking at a picture of someone I know running the London marathon a few weeks ago.

This person, like the overwhelming majority of those involved in the run, is no athlete; a fun runner (if such a thing exists), who had a very definite reason for putting herself through what she was putting herself through.

And like so many of her fellow runners, her reason was deeply personal.

As I looked at the picture of this person, still running and amazingly, still smiling at 21-miles, I wondered how on earth she was managing to look so relaxed and so happy as she came face to face with the infamous “wall”, that giant yet invisible psychological structure you hear mentioned by just about everyone who has ever attempted the marathon.

It’s at that moment that I realised that, despite what my teacher tried to convince me of when I was 13, and despite what Liam Griffin tried to tell his players in 1996, sometimes being yourself and doing it for yourself, just isn’t enough.

Sometimes, as a human being or as a sports person, you need something else, an inspiration, an external factor, a motivating influence to keep you going when the going gets really, really tough.

I realised then that what was pushing this runner on and what was keeping her smiling was the angel on her shoulder, the very reason why she was undertaking this run in the first place.

For this runner, the angel was her mother, a woman who lost a titanic battle with cancer more than 17-years ago. Time may dull the edges of the pain caused by such a loss, but it never diminishes the spirit, the bond and the love that exists between a mother and her child.

And this notion of someone looking over someone else and inspiring them and pulling them along is commonplace in sport.

In 2002 Damian Oliver won the Melbourne Cup just weeks after his brother Jason had been killed. As soon as Damian crossed the line, he looked to the heavens to acknowledge the importance of Jason’s life and memory in that win.

Same too for Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones, who recently came off the bench for Liverpool and then saved a penalty with his first touch of the ball. The second the ball was clear, Jones looked to heaven, an acknowledgement of the importance of his son Luca in that moment; a five-year old son he had just lost to leukaemia.

The list goes on. Frank Lampard celebrates every goal he has scored since his mother Pat died a number of years ago, by looking and pointing to the heavens, and who could ever forget Brian Dooher’s emotional speech after Tyrone had won the 2005 All Ireland. The fingerprints of the late Cormac McAnallen were all over that Tyrone victory.

And so it’s safe to say that despite our abilities and our personal drive, despite our willingness to always attempt to be the best we can be, despite whatever personal goals we set ourselves, there is very little that we can achieve alone.

Often we are blessed to have good people about us to advice and guide us, but often too, we are blessed to have that angel on our shoulder.

The Preacher Man

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April 24th 2012

Something's Wrong In Paradise

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott: a disciple of the practice makes perfect church.

When Brian McDermott was appointed manager of Reading back in 2009, many would have been forgiven for asking “Brian Who?”

Only those of us with a real eye for detail back in the days of the one substitution rule in football, will remember McDermott’s occasional appearances from the bench for Terry Neill’s Gunners back in the early 1980s.

After that, he meandered around many clubs in a pretty undistinguished playing career that took him to Sweden and beyond.

However, now the whole world knows his name, as he has successfully guided Reading back to the Premiership. Of course, now that people know who he is, they all want a piece of him.

Media fodder
The easy route for media-types to take is to build him up over the next few months, hoping against hope, that come next April, as Reading struggle in the Premiership, they can knock him back down again. They’ll be hoping he becomes a rent-a-quote go-to guy, good for the happy breezy press conference, the plucky underdog caught in the headlights of Premiership media scrutiny.

The media did a wonderful stitch up job on Phil Brown at Hull a few years ago, and Brown was either naive enough or egotistical enough to buy into the press manipulation. Either way, his career never recovered from the ambush he walked straight into while Hull City were in the top league.

Likewise, last season Ian Holloway spent a great deal of the January transfer window telling everyone how Charlie Adam was worth about as much as it would take to bail-out the average Irish Bank. However, while doing this, he failed to notice that Blackpool were slipping into an uncontrollable tail-spin, that was only ever going to wind up in the Championship…. minus Charlie Adam, who in the end, only turned out to be worth about £7m, and even at that, he looks over-priced.

Hard nut to crack
McDermott will be a harder nut to crack in that respect, and as I haven’t the resources to go digging through his rubbish bins or following him to see if he does go to the tanning salon every week, instead I’m going to focus on his football ethics and philosophy, as they have much more bearing on what we are about here at St Clarets. McDermott, who’s parents come from Sligo (father) and Clare (mother), has a cast-iron belief in what will create a successful team and he was quoted in the papers recently as saying: “Success comes down to creating a good environment and doing the simple things endlessly. You can do that anywhere.”

It has been said in the past few years, especially as the work of the likes of Andres Villas Boas and McDermott’s predecessor at Reading, Brendan Rodgers have been eulogised, that to see these guys in action is the equivalent of working in business with someone with an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Basically what’s being said is that these guys are seriously good at their business, and they’ve turned it into something of a science.

McDermott’s philosophies are by no means off-the-cuff or from the “back of a fag packet” school of coaching, but they also appear more simplistic: “Success comes down to creating a good environment and doing the simple things endlessly, You can do that anywhere.”

And he’s right, and it applies as much to St Clarets GFC as it does to a Premier League team in waiting.

However, there’s a fundamental element missing with St Clarets and that’s the buy-in from players - the will to be present in order to be able to practice doing the simple things endlessly.

Currently the only thing holding St Clarets back is the mentality and attitude of the players involved with the senior team. In our five games so far this season, we have used a staggering 36 different players, and we have never been able to field anything resembling a consistent team.

No choice
This statistic isn’t born out of any rotational policy or “giving everyone a chance" philosophy, but more from the fact that on most occasions, we’ve had no choice but to wheel out another team.

The players of the senior team have to take 100% of the responsibility for this fact and only they can alter it.

St Clarets GFC is an exceptional football club, which at this moment in time has a mediocre football team, which is being crippled by an appalling approach from far too many of the players playing on the senior team.

Consider once again what Brian McDermott has had to say about how his average Championship side are now a Premiership side: “Success comes down to creating a good environment and doing the simple things endlessly.”

Now consider the sporting thoughts we have had in our club notes for the past two weeks: "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going" and “One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It doesn't do you any good.”

Now consider the statistic from St Clarets opening salvo to the 2012 season… five games played, 36 players used.

So much can be achieved by a club like St Clarets, but it can’t be done by magic. It needs a real genuine commitment from all involved, especially those who will be representing the team on the pitch.

Despite what the likes of AVB and Brendan Rodgers might like to have us believe, it’s not rocket science.

Over to you.

The Preacher Man

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April 17th 2012

If I Had A Photograph Of You

Hobnob heaven
The team of '82: huge links with the team of '89

The Preacher Man’s father often told him that a good woman would make him happy.

However, always one to push the envelope a little further, The Preacher Man figured that if one good woman could make him happy; just image what four or five could do for his state of mind.

So began my journey along the road to ruin.

Call me Saul if you like, but thankfully for all concerned, I travelled down the road to Damascus and arrived at the other end a wiser, more rounded, more understanding, less reckless and hopefully more likeable character.

And it was only then that my father’s words began to make sense and it was only then that I saw his wisdom.

The Prophet
You see The Preacher Man’s father was less preacher and more prophet; and like all good prophets, he always hung around long enough to be able to tell you “I told you so”, just in case you had missed the point.

As you will no doubt be able to guess, the day Mr and Mrs Preacher Man became one, was a day such as this, and no sooner had the photographer moved away, than my own personal prophet sidled over to tell me: “I told you so.”

But enough of the family feuding and let’s move back to the topic of the ladies, and my father’s words of wisdom came rushing back to me just last night, when I was sent an e-mail containing a photograph; a photograph provided by that most amazing of ladies, Rose McCarthy, the matriarch of our club and a lady who has quite literally seen it all when it comes to St Clarets GFC.

The photograph in question was of the team of 1982 that played in the Intermediate Championship Final against a then quite ordinary Tir Chonaill Gaels side. It was the club’s first adventure into football at this level, and from a history point of view, it was a most important occasion.

And it was because of the importance of this occasion that I so wanted this photograph and from the very beginning of my days in The Pulpit, I have always considered this photograph to be the missing link.

Digital Age
So much in this digital era can be sourced so easily, but the older stuff can prove a nightmare and this one was causing me sleepless nights.

Hours have been spent sifting through newspaper libraries and the likes, trying to get a picture of this team, and although we’ve received so much from so many over the course of building the website and putting together the information we have, this was “the” missing piece of the jigsaw.

Then, just like in a movie, along came Rose.

And how happy The Preacher Man was when he discovered the contents of the email he had been sent, and how amazed he was then to see just how significant this team of ’82 was in relation to future success.

For the record, the sixteen players in the picture are: Eamonn O’Shea, Kevin O’Shea, Mark Mellett, Kevin Pratt, Tommy Quigley, Kevin Gilmartin, John Flanagan, Brendan Collins, Brendan Walsh, John Carney, Paul Treanor, Denis McCarthy, John Carey, Dave Rowe, Seamus Waites and Loz Forde.

Who's Who
That list alone provides a virtual “who’s who” of the first fifteen or so years of St Clarets GFC, and when you consider that seven years later, when the club finally lifted the Intermediate crown for the first time by beating St Anthony’s, seven of those players were still on the team in the form of Eamonn O’Shea, Tommy Quigley, Denis McCarthy, John Carey, John Carney, Kevin Gilmartin and Paul Treanor; that’s almost half a team.

On top of that, Mark Mellett, Dave Rowe, Kevin Pratt and Loz Forde were still very much involved with the club and would continue to be after that 1989 triumph, while Brendan Collins, Kevin O’Shea and John Flanagan had only just retired.

Of the one remaining player, well the link wasn’t severed completely by any means, as Brendan Walsh’s younger brother Ollie was part of the 1989 team.

And it’s statistics like these that make St Clarets such a fascinating study for The Preacher Man.

There are links and bonds within this club that are not mirrored or replicated anywhere else in London football. There is a longevity to people’s associations with the club that have ensured that as time has gone by, it hasn’t left this club behind in its wake.

St Clarets is a very special club and this Friday night hopefully we will get the opportunity to realise just how special it is, when the club holds a Mass for its members and also the social evening afterwards.

It’s a great opportunity for people to reconnect with the club and hopefully renew some old acquaintances.

Sadly The Preacher Man won’t be there on the night as I’m doing my missionary work overseas at present, but I’ll be there in spirit if nothing else.

And when any of you meet Rose McCarthy, make sure to tell her she made The Preacher Man a happy man, just like my father said she would.

The Preacher Man


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April 10th 2012

Apples, Oranges And Chocolate Hobnobs

Hobnob heaven
The story of broken Hobnobs
and a Song with no tune.

Mrs Preacher Woman is a kindly, understanding sort of a soul; I guess no more than you would expect from the wife of a Preacher Man.

She's patient and supportive of my work and over our many years in union, she's got to the point where she'd probably say she knows me inside out.

Or at least that's what she would have said up until last Sunday, when for the first time in our years together, she decided to sit down and watch a football match with me........ not once, but twice. It was an historic moment in our relationship.

Our first offering was the Arsenal v Man City encounter, a mouth-watering affair that had my loyalties split.

The soft spot that I have for the Gunners was being teased ferociously by my lifelong disdain for all things United. I must confess that there was a small part of me that wanted City to win, so as to at least give them a puncher's chance of bringing the season to an exciting conclusion.

However, that scenario brought further turmoil for me, as then I had to consider the prospect of Spurs qualifying for the Champions League again and suddenly I cared not for City's title challenge.

The Preacher Man and Spurs go back a long, long way, right back to the Thursday night in 1982 when Glenn Hoddle scored the goal that beat my beloved QPR in the FA Cup Final replay. That's a memory that has stayed with me forever and the first time that I experienced that gut wrenching nausea that comes with defeat.

So it was against this backdrop, Mrs Preacher Woman and I settled down with two mugs of tea and a packet of her favourite chocolate Hobnobs to watch the game from The Emirates and soon, very soon in fact, she started to see a side of me that she didn’t know existed.

Such was her shock at my language and my behaviour towards the television, that she actually over-dunked her chocolate Hobnob in her tea, an action that brought out a side of her I'd never seen before as well.

Easter Sunday was proving to be a real eye opener.

For 84 long minutes I continually questioned the value of Alex Song, laid money on the fact that Balotelli would get sent off and even at one time marvelled, yes marvelled at the defensive work rate of Benayoun.

By the time Aaron Ramsey was introduced, both myself and Mrs Preacher Woman were wondering what the hell had happened to the person we married... The biscuit affair wouldn't go away and my Song wasn't singing.

Thankfully for all Mikel Arteta saved the day with a moment of brilliance and by Wednesday, the biscuit incident was a thing of the past.

However, we were only half way through the day at his stage and the very worst was yet to come.

Real Madrid against Valencia.... The classic clash of the haves and the have nots. The team with the 90,000 capacity stadium they fill every week and a squad full of high performance and high maintenance super stars, against the team with the half-built stadium that they can't afford to finish and a sure fire guarantee that at the end of every season, they are going to have to sell their best player of that campaign.

Madrid are my new least favourite team. I marvel at the club and I'm amazed by its history, but sadly these days, the club seems to be in someway cheapened by those within the club with the highest profiles. There's something not right about Real under Mourinho and even their loyalist fans are struggling with the nature of his stewardship.

And of course, wherever there is a villain. there has to be a hero and for me, the heroes are Barcelona. So from that point of view, a win for Real was the one thing I didn't want coming out of the Bernabeu.

As it happened the game ended level but there were moments in it that had me jumping up and down in my seat, annoying her good self who was by now tinkering away with the knitting needles, while also keeping an eye on the television.

Her gaze turned to heaven every time I shouted at the tv and it's safe enough to say that I wasn't at my most holy on Easter Sunday evening.

My vocabulary wasn't the sort you'd read in the Good Book and my feelings towards my fellow men were none too complimentary.

Thankfully for everyone in our house, the game ended in a draw, a good enough result for my agenda and things returned to normal long before the last of the Madrid Ultras had left the stadium.

The next day, still somewhat shocked by the events of the previous afternoon and evening, the good lady asked why the anger and why the rage? I guess a perfectly acceptable question given the nature of events the day before.

You see the thing about the Preacher Woman is that she's not from GAA stock and despite the many years I've spent trying to explain the whole concept to her, she just never got it.... Well not until last Monday morning anyway.

To my untrained eye there's a real honesty about Gaelic games and for the most part, I feel that stems from two things.

Firstly the fact that the players are generally representing their parish and the people they have known all their life and secondly, because no one gets paid for playing.

The first point has its obvious values. Its territorial, it’s about family and friends, it's about pride and it's about your clan. For generations people have fought to defend the honour of their people and that's what teams do every time they step onto a Gaelic football field.

And then there's the amateur aspect. The fact that you do it because you want to do it and not because you're contractually obliged to.

This means there's an honesty and an integrity to the endeavours of those on the field, while the fact too that players have to give their all each week and each training session just to make sure that they get a place on the team the following week also guarantees commitment.

As a professional, whether you play or not, you still get paid. As an amateur, your pay is your play or your play is your pay, whichever way you want to look at it.

So as much as Mrs Preacher Woman may feel that she learned about me last Sunday, I also learned a lot about my own sport.

Would I have marvelled at Brian Dooher or Michael Donnellan tracking back from half forward to make a game saving tackle? No, because that's what those guys did week in and week out. The team needed them to do it and what’s more, expected them to do it.

However, I marvelled that Benayoun did. Why? Well because it's not that common a sight, in the same way that Spanish television will from time to time show highlights at half time of the rare occasions when Ronaldo tracked back over the half way line. It' such a rare event, they capture it for posterity.

My anger last week was silly because it stemmed from comparing apples with oranges. The intensity, the honesty and the integrity of Gaelic games pitted against the all-too-often almost fraudulent play-acting and work shy attitude of our most highly paid international sports stars.

The two things don't stand up to comparison, so they shouldn’t be compared.

And anyway, neither my soul nor my marriage will stand up to another night like last Sunday.

The Preacher Man


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april 3rd 2012

The Size Of The Fight In The Dog

Peter Sauber
Peter Sauber: battling against the odds

When I’m not busy spreading the Claretian word as The Preacher Man, I’m something of a closet petrol head.

I like a bit of Formula One action and have been known to move my Sunday commitments around in order to facilitate the viewing of whatever drama Bernie and his amazing petrol guzzling circus can supply.

I know Formula One is a real turn-off for some and it’s often referred to as predictable, and that it’s all about whoever has the most money; while the races themselves are often criticised for being not much more than a procession of cars around a track. And at times, those comments are justified.

However, there are also times when the sport throws up such drama that The Preacher Man has to send instructions to the kitchen to have my mugs of tea replenished, rather than risk missing a single nail-biting moment of the action by doing it myself. For the most part Mrs Preacher Woman facilitates me, despite her own growing addiction to the four cylinder carousel on the television. Nonetheless, when you’re caught in the grip of a race, etiquette and selflessness go out the window and I have to exercise my rights as the man of the house!

The recent Malaysian Grand Prix was a race that captured every single intoxicating aspect of Formula One racing, what with all the crashes, the safety car, the red-flag due to the horrendous weather, mechanical problems and plenty of finger-pointing afterwards. Everything that makes F1 one of the greatest shows on earth was delivered in Malaysia.

But there was more to it than merely the sporting spectacle. Within all that drama and all that excitement, there were several stories that make sport that very real living, breathing thing that so often consumes us like a tsunami.

The amazing drive delivered by Sergio Perez in a Sauber showed to the world that money and personalities will take you a long way in sport, but a bit of underdog courage and bloody-mindedness will get you places as well.

Sauber in recent times have been a bit like how Steve Austin used to be described in the opening credits of The Six Million Dollar Man – “a team barely alive” and but for the dedication and perseverance of the team’s Swiss born owner Peter Sauber, the name Sauber would probably have long disappeared from the grid, like so many have done before. When the German auto giant BMW no longer wanted to be in the F1 game, Sauber stepped back in to save the team and his name.

Somehow or other the Sauber team have stayed on the F1 radar since they first entered the sport in 1991, but it hasn’t been easy.

As Sergio Perez, a Mexican novice driver in only his second year of F1 racing, crossed the line in second place behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, team owner Peter Sauber was moved to tears on the pit wall and momentarily at least, allowed himself to become an emotional wreck at the sight of his team once again standing on the podium at the end of a race.

It was an incredible sight and one which showed just how much feeling and intensity is involved in this sport that is so often accused of being nothing more than a money making scheme.

And there were other similar stories elsewhere on the final standings. Force Indian, a solid citizen of a team over the past few years ended up with two cars in the top ten, Williams, a team virtually on its knees in the past year or so, ended up with a very credible sixth place and Torro Rosso, the poor relation of Red Bull Racing, also finished with a car in the top ten.

What those placing on the final leader board will confirm to you is that money and influence can gain you an advantage but that that advantage is worth little, unless the heart of a street fighter is beating away within the body of the team.

Courage, determination, pride, desire, a never-say-die spirit and pure bloody-mindedness are all crucial, crucial elements to any success, be it in business or sport. These are also traits that have long been associated with this club.

However, thus far this year, those traits have been missing from our senior team and that’s of great concern. Granted we have only played a few games, but it’s what’s been going on behind the scenes that’s of most concern.

Thus far, something hasn’t clicked, people haven’t sussed out the importance of these virtues in the DNA of St Clarets. These characteristics are the most important things that we have and they have served us well in the past and they will continue to serve us in the future.

It’s time to light the fire under St Clarets again and it’s time to start spoiling the parties like we used to. The only people that are capable of doing anything about this are those directly involved with the senior team.

Think of Sergio Perez and think of Peter Sauber and realise that it's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

The Preacher Man


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March 27th 2012

Midnight At The Lost And Found

Glenn Hansard
Glen Hansard: Words to lead you home

Some or possibly all of you will know of the singer Glenn Hansard. Glenn first received international attention way back in the day as Outspan Foster, the “ginger bloke” in the Irish movie The Commitments.

However, unlike many of his co-stars in that movie, Hansard went on to become a celebrity in his own right, first as the front man of the band The Frames and later, as the male half of the Oscar winning singing / songwriting duo The Swell Season.

Hansard has a gift with words. He has the ability to say in four lines of a song what a fella like me would need four pages to try and get across. The guy's a serious talent when it comes to putting words together.

Hansard's public persona is one of a very shy, modest and easily embarrassed individual, a guy who it would appear is far happier having a pint with his mates in his local in Dublin, than he is doing all the celebrity stuff that comes with winning an Oscar.

I don't know the man at all, so for all I know, that might just be an act he’s putting on. But let's just say that it isn't and let's just assume that Glenn Hansard is one of life's good guys, a fella you'd enjoy a pint with yourself and a fella who'd be good craic to hang out with.

It's Hansard’s modesty that attracts people to him, especially when he's performing, be it in a huge concert venue or in front of ten people in a library somewhere in small town America. He effortlessly puts people at ease and makes them feel as if they are central to everything that is happening in that room at that moment.

He somehow creates a conversation between himself and the audience with his story-telling, without the audience ever actually being involved in the conversation, save for their role as listener. Nonetheless, when it’s all over and done with, the audience are left with the feeling that they have just been privy to a wonderfully insightful discussion with someone, someone who was delighted and amazed that anybody wanted to be involved in the conversation with him in the first place.

He has the ability to make each individual in the audience feel as if they ARE the audience. It’s a real gift.

And it's with one of these conversations that I want to begin today's thought for the day. During a live radio interview a few years ago, Hansard and some fellow members of The Frames were playing a few songs "live and unplugged" so to speak. The DJ asked Hansard what they were going to play next and as Hansard randomly plucked at a few chords of his guitar, searching his memory bank for a suitable number, he modestly replied that he didn’t know but that: “It feels good to be a little lost sometimes”.

Moments later, he started to play a superb version of a tune he said he had learned from his mother in his childhood called "Young Hearts Run Free" by Candi Staton, a song no one listening would have really anticipated him playing. It was a privilege to listen to it. As lost as Hansard may well have been moments earlier, he found himself with that song.

And Glenn was right, it is good to get a little lost sometimes. In fact, I'm sure that everyone, or almost everyone, will go through periods of uncertainty and instability in their life, periods when they disconnect from what they have always stood for, believed in or been involved with; periods when they have been “lost”.

There's no harm in that whatsoever, in fact, a bit of "lost", a bit of adventure is good for the spirit and the orienteering required to get back on track can do wonders for focus, commitment and self-awareness.

That is of course as long as you find your way back to a clearing, be that the old familiar turf that you have stamped so often and for so long, and where you feel most comfortable, or alternatively, pastures new, where you feel invigorated by the challenges that lie ahead.

The key thing though, is that you emerge from the wilderness, that you find yourself or at least find what you were looking for.

People in their personal, emotional and professional lives can get a little lost sometimes and find themselves both wondering and wandering, revisiting the same questions, apparently unable and incapable of finding answers, caught in a loop. Sometimes it’s almost an essential part of one’s personal development.

And the same need for "lost" can befall anyone involved in sports as well. People get disillusioned, people get side-tracked, people become unenthused, people become complacent, people feel unneeded and some people just become lazy.

These are all challenges that every amateur athlete, and no doubt most professionals as well, have had to try to overcome at times. Some do, some don't.

Within St Clarets we all know someone that has become disillusioned with life within our sport and our club, we all know someone who has lost their lust for life within St Clarets GFC. We also know it would be great to get these people back, get them involved again, to help them to feel part of what we're about.

We've a few things coming up in the next number of months that provide us with the opportunity to get these people back involved; the club Mass on April 20th which is to be followed by a social evening in Botwell Club, and then the annual golf day in June. Both these occasions are great opportunities for us to present this club as well as we possibly can.

Events like these are perfect opportunities to try and get people back into the club, whatever the skills they have to offer. What's for sure is that they all have something to offer.

Glenn Hansard is right when he says it's good to be a little lost every now and then, but by the same token, it's also good to be found again. For those of you who, like me, have been lost in their life, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The Preacher Man


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March 20th 2012

People People People


There is only one thing that will kill a football club and that is the people involved with it - be it through their actions or through their lack of action. Either way, the long term well being of any club is dependent on the constant nurturing, attention and good intentions of those who are actively involved within it.

In recent times we have witnessed in the professional arena how a lack of due care and attention or an alterior motive can do great damage to major sporting institutions. You only have to consider the plights of football clubs like Rangers and Portsmouth to realise that nothing can ever be taken for granted in sport.

Fair enough, the two examples mentioned have problems that stem from financial mismanagement and business plans that wouldn't stand up to too much scrutiny, but at the same, those plans were allowed to be actioned because people made assumptions.

People didn't question or challenge and people took their collective eyes off the ball. In short, they assumed the football club would look after itself.

The fact is though that a football club is incapable of looking after itself, it is completely dependent on those people with a vested interest in the club.

And the rules that apply in the professional arena, apply in the field of amateur sport as well. The well being of any amateur club relies on those involved with it.

Currently within St Clarets, as a club, we're in a pretty good place. We've a host of enthusiatic and capable people investing time and effort in all sectors of the club.

Of course everything could be better, but the same can be said in just about any walk of life you care to mention, and while we deserve credit for the work that is being done at the moment, especially in pushing on our youth football teams, we also have to be careful that we never become complacent.

Sport is a competitve beast. We train and practice and spend money to try and make sure that the teams we put onto the field each week are as competitve as possible. We try to give every player the opportunity to be the best they can within the confines of what we can afford, what we know and how much the player wants to develop in the first place.

But away from the field of play, sport is also competitive, in fact at times we need to be even more competitive that we expect our players to be. That's all part of the battle for survival that is keeping a football club alive.

Some of you will already be aware of the story I am about to tell, so I will try to explain it without boring everyone with too much detail.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Kingdom were the top club in London by a country mile. At one time, they won five Championships in a row, they had the best of footballers coming to them on a constant basis and if my memory serves me right, they also won the unofficial All Ireland 7s title, the competition that is now known as Kilmacud 7s.

As football clubs go, be it in the UK or Ireland, the Kingdom was a serious beast.

Around about 1987 there was a split in the club and from that split a new club called, Kerry Gaels was formed and within six or seven years they had grown into a well- respected senior club, regularly competing against their "mother" club, much in the same way that our rivalry with St Brendans developed after we had broken away from them in the 1970s.

Indeed, Kerry Gaels grew so substantially that they won the senior league once and regularly had four or five players on the London senior team.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems rather strange that people either didn't noticed the problems developing within the club that caused the original split, or cared enough about the club and what it had stood for to prevent it. One would hope that early intervention would have prevented the breakaway club.

Regardless though, the split happened and throughout the 1990s the division between the newly formed Kerry Gaels and the Kingdom grew and as it did so a pretty intense rivalry began as well.

However, around about 1999 or so, problems developed for both clubs, and both problems revolved once more around people. The story I was told by people invovled at the time, was that the Kingdom club had willing administrators but not enough players and Kerry Gaels had loads of players but no one to run them.

The solution, and it was a very unpopular solution within London at the time (and also elements of both clubs it must be said), was that the two clubs rejoined, the seperated embryoes came back together and the Kingdom Kerry Gaels was formed. A brand new club with no history. The Kingdon is dead, long live the Kingdon Kerry Gaels so to speak.

So why tell this yarn? Well the root cause behind the formation of that club was that people took their eyes off the ball, not one but twice. People weren't prepared to take responsibility, people waited for someone else to make the decision, people stood and watched, saw problems develop and said nothing.

It can happen so easily, and all too often it's too late when you realise it's happening.

Every player that we come across is vital, every opportunity we have to strengthen our squads is crucial for the future development of the club, whether that player is an 8-year old who doesn't even know what Gaelic football is or a 23-year old looking for a bit of help getting started in London.

Each of them is important, and we the people of St Clarets have to look after these people and if we do that, then we the people of St Clarets will be doing our job in helping to make sure that The club goes from strength to strength.

The exact same message applies when looking at sponsors, potential sponsors, potential new club officers, coaches or people who just want to be involved with the club. We the people of St Clarets are the people with the responsibility.

Thankfully we're a million miles from any crisis at present, but you'd be amazed how quickly things can change.

Just ask the Pompey fans who celebrated winning the FA Cup a few years and two periods of administration ago.

League One football is a long way from Wembley Way on cup final day.

The Preacher Man


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March 13th 2012

You're In It To Win It

Sport: it has to be all about that winning feeling

If you are to be fully involved in sport, truly committed to what you are doing, investing your heart, body, mind and soul into your chosen activity, then there are only two emotions that should ever really register – disappointment and elation.

Anyone who has feelings about their sport that sit anywhere within the vast spectrum that separates these two opposing ends of the scale, hasn’t really bought into what they are supposed to be involved in.

You simply can’t be emotionally indifferent or blasé about your sporting pursuits and obsessions.

Yes, people may participate, they may turn up whenever required and they may make all the noises expected, but unless, at the end of each game, or at the end of each season, you feel either genuinely disappointed or elated, then you have only really been an observer.

While for many amateurs who are involved in sport this might seem an extreme viewpoint to hold, the fact is that success in sport doesn’t happen by accident and the pursuit of success can not be treated as something that can be dipped into and out of as the mood suits.

To be successful, especially in a team sport, there has to be total investment, not just from a few people but from the overwhelming majority. A few stranglers can always be dragged along by the masses, but a few committed enthusiasts can not drag along the unenthused masses.

Anyone pursuing what people term “social sport” is doing a horrendous disservice to the word sport. Social and sport are two words that do not sit easily together. You’re either in it to win it or not in it at all.

The difference between disappointment and elation is massive, not just in the work that is required to achieve the latter and to avoid the former, but also in the way that that emotion will sit with you going forward in life.

The good times will always be remembered for what they were; the feeling of collective achievement, a moment when it all came good, a return on your investment of time and effort. Merely thinking back over the big successes you may have had in your sports career, should be enough to still give you that feeling that is probably best described as goosebumps.

By the same token, the opposite end of the spectrum will always stay with you and ten years later, twenty years later, it will leave you with a similar sickening feeling you had in your stomach when the final whistle first sounded and you realised that you had failed in your attempts.

The nauseous feeling may not be as acute as it once was, but it will be there and by being there, it will remind you always of the errors you made, the lack of commitment from yourself and others that cost your team and the fact that collectively your team mates couldn’t get into the right place, physically or mentally, at the same time, for a long enough period of time. That is of course, only if you cared in the first place.

I was reminded of these feelings recently when asked to write a reflective piece about my time playing football.

I was shown a re-union photograph of some old adversaries, guys that at the time were one-step-short of being my sworn enemies.

Twenty-odd years after our battles, there was quite obviously still a real bond between so many of these adversaries, an interest in each others lives and a friendship that this far had stood the test of time. That bond was built through the collective good-time feeling that comes with victory and the hard work that is required to achieve those victories.

When I then consider the group I played with at that time, equally talented, but no where near as committed, I realised that I know little or nothing about the vast majority of them. I realised that the price you can pay for failure, is not only that gut gnawing feeling of disappointment, but also the long-term bond that only success brings.

On All Ireland Final day, the GAA never parades out the team that lost the final of 25 years previously; they only parade out the winners.

I guess part of the reason for that is that no loser needs or wants to be reminded of their disappointments and failures, nor do they need to publicly re-live them, because the fact is, they have to live with them all the time anyway.

Don’t let your own sporting memories be dominated by disappointments.

Sport’s about that winning feeling. Without it, there’s a void.

The Preacher Man


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March 6th 2012

Power To The People

Niall Moyna: knows the value of people

There’s a small village in the north-west corner of Spain where the Preacher Man likes to go.

It’s an honest place, a place where people aren’t in any way impressed by what you do for a living, aren’t particularly bothered by what car you drive or the size of the house you live in, and certainly have no inclination to ask you about your last holiday. These things just aren’t important in this place.

It’s a place that puts little value on material possessions or personal achievement. It’s a place where people come first. Health and happiness are the kings of this frontier.

In this place there’s a small house, and in that small house there’s a room. It’s a simple room, the perfect metaphor for life in this part of the world. There’s a massive open fire at one end and a table that seats 15 or sixteen people stretching the entire length of the room, with two benches running down either side. As rooms go, it’s as understated as any room could be.

The language spoken in this room is an odd mixture of Gallego (the language of Galicia) and Spanish. It’s a local room for local people, but nevertheless, a room where all are welcome and made feel welcome.

The Preacher Man has been lucky enough to spend many hours in this room, courtesy of the seemingly limitless generosity of the hosts Pili and Alfonso, two people who have lived their entire lives in rooms like this and in this small town.

While in this room, while enjoying the home grown goodness of everything that Pili and Alfonso bring to the table and while listening to the ramblings and stories of the others gathered in the room, often in Gallego (of which the Preacher Man understands nothing) and occasionally in Spanish, the Preacher Man has laughed until he has been unable to laugh any more and had to wipe tears of pure joy from his face.

It’s a room with no windows or actual view, but it’s a room that gives you the greatest view of all into the real meaning of life and the importance of people.

No matter how fiercely the fire burns in this room, the warmth of the people out-does it. This is a place where you realise that people are the most important thing in the world.

The Preacher Man was reminded of this room last week when he read an exert from an interview with Dr Niall Moyna, the head honcho of all things GAA at DCU, after his side had lifted their third Sigerson Cup in six years.

During the interview he talked about his team’s preparation and approach and one of the things that stood out to me in the interview was a simple phrase: “It is all about people.”

This is a drum that we’ve been beating here for quite some time now. I’ve mentioned it several times in this column and it’s pleasing to see that the great and the good of the GAA are thinking along these lines too.

There are very few of our aims and objectives for the year ahead that can’t be achieved by the collective will and participation of the entire group that we have.

If club members invest in what the club is trying to do at both youth and adult level, and if the players buy-in totally to the concept of being the best that they can be, then it matters not how the outside world may view us, it matters not whether we have the best facilities in London and it matters not what so-called big-names other sides may sign.

If we know for sure that we have the best people doing the best that they can within the club, then we know we’re heading in the right direction.

There’s nothing easy about life in Galicia. The winters are cold, hard and demanding and the summers are hot, humid and even tougher to get through. Yet and all, people believe in their region, they believe in themselves and they live a life so full and honest that all the rest of us can do is look on in envy. And seldom if ever do they look on in envy at any of our trappings.

Let’s make St Clarets the envy of the rest of London.

The Preacher Man


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February 28th 2012

The Truth About VaVaVoom

Vavavoom: there is an honest answer

Globally truth and honesty are commodities in short supply.

A read through any newspaper, a look at any news programme or a listen to any politician or CEO will give you an indication of just how little there is in the line of truth and transparency available for public consumption.

And just like any commodity that becomes difficult to come by, the way that people choose to use truth and honesty changes as its supply diminishes. They become more careful with it, more frugal and more aware of how it is being used and more importantly, on whom it is being used.

It’s like that big box of biscuits that the family receives at Christmas from some friendly neighbour. Initially, once opened it is a bit of a feeding frenzy, but then, as the stockpiles dwindle and it becomes apparent to all that the stocks aren’t going to be replenished any time soon, then the consumption becomes more guarded, just to make sure they last a little longer. We start to save them for mum and dad or the visitors. And so it is with the truth.

Those in the upper echelons of society, whether in politics, business or entertainment, are often generous to a fault with their lies and half-baked works of fiction, while only occasionally allowing others to savour on the purity of what could be called the truth. However, the further up the line you go, the more reluctance there is to use any of those precious truths.

When you are swimming in a sea of lies, the truth will do you little good, so it’s often better to swim with the fish than to sleep at the bottom of the ocean with their food.

But there is one place where we always feel we can find honesty. That one portion of modern life where we feel that all that takes place is exactly how it should be… the honest labour of men or women - their blood, their sweat, their tears and their bloody-mindedness … and that’s in sport, and especially in amateur sport.

There is a wonderful understanding that in sport you get out of it what you put in, the better, more committed, more determined man / woman / team will always win. It’s an E=MC² sort of equation… definite, constant and without variation, as long as you keep feeding in the correct data, the results will remain exactly as they should be. It’s a Ronseal arrangement, it does exactly what is says on the tin.

The crucial part of this honesty equation in sport though is the data that is input in the first place. In basic mathematics, two plus two only equal four if the two is entered, followed by the plus sign, followed by the other two and then the equals sign. Enter it any other way and you get a different result.

And that’s the simple honesty of sport. You work and you get the reward. Some people’s reward will always be greater than others, but in a team sport especially, the collective effort of the winning team will generally have outweighed the collective effort of the losing team.

Yes ability has a part to play, but if it was the crucial part, then there would be no such thing as a giant killer in sport. Sport would lose its vavavoom.

And how do you get that vavavoom?

Well it’s what you put in night after night in training, both collectively and individually. It is what you eat, how you rest, how you prepare, how you train and how you approach the game.

It’s what separates the winner from the loser.

It’s honesty.

As a club let’s prove that the demise of honesty has been greatly exaggerated. Let’s be the most honest club side in London this year.

We’ve started with a stutter, no doubt about that, but I can hear the vavavoom. It’s pure, it’s honest and it’s coming.

The Preacher Man


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February 21st 2012

The Journey Begins

Mikasa football gloves: as out-dated
as one-size-fits-all training

Well it’s finally here lads… the start of spring training camp as the American’s would call it; hell as most GAA players would probably be more likely to refer to it as.

It’s the beginning of the new season, an incredibly exciting season for everyone involved in the GAA in London, as surely the games here are at their strongest since probably the early 1990s, thanks very much to Bertie and his merry band of mad men, the economic philandering of a nation and the boys in the banks, their bonuses and the molotov cocktail of debt they so kindly prepared for the nation.

As a result of all this, the competition we face in London is better now that it has been in a long time, the preparation most are doing is more insightful and meaningful and the potential for achievement is there for all. It’s a level playing field as we start the journey.

And it is a journey, and like all journeys, if you don’t start well and head in the right direction as a unit, then no matter how hard you try for the rest of the year, you’ll always be playing catch-up.

For those of you who have played catch-up in the past, you'll know it’s not much fun.

So Thursday night it all begins. The focus is going to be on familiarisation for all. Getting to know each other again, getting to know the ball again and getting to work your body again.

There are plans in place for the next few weeks, definite session plans that are designed to get us up and running again, with most of the running you’ll be glad to hear being done with the ball…. Most, not all!

And why so? Well firstly, as we have discussed here in the past, the notion of trying to get a collective of twenty or thirty people fit, at the same time, doing the same thing, is about as out-of-date as a pair of those yellow Mikasa football gloves with the pimples.

Each player is an individual with a different level of fitness, a different set of needs and a different capacity for work. What the 19-year old thinks is fun, is hell to the 33-year old, but what the 33-year old does as second nature, the 19-year old hasn’t yet mastered. While the sprinter eats up the short stuff, the long distance runner dies and vice versa.

So we’re going to hand a degree of responsibility over to you the players to “get yourselves fit” to know yourself and your body and to do what you need to do. And if you don’t know, ask someone who can advise you.

What we’re going to try and do is firstly make you want to go training and secondly, make sure that while you are there, you are doing something that you enjoy and feel is beneficial to you as a footballer and the team.

As we say, as much as possible, it is ball, ball, ball, with a little sprinkling of work thrown in.

That’s not to say it will be a cake-walk, far from it. It’s going to be as hard as you wish to make it for yourself, the better you start, the more focused you are in the work that you are asked to do, the more benefit you will get from it. Mess about, go about your work half-hearted and you’ll be playing catch-up and as we said earlier, catch-up is no fun.

So the plan for the start is a few weeks of one night a week and then into two nights a week.

It’s about making St Clarets a better football team and making its players better footballers. It’s the start of our journey…. So let’s enjoy it.

The Preacher Man


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February 14th 2012

Don't Look Back In Anger

Mr Marmite - Paul Galvin:
not to everyone's taste

Paul Galvin is what they call a Marmite footballer, you either love him or you hate him, there appears to be no real middle ground when it comes to discussing the Kerry forward.

His career has always been colourful to say the least and the media in general love him, maybe not personally, but as a source of copy, a go-to-man for a comment, a back page story when things are a bit slow. More often than not, Galvin is pleased to assist them, either by word or by deed, either intentionally or unintentionally.

From my own point of view, well I’m a fan. Maybe not of every utterance he comes out with, but certainly of the footballer that he is and the honesty and commitment he shows in his play. I love that heart on the sleeve approach to life.

In many ways he reminds me of the character Mickah Wallace in the film “The Commitments”. When it was first announced that Mickah would be joining the band as the security man, “Outspan” Foster yelped “Mickah Wallace! He’s a savage”. To which band manager Jimmy Rabbitte gleefully replied: “I know, but he’s our savage.”

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that Paul Galvin is a savage or anything like that, but he is the sort of player that you’d rather have him doing his thing for your team rather than against it. That X-factor that Galvin has is gold dust to a lot of sides and many of the most successful squads down though the years have had a Galvin-type character associated with them. "Wind-up merchants who can play a bit" I suppose you might describe them.

So what is it that Galvin has done in recent times to excite me to the point that I have included him in this week’s sermon?

Well in recent days the Finuge attacker has been in the papers with his comments about the inevitability of pay-for-play in the GAA in the coming years. As interesting a debate as that concept is, it isn’t the part that intrigued me about what he had to say.

The bit that caught my attention was a sentence he added to qualify his own feelings on the matter with regard to himself personally, now coming near the end of his inter-county career.

In the interview he said: “It's not something I want or would look for because at this stage of my career I could never put a monetary value on what I've achieved or won and the memories I have. Those memories for me are priceless at this stage.”

It’s a very telling thing for a man to be able to say after nearly a decade in the spotlight, the fact that he treasures the memories and experiences that he has. I guess it is what we would all love to be able to say at the end of our sporting careers.

Nevertheless, there is also a flip side to that statement. Despite the controversy that Galvin has been involved in and some of it very public and no doubt painful for him personally, he has had the good fortune of having been a very successful footballer on a very successful team. He’s won four All Ireland and three All Star awards, so he’s done a little more than okay for himself and has plenty to look back on and be pleased with.

But what of those who haven’t had success? How do they feel about the whole looking back thing?

For the most part there has to be regret and with regret comes a gnawing pain that doesn’t go away any time soon. As easy as it is for a successful player to look back and think of the moments when they stood on the steps of Croke Park and accepted the Sam Maguire, it is equally easy for the defeated player to recall sitting on the grass staring up at winners celebrating. And those memories don’t fade with time and they provide little in the way of enjoyment either.

So I guess what I am trying to say here is, that for any sportsman for whom their sport matters, really matters, it’s all about trying to make sure that when you come to look back on your time as a player, that you’re not looking back in anger.

You are the architect of your own memories, make sure they’re memories you want to spend time in the company of, enjoying them, not ones that haunt you and that you try to dash from your mind as soon as they appear.

Because mark my words…. appear they will.

The Preacher Man


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February 6th 2012

Leading by example

In sport there are often
many levels of leadership

Leadership in any team, organisation or group of people is a key thing. The strength of any group is often judged on the competency, decisiveness and aura of the people who lead it.

Many men and women strive their entire professional lives and make huge personal sacrifices in order to achieve positions of power and influence - the chance to decide on the direction and tempo of movement that their organisation takes. Plain and simply, they strive and sacrifice to acquire the right to lead.

But leadership doesn’t always have to be about one individual or the collective of individuals at the top. Yes one voice, one vision is important in order to communicate the agenda and aims for a group, but the framework within which these ambitions are developed and ultimately realised can come from within the group, as well as from the very top.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to teams and team sports.

Leadership groups
You will often hear professional units talk about their leadership groups and how important a certain individual is to the leadership group or how much a retiring player will be missed from it.

These leadership groups are particularly prevalent in large team sports like Aussie Rules, where the match day squad is generally in excess of 23 players and the actual first team squad probably in the region of 40, as well as rugby union, again with a match day squad of 22 or 23 players and a first team squad of 30 plus.

These groups are generally elected by the players themselves and will include a mix of both experienced players, undoubtedly including the captain and vice-captain, as well as some of the less experienced players.

They are charged with deciding a whole range of issues that will be relevant to the playing group throughout the year, everything from internal disciplinary issues, through to what they’ll be doing on “Mad Monday” at the end of the season. The reason that the group exists and is made up in the way that it is makes total sense as well.

If the management of the team are constantly barking out the orders and making the rules, the whole thing becomes a little too much like school, with the grown-ups telling the younger folk what to do all the time. Such a situation doesn’t sit too well with most adults, especially given the fact that on many occasions, the players playing the game are highly educated and responsible individuals (with the exception of course of most English national teams in just about any sport you care to name!!!).

Voices heard
For similar reasons, they always make sure that younger players are included in the leadership group, as it makes sure that the newer, maybe less confident individuals in the team, get their voices heard too.

So what power do these groups hold? Well in the broader scheme of things not a great deal. They don’t decide the team or tactics nor do they decide on any of the finer details of what goes on in running a sports side. That’s what managers and coaches are appointed for.

However, what they do get to do is decide on the tempo that the team operates at within its own skin, the atmosphere that prevails within the squad and also the rules that they wish to impose amongst themselves. Housekeeping if you like.

By creating these groups, the players get to decide for themselves what is important to them and what is of little importance to them when it comes to how the playing group should function. What may appear to be a massive issue to a 60-year old manager, might be of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the group of 23-year old players he is in charge of. Therefore, it’s important that both voices get heard.

They can have a massive input into disciple issues like lateness, poor attitude, breaking dress codes etc and also huge inputs into social activities both during the season and when the season is over and done with, things that dictate the atmosphere with the changing room and within the group of players.

They can also take a great deal of stress off the management by looking after and delegating some of the smaller issues that need to be dealt with.

Every large group of people needs a leader, that’s why teams have managers. But that leader doesn’t have to be the one making all the rules.

By allowing the players to decide on some of the less important issues, to give them the latitude to create their own environment within which they will operate, it can make the job of the coaches and managers much easier.

That little bit of give-and-take can go a long way to creating a harmonious environment, an environment conducive to success. And what works within a professional arena can also work well on the amateur stage too.

If we look at the skill-set of the players that a club like St Clarets have and the duties that many of them carry out on a daily basis in their working lives, there is absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be a small leadership group created among the players to try and help create the environment they feel is most likely to bring success, enjoyment and harmony to the club and those involved with it.

It’s not about picking the team and it’s not about deciding how training should be, that’s what managers and coaches are for. However what it is about is firstly creating an inclusive and respectful approach for all players, regardless of age, ability or nationality and then making sure that there is a set of guidelines drawn up that says to each player: “If you want to play on this team and sit in this changing room, these are the minimum standards of behaviour, commitment and respect that we as a group of players expect from our team mates”.

Should a player or a number of players choose to dishonour these rules, then the leadership group will have the right to intervene to try and sort the situation out, with or without the aid of management, depending on how severe the situation is.

The Preacher Man


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February 1st 2012

To give or to grab ......... that's the question

St. Clarets: where we
are all in this together

We’ve all sat there at times, moaning about the good old GAA and its money grabbing instincts.

We’ll give out about the price of admission to a game, question the membership fee for our club, complain about a levy imposed on the club by a county board (a particular favourite of the London County Board it seems) and bitch whenever we are asked to dip our hands into our pockets for anything to do with the association.

It’s only natural I suppose. After all, anything that we spend money on and don’t feel we are getting value for, causes us upset. And there are undoubtedly times when we are perfectly within our rights to have a moan.

Of course, as a result of these perceived injustices against our wallets, and what with the Irish being the great wags that we are, we have quite naturally re-branded our most famous cultural and sporting institution as the “Grab All Association” flattering no, accurate… well maybe just a little.

Man in the mirror
However, as is the case with every story, there are two sides, there is a mirror that needs to be looked into and time needs to be taken to consider exactly what that mirror is saying back to us.

Yes, we hate having to give money to the Association we already selflessly invest so much of our free time in, and yes, there are occasions when some of the sums of money being asked for are extreme in any man’s language, and yes, there are times when the justifications and arguments being offered for these high prices hold little water at all.

So at those times, we’re right to have a bitch and a moan.

Nevertheless though, when we gaze into that mirror and consider what the mirror is saying back to us, there are also times when we are guilty of nothing more than hypocrisy.

Familiar story
Consider any ordinary GAA club, one anywhere in the global GAA community, no better, no worse and no different to St Clarets GFC.

Over the course of the year, the club receives innumerable donations and payments from people and businesses, all designed to help the club. Sponsors buy gear for us, golfers attend the golf days and make it the huge success that it has become, complete strangers buy tickets from us, others make generous cash donations and others offer support in a wide variety of ways.

Every GAA club graciously and gratefully accepts these offers of help, but how often do we then consider where we, as a group and a club, can be of help to another organisation?

Within any football club there is an absolute wealth of experience and knowledge that if combined together, creates an incredible organisation that is capable of achieving many things, both on and off the football field.

My suggestion this week would be why not try and make one of those many things a charitable exercise that shows St Clarets GFC giving something back to the community, not merely being part of the organisation that just takes, takes, takes…. remember…..The Grab All Association.

Several suggestions were made at the recent AGM regarding ways of raising money for the club. Each one of them had merit. My suggestion this week would be why not look at one of these suggestions and consider making it happen. However, instead of going it alone, do it in tandem with a local charity, good cause or organisation, one that needs help as much as we do.

The sort of good-will that our club would receive from such an act would be worth its weight in gold.

We already have many members who are heavily involved in their own personal charities and who work tirelessly to try and assist these charities whenever they can. Why not see how the club could help one of these movements, a joint effort, that raises our profile as a club and also helps to raise funds for the organisation we are working with.

“Més que un club"
In Spain, Barcelona Football Club pride themselves on the logo of “Més que un club" a Catalonian saying which translates to “More than a club”.

Those four words sum up perfectly what I’m trying to say in this piece.

St Clarets GFC – The Giving Football Club.

The Preacher Man

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January 23rd 2012

Start as you mean to go on

There are seats to
fill at the table

I’m going to be short and sweet this week. The topic on the table is the club’s upcoming Annual General Meeting and the message is simple.

The AGM is the beginning of a new year for St Clarets, the first real action for the club for 2012. Let’s make it a positive start and let’s make sure that by Sunday evening you, the club members, feel that you have the right people leading the club forward in 2012.

Far too often club members and interested parties will raise their eyes to the heavens at the thought of attending a club’s AGM. All too often though, those same people will be first in line to dish out the criticism as the year goes by.

However, by failing to attend the AGM, by failing to show any interest in the democratic process that is employed there to elect officers and by failing to participate in that democratic process, then in many ways a club member is also relinquishing their right to have a say in how those officers are performing – failing to attend an AGM is basically neutering yourself of your opinions.

The remedy is simple to this situation. Turn up to the AGM, participate in the discussions, offer an opinion, take part in the voting process and make sure that going forward in 2012, that the club are well aware of both your interests and your opinions.

Sitting on a high stool in June, complaining about the club, is not the way forward for any organisation. Participating in the processes laid down by the rules of the club is.

If St Clarets are to have success in 2012, be that at youth level or at adult level, then they will need strong foundations upon which to build that success. That process begins on Sunday at the AGM. If we start well, the rest will follow. If we start poorly, then it will take a lot of effort to turn things around before the season has even begun.

Those in key positions in the clubs want to be challenged, they want to have to work for the role they have, they don’t want to have it handed to them on a plate because no one else wants to stand against them.

To walk away from an AGM knowing that you hold a position because you have been regarded as the best person to carry out those duties is a lot more fulfilling than walking away with a position because no one else wanted it.

So short and sweet. Attend, engage and take part in the democratic process.

It’s your club, make sure that you have a say in the way it develops. 2012 for St Clarets GFC will be what you choose to make it.

The Preacher Man


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January 17th 2012

Dub Dub Dub …. It’s about your club


The Australians are a fantastic nation for reducing things – the name of their own country has been reduced to Oz, their most famous animal is known merely as a roo, their favourite form of eating is a barbie, their biggest sport is footie and one of their most well-worn expressions is “strewth” - which is short for “isn’t that the truth.”

Further to that, in the past they have very kindly reduced the number of criminals held within the British penal system and are at present reducing the “Live Register” in Ireland, as more and more of the young unemployed Irish head Down Under to seek employment and a better life.

Oh yes, when it comes to reducing things, the average Aussie is hard to beat, so it was little wonder that back in the day, when the internet started to become the global obsession that it is, that our fair dinkum buddies from the land where women glow and men plunder, decided that www was just too much of a mouthful to be coming out with over and over again.

So what did they do?

Well they did what they always do…….they downsized … and their abbreviation was simply Dub Dub Dub …. longer to write maybe, but shorter to say.

Bear this downsizing in mind for later on …… because we’re not going bush this week, we're not going to be dubbing down (sorry, terrible pun). This week we’re talking expansion.

No resting
We within the club have been a bit slow to utilise the tool that is the club’s website, but in fairness to us, we have made up some good ground over the past three or four months and we have no intentions of resting on our laurels.

The club’s website is now starting to take some shape and is up-dated at least twice a week, while the club’s facebook page has a fair amount of traffic on it as well. So at last we’re heading in the right direction down the information super-highway, even if we are playing a bit of catch-up.

The way we see the website going forward is that it will serve a number of purposes. Firstly, it will provide a notice board for all members and interested parties as to what is going on in the club each week, things like when and where and who to contact. That’s vital and it is our responsibility to make sure that the info provided on the site is up-to-date and accurate, because once a person loses faith with the accuracy of the site, they will stop using it altogether.

The past and the present
Secondly, we want to be able to document the events that have taken place in the club, both in the recent past and also in the distant past. Both aspects are of equal importance, although of course, the events of the more recent past are always more easy to access and demonstrate.

But these two factors are of huge importance as the documentation of the events of yesteryear help to keep those members involved in the past connected with the club and it provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge the important role that various people and groups of people played over the past 35 or so years that the club has been in existence.

Meanwhile, the more recent past and the events of the current calendar year, help to make the club and the website a living, breathing thing and it is a great way for us to be able to chart the highlights of the year at all levels of the club, as well as making sure that everyone involved with the club has a good idea of what is going within the unit. It’s vitally important that we create that sense of community within St Clarets.

The outside world
But there is a third and incredibly important use of the website and that is to promote ourselves as a club to the outside world. With the increasing number of footballers arriving in London these days, many are on the look-out for football teams and many will sit browsing the internet considering their options of who they want to play for and where they might consider living in London.

We are in a good position in terms of being able to help lads with work and housing when they first come to London, but it is pointless being in that position if no one knows we are able to help them. And that’s where the website and the facebook page are so very important.

Yes we can post the information on the site and hope that people will stumble across it, but if the site isn’t looking busy and cared for and full of information, then no one is going to hang around long enough to find out what we have to offer anyone. We need to lure them into it, spark their interest in us, make them inquisitive about St Clarets GFC.

We need people to be intrigued by what they see on our website and also our facebook page and we need them to want to find out more about the club, what we are about and how we can help them.

We also have an obligation to our kind sponsors to try and promote the help they give us, either through photographs, testimonials or, as we have at the minute, links from our website to theirs. We are indebted to the help that our sponsors give us each year and it is only right that we do what we can to pay a little of it back to them.

Further to that, it also provides us and our local born players with a reference point to introduce the club to new members, be it potential new players, supporters or sponsors and it will also help them to understand the efforts of the previous generations to keep the club going, often against all the odds.

And in order to make sure that we have the best website that we can possibly have, we need people to get more involved with making things happen.

Your opportunity
In the coming year, we want to have the club being highlighted in the best way possible on the website and we want to have people asking us questions about our club and talking about the things that are going on in our club.

The people that can make that happen are the members and it has nothing to do with being able to manage websites or anything like that. There are people in place who can do that, but what they need is information to put onto the site. The members and the people who attend training and games and the social functions are the people that can make that happen.

With the AGM taking place in a few weeks, it is an ideal opportunity for people to stick their hand up and volunteer to help with the promotion of St Clarets, be it in writing a match report, taking some photos, doing an interview or alternatively offering a supporter’s / player’s / parent’s perspective of the week within St Clarets. There are loads of avenues that we can explore.

If it is a case that you won’t be able to make it to the AGM, but still would like to help out in this part of the club, then feel free to email us on [email protected] with your ideas.

So in 2012, instead of doing what the Aussies love to do and downsize things, let’s up-scale our social networking and make sure that every breath we take as a club this year gets the chance to be documented.

Remember, …. Dub Dub Dub, it’s about your club.

The Preacher Man.

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January 11th 2012

Run Forrest Run - but bring a ball with you

Forrest: All blow, no brains

You may recall the scene in the film Forrest Gump where our hero finds himself playing American football and he grabs the ball, meanders all over the field, finally heads for the goal line and just keeps running, through the end zone and out of the stadium.

A classic case of a player with no game-brain, just a great set of lungs. A carbon copy of far too many GAA players in fact.

A few years back journalist and All-Ireland winning manager Eugene McGee wrote an article about life at the start of the GAA season for most players.

In the article he talked about “the puking season”, those few months at the very beginning of the year, when in many people’s minds, the credentials of the man taking the training is judged solely by the number of players he has heaving their guts out at the side of the pitch.

It was an hilarious, although sadly very accurate, description of what still goes on in far too many football teams every season, and it is a mindset that needs to be moved away from with the utmost urgency.

Although as of yet it hasn’t been proven scientifically, it is an fairly accurate assumption to make, that the volume of puke dispersed by a team in the early part of the year, is in no way proportional to the volume of success that the same team will have at the end of the year.

If this were the case, then The Preacher Man would be the most decorated player in the history of the game (both physically and in terms of silverware won!!).

The Guru McGurn
More recently, leading strength and conditioning coach Mick McGurn has paid tribute to the efforts of Crossmaglen manager Tony McEntee and the work he is doing with the serial All-Ireland winners.

In a recent interview, McGurn commented on McEntee’s methodology while working with his players.

The Belfast native said: “I just think club managers get too bogged down with strength and conditioning.

“I'd take a leaf out of Tony McEntee's book here when I say concentrate on the skills more than anything else. He's massive on making his players more skillful, more so than on the training aspect and he teaches them how to kick and how to make runs.

"The more skillful team will invariably win. There's too much training and not enough coaching going on.”

While such an approach will be greeted with much cheer from those who have over-indulged during the Christmas break, it doesn’t necessarily mean that fitness is not still something that has to be considered. It’s just that it has to be approached a little more creatively.

Friends with benefits
A friend of The Preacher Man was recently involved with a Division 2 NFL team and he encountered at first hand just how deep-set the “puking season” mentality is with some players, even relatively young one.

This coach is top drawer, up there with the likes of McGurn and one who has coached teams to All Ireland and National League success, so it’s fair to say he knows what he is talking about.

During a session early in the year, which was intensive and ball related, as opposed to the traditional long-winded and running related, one of the players asked him when they were going to start the real hard stuff?

As the same player quite literally crawled off the pitch at the end of the evening, having done nothing but work with a football for the entire session, the coach smiled over to him and merely asked: “Was that hard enough for you?”

The poor player unfortunately didn’t even have the energy to smile back.

However, what was achieved in that session was immense. The players were in constant contact with the football, gaining 200 or 300 contacts with the ball throughout the hour or so that they were on the field. The coaches were given the chance to assess the football credentials of the players that they were now in charge of, as everything they were doing was football related, and all the while, with the players almost being oblivious to the fact that it was happening, the players were working relentlessly on their own ball skills and also their fitness.

Make practice make perfect
Most teams spend about three hours a week of practice and one hour a week of actually putting into practice what they have practiced. Over the course of the year, most teams are probably active for no more than 35 weeks of the year.

So basically, most club players get a maximum of 105 hours of practice a year, of which far too much of that time is devoted to trying to get players fit, trying to make players faster and stronger. Nowhere near enough of this time is spent trying to make the players better.

In the case of St Clarets, this football related approach is very relevant.

A look at our squad will show you that we have a very eclectic mix of players. We have some who are now well and truly in the veteran stage, as much as they will protest otherwise. These are players who now play on instinct and experience and have no need or desire to be raced around a field like greyhounds.

In fact, in most of their cases, such an act would probably be counter productive.

We also have a large number of London-born players who have reached the stage of being competent but still have a lot of developing to do in order to improve themselves as players. Almost without exception, these players also play at least one other sport on a regular basis. Once again, charging them around a field in February has no value as they are already in reasonable shape. Getting them fully involved with a ball and improving their game awareness and their skill-set is all that is needed for them.

And then, in the middle, we have the 20-somethings, competent players, who like everyone need improving, who are maybe not in the greatest of shape, but at the same time, aren’t exactly on the coronary watch-list either.

Be creative with the training
Once again, time spent in creative contact with the ball will get them where they need to be to be able to compete at Intermediate level in London in July.

Even at the very top level of sport, players invest huge amounts of time in practicing and polishing their skills, working on first touch, passing, kicking, catching, breaking ball, tackling, positioning and on game awareness. These are the things that will win you games at club level in London, indeed in any county.

Fitness is a lifestyle choice. It involves many sacrifices including attention to diet, to rest, to alcohol consumption and to the types, quantity and quality of training that the player is prepared to do on a regular and continuous basis. It is a choice and it can’t be imposed on anyone.

Undertaking to “get people fit” by running them around a field, people who have no intention of making any of the additional sacrifices that are all part and parcel of fitness, is nothing more than a waste of time - time that could be used productively focusing on other matters.

Helping to get people a little fitter, while also improving them immeasurably as a player, will serve St Clarets far better in 2012.

If Forrest Gump is going be on your team, make sure he at least knows what he’s meant to be doing and how he’s meant to be doing it.

The Preacher Man

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January 5th 2012

No Regrets, No Tears Goodbye

The wisdom of the wash-out

Comedian Dylan Moran has a great routine where he talks about “potential”. It’s delivered in the Navan man’s usual lazy, deadpan and lethargic manner and resembles a tête-à-tête between a drunken, downtrodden and unappreciated uncle and his five-year old nephew-by-marriage.

The gist of Moran’s soliloquy is that potential should never be touched, explored or considered, as it will only lead to immeasurable disappointment.

Basically the case he argues is that we never have the potential we and others think we have and if we decide to scratch the itch that is our potential, then all we will be left with is a body full of half-healed, weeping, self-inflicted scratch marks and a bucket load of bitterness and resentment.

And I suppose Moran has a point in what he says. Mostly potential is something that someone else sees in us and that we seldom see in ourselves. These people may see the raw material for greatness in us, but they are all-too-often blissfully unaware of the seemingly insurmountable obstructions and obstacles that experience has put in our way - our own private barriers to immortality if you like.

However, to fully understand the enthusiasm of the advice giver, we must consider how these conclusions are reached.

Benefit of experience
Seldom will anyone younger than you come up to you, put an arm around your shoulder and tell you of your potential. Why would they? After all, the human food chain dictates the elder is the one to impart the advice, the younger is the one to digest it, much like a bird feeding its young in the nest.

So what is it that allows the elders of the world to assess the potential of others? Well plain and simply it’s experience, or should that translate as regret?

When you’re older you see slithers of yourself in others that you meet. You notice the spark in the eyes of a young person that you knew you once had and never acted upon, you notice the energy and enthusiasm in their actions and speech that you once had but never utilised to the maximum.

Put another way, what you see in them are mirror images of your own regrets and shortcomings – the things you failed to do, the things you couldn’t be bothered to do and which you will never get the opportunity to do again. And that’s what regret is. It is potential that was never realised and it is a very, very important factor in the life of any sports person.

Cancer of the spirit
Regret is like a cancer of the spirit, is wears you down, leaves you weak and eventually kills the spirit altogether. What’s left behind is nothing more than a sack of unfulfilled potential and angry regret.

The fact about potential is very simple. The only person responsible for what happens to your potential is yourself, and this is particularly relevant when you are a sports person.

You get one chance at sport, your body will obey your wishes and desires for a finite amount of time, thereafter the lines of communication get broken irrevocably and all that is left is a wish that it had lasted a little longer.

A football career will last a period of time… not a number of games, but a period of time.

For some that period could be far shorter than they had expected, as injury or life will dictate that their time is up. For others it will last far longer and they will be granted the opportunity to decide when their time is up.

The day of reckoning
What every player needs to make sure of though when that final day has come, is that they have played all the football that they could have played and played it to the best of their ability.

In other words that they had fulfilled their potential as a footballer.

Every game that is missed is a game that you will never play, as they aren’t stock-piled for you at the end of your career. They’re not like credits on a poker machine.

Likewise, every training session that is skipped is a missed opportunity to fulfil your potential as a player and improve yourself.

If your approach to your sport is casual, then be prepared for regret when it is all done, but if your approach is all about working hard and making the most of your potential, then you might just be surprised at how successful you can be.

Make 2012 the year when the five-year old nephew stands up to his drunken uncle-by-marriage and finally tells him what a bitter and twisted old man he really is.

Make 2012 the year of no regret.

The Preacher Man

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Dec 21st 2011
Think Like A Winner
Dec 14th 2011 New-Age Guru Wanted
Dec 7th 2011 The Quiet Man
Nov 29th 2011 Life In The Dungeon
Nov 22nd 2011 The New Broom Must Sweep
Nov 15th 2011 The Boss is The Boss is The Boss
Nov 8th 2011 The Convention, The Candidates and The Clarets
Nov 1st 2011 Words of Wisdom
Oct 28th 2011 A Proper Start

December 21st 2011

Think like a winner


The former Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly once said: “You must believe you are the best and then make sure that you are”. That mindset is as applicable to those involved with St Clarets GFC as it is to anyone involved at the top level of sport.

Success is all about mindset. The arrogance of the best player at a club is all part of what makes him the player he is, just as the nervous, timidity of the under-achieving cornerback prevents him from being the player he really could be.

No matter the sport and no matter the team, the same rule applies. Think big and act big… it’s the road to success.

So as the year draws to a close and we all sit back and consider the events of 2011, it is critical to the club that we assess these events and consider how we can learn from them and build on them.

We need to consider how we can improve our club in the coming year. We need to map out the steps we need to take in order to make sure that we are the best we can be, not just in terms of the various teams that we field, but much more importantly, how we can be the best we can be as a club.

Every year there are errors of judgement made by individuals on the field of play and in the committee room. Every year however, there are also innumerable good calls made by those involved with the club as well.

The challenge each year is to make sure that the good calls outweigh the duff ones. Get that equation right and you have won half the battle.

I think it is fair to say that at present St Clarets are in a pretty healthy position - and certainly a lot healthier than we were at some times over the past decade or so.

We’re strong at under-age level and the work being done by the likes of Colm, Mick, Steve and Pat needs to be applauded as it really has been exceptional.

However, we can not just sit back and expect these guys to continue working the miracles. We need to row in behind them as a club and make sure they have all the resources that we are able to provide for them, and that they also have all the support they need.

There is always a danger that youth projects can get overlooked and the link that is required between the adult section of a club and the youth section never becomes strong enough to ensure that both groups identify with each other.

This is an age-old problem in all clubs, others have made the mistakes and paid the price for those mistakes. We have the opportunity to learn from their errors and avoid their mistakes.

The under-age is something for the adults to be proud of at the moment…. let’s make sure that the kids realise that.

Similarly things are looking up on the senior side. We overcame a huge challenge at the end of the year when we defeated Thomas McCurtains in the relegation play-off, and certainly a loss in that match would have been a devastating blow.

We have the opportunity now to make the most of that reprieve, but we know that we have some re-organising to do.

Key to improvement is going to be leadership. Whilst many strived last year to try and drive the club on on the field of play, the fact that we never managed to secure regular off-field leadership was a real handicap to us.

While the commitment, the enthusiasm and the creativity of players helping out with training is always welcome and has to be admired, the fact is that it invariably has a negative effect on the player themselves, as they don’t get the opportunity to focus on the one thing that they really want to do and that is to play.

We need to try and fix this problem in 2012, and it has to be top of our list of priorities.

Further to the action on the field, we always also have to look at what is being done at an administrative level. We are blessed to have so many committed, hard working and honest people willing to give up so much of their spare time for the club, but they can always use a little more help.

The work done in securing sponsorship has been impressive, the work being done to improve the media presence of the club still needs to be improved, while the task of recruiting and securing players has been more than commendable in 2011. But, like with all things, there is always more to be done.

Standards and Challenges
It is imperative that in 2012 we set ourselves standards and challenges and that we make those standards and challenges formidable ones. If we don’t, then we will fail to progress and develop the club and we really do need to be looking at pushing St Clarets on.

We are one of the great survivors of the GAA in London. Many in the late 1990s couldn’t see how we could survive, and yet we went on to win two Intermediate Football Championships, appear in a Senior Championship final and also win a Tipperary Cup in the following five years.

The same was said two or three years ago, yet and all, we are still here and we are still growing.

However, we now need to break that cycle of emerging from the crisis stronger. Yes we need to be getting stronger, but we also need to start to avoid these crises. They’re very draining on those involved.

Remember: “You must believe you are the best and then make sure that you are”. That’s our challenge for 2012.

The Preacher Man

The Preacher Man will be having a break for a few weeks over Christmas but he’ll be back in early 2012.

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December 13th 2011

New-age guru wanted


Brendan Hackett: among the managers
who failed to impress his players

With the 2011 season long put to bed at this stage, it is now the time for thoughts to start to drift slowly towards 2012.

Throughout the GAA world, clubs will be stating their ambitions for the forthcoming season, mapping their journey and considering their options for 2012 and the position that will receive the most attention during this process is that of the manager.

In the modern world, the manager of any gaelic team, or any sports team, has to be some sort of mystically incarnation of a sports scientist, psychologist, motivator, tactician, confident, disciplinarian, recruiter, coaching guru and at times, mother.

It’s an almost impossible combination of talents to find in any one individual.

However, tragically for any football manager, the perceived absence of even one of these qualities, will undoubtedly bite them hard later in the year should success elude their charges - and often even when success is achieved.

At the outset of any year in any competition, only one manager can be successful. At inter-county level, only one out of 33 will win the All Ireland in football, thus in theory at least, meaning that 32 of his comrades could be judged to have been unsuccessful. In a club competition in London, only one in eight can be successful, therefore meaning that seven are failures.

Of course it shouldn’t be as black and white as that, but there are always a few minds out there, where colours never blend, and the manager has either achieved or not achieved, been a success or failed.

So taking on the job of managing any team, or alternatively, deciding who should be the manager of any team, is a task littered with obstacles and pitfalls. If the appointee is too old-school, players will soon lash out at them with claims that they haven’t moved on and that the training being offered or the tactics employed are from the dark ages.

Luckless Lillis
Such a scenario was highlighted a few weeks back when the management team of Portlaoise were lambasted by one of their players, Colm Parkinson, for being too old-fashioned in their approach to preparing the side for their assault at the Leinster club title.

So, despite the fact that they had been good enough to help the team to win the Laois crown and also get to the Leinster semi-final (where they were narrowly beaten by Dublin champs St Brigids), the call still went up for Mick Lillis and Mark Kavanagh to stand down.

Johnny no-mates
The same fate befell John O’Neill in Fermanagh last year when the players simply refused to play for him because he was too old-school and low-budget in so many of the things he was trying to get the team to do and in the way he wanted them to prepapre.

Conversely in Westmeath two years ago, new manager Brendan Hackett was lambasted and mocked by players, fans and media alike for his “alternative” and more left-field approach to preparing a football team. Such was the criticism of him, that he didn’t even make it to the first round of the Leinster Championship.

Here was a man who lived his life on the cutting edge of athlete preparation and was working to show that preparation techniques in one area of sport are perfectly transferable into another.

Hatchet for Hackett
It was all too extreme and new-age for the players and as they failed to buy into what Hackett had to say, and as results failed to go their way, so Hackett’s grip on the job loosened with remarkable speed.

The media joined in the bashing and Hackett was a dead-man-walking for most of his tenure with Westmeath.

Managing a team these days isn’t just about selecting a team and the decisions that are made during the game. These days it is all about preparing the team and making sure that each individual on it is in the optimum condition physically and mentally for each and ever game.

Given that the average GAA season is about eleven months long, that’s a near impossible challenge for anyone.

Countless comparisons
One of the greatest challenges that managers have to overcome these days is the amount of comparison that they have to withstand from players. And these comparisons aren’t always about past experiences but also current experiences as players play for three or four different teams and therefore three or four different managers over the course of a year.

In a place like London, you could easily have twenty different players from twenty different clubs in Ireland, who went to twenty different schools, played on half a dozen different county minor teams and went to a half dozen different universities.

Each of those individual football experiences involved in those scenarios will have been facilitated by a different manager using different methods, different vocabulary and varying degrees of player involvement, and each will have delivered a different degree of success along the way.

Each of the players involved will have formed an opinion on each of these experiences and decided what they think is right and wrong.

When they then encounter a new experience, they will quite naturally judge it against their previous knowledge.

If the individual feels the county minor manager had it off to a tee, then the chances are the cub manager is on a hiding to nothing with them if he isn’t following that blueprint.

A player like Colm Parkinson has played for some top managers with Laois, played under previous successful regimes with Portlaoise, played for Parnells in Dublin and Maynooth at university level as well. He returned to Portlaoise this year to play for them and quite naturally compared what he was seeing with the other experiences he had during his football career and immediately pronounced it to be below the required level.

Whether his opinion is right or wrong could only ultimately be judged if he is given the role himself one year.

If he wins he’s right and if fails to win then he’s wrong. Or at least that’s appears to be the current logic at least!

The fact is though that there is no right or wrong way to manage a team. It’s like any relationship between people, the chemistry has to be right. The beautiful girl that one might man find irresistible, is a self-centred, narcissist to another.

Likewise, the methods and the manager that win one team a Championship, get another relegated.

The Preacher Man

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December 7th 2011

The Quiet Man

Martin Hession along with his wife Marie at last weekend's presentation.

In many ways, it is the perfect testimony to the ethos of St Clarets, that at present we have so many people still involved with the club who have racked up over 25 years of unbroken service.

Of our Championship winning squad of 1989, key personnel like John Kelly, Colm Lynott, Gerry Lynott, Denis McCarthy and Martin Hession are still fully immersed with St Clarets, while fringe players at the time, like Paul Myers and Colin Keane, are also heavily committed to the cause in various ways.

Last weekend at our Christmas function, we took the opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of one of that class of ’89, when the team captain that year, Martin Hession, had his 25-years of service as a player recognised by the club by means of a special presentation made to him.

The trophy itself is nothing more than a token of the thanks that exists within the club for the efforts of Galway man Hession over his time; the respect and esteem in which he is held are the true gauge of just how significant Martin’s commitment to the club has been.

Time and again, when younger players are asked about the role models within the club, it is Hession’s name that comes up, while time and again it is the same reasons that are stated for this admiration and respect – it’s his humility, his dedication, his commitment and of course, his ability.

It is difficult to summarise in a few paragraphs all of Martin’s achievements during his association with the club, but a brief glance through them will show that he has been part of every St Clarets team that has ever won a significant piece of silverware.

On top of that, he captained the team to their first major trophy in 1989, this despite the presence of players with many more years experience than him. To all, he was the natural choice to lead the troops, even back in his early twenties.

Further to that, he has played for London at under-21, junior and senior level, and then added to that list with a run-out for the veterans against his native Galway a few years back.

During his time with the county, he played in Croke Park in an All Ireland Junior Final and also topped the National League scoring charts for one week back in 1995, after an opening day scoring spree against Waterford in Dungarvan saw him outscore every other marksman in the country.

Probably the only accolade missing from Martin’s collection while with London was that strangely, and it is very strange indeed, he never actually played in the Connacht Championship, this despite making his debut for the county in 1989 and playing his last game in 2001. Somewhere along the line he slipped through that particular net.

Considering the dubious quality and character of some of the players who have played in the Championship for the Exiles in the past 25-years, that was indeed a massive faux pas on behalf of a wide collection of London managers.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the hallmark of Hession’s playing career has been his consistency: his consistency in performance, in dedication, in attitude and in temperament.

Few if any referees could ever say that Martin Hession gave them a moment’s bother on the football field and few if any opponents could ever accuse him of playing the game in any way other than in its true spirit. That alone is a wonderful testimony to take from a 25-year career.

Always modest and unassuming, Martin managed to reside slap bang in the middle of the occasional madhouse that was the St Clarets changing room and still maintain his tranquillity, apparently happy to be there and never needing to force through opinions that others did not want to consider.

As a role model, as a clubman and as a player, there have been few better. Martin Hession has set a benchmark that others should aspire to.

The archetypal quiet man of football, he merely let his own football do the talking for him.

And it spoke volumes.

The Preacher Man

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November 29th 2011

Life In The Dungeon

Luke Dempsey, Michael McDermott and Harry Murphy: Three of the managers due to bring their
charges to London in the 2012 NFL


The fixtures master plan for the 2012 inter-county season was announced this week and no doubt, no sooner was it published, than London manager Paul Coggins was starting to plot his strategies for the season ahead.

Already he will have plans and personalities in mind for the upcoming campaign, but once the fixture list is announced, then the reality of the year ahead strikes home.

Knowing that they have the benefit of participation in the FBD League is a massive bonus to Coggins and his selectors, as they know for sure that their team will at least have the opportunity to hit the ground running once the National League proper starts.

Life in Division Four is never easy and there are always a mixture of good teams, who somehow lost their way the previous year, and other good teams, who are busy losing their way during the current year.

On top of those, there are the usual suspects of Kilkenny, Wicklow and Carlow, teams that seldom even threaten to escape the football dungeon.

Looking at this year’s candidates as they appear on the fixture list, first up is one of those aforementioned teams who lost their way last year.

Canavan influence
Given the much needed change of management, and given the nature of the person entrusted with steering this ship back to calmer waters, it is pretty safe to assume that Fermanagh will be a very different proposition on the opening day of the NFL in Ruislip than they were when they were humbled by the Exiles back in June in the Championship.

The mere presence of Peter Canavan will improve the team 20% or 30% and thereafter, how much effect he has on firstly, convincing rebel players to come back, secondly, convincing last year’s players to stay and thirdly, moulding what he has at his disposal into a team remains to be seen.

They will have benefited from getting rid of their ring rust in the McKenna Cup and it is reasonable to say that the opening game for Paul Coggins & Co will be interesting, but certainly not foreboding.

A trip to Limerick follows that, with the Treatymen providing one of the greatest enigmas in league football.

During the summer months they seem to be in a position to scare the life out of the very best of teams, and a look at their results over last summer in the Championship shows that they recorded great wins over Waterford and Offaly and also claimed the not-too-shabby scalp of Wexford, before falling to Kerry.

This does not indicate the form of a team who spends too many winter months in Division Four and you get the feeling that should they ever shed their yo-yo reputation and manage to secure Division Two football on a regular basis, then they could become a real force to be reckoned with.

It is many years since Limerick was viewed as a possible scalp for London in the league and based as much on the fact that the game is to be played in Limerick as anything else, it is hard to see anything other than a home win in this for Maurice Horan’s men.

Rainbow football
Carlow have stabilised brilliantly under Luke Dempsey and he has managed to create a tranquillity within the Carlow ranks that most thought impossible to achieve.

His decision to bring Kildare legend Anthony Rainbow on board this year as a selector shows that Dempsey has not intention of resting on his laurels and they will prove to be a resilient and competent opponent for London. However, for this one, there is always hope for London, and there is a possible win in it for them, that is if they can carry their summer form through to the league.

The key game in the league is of course the head-to-head with Championship opponents Leitrim. The league game is to be played in Carrick-on-Shannon which will give the home side an immediate advantage, but it is there that the advantage stops.

The news this week that long-time manager Mickey Moran has had to step down due to ill health, leaves the County Board in an awkward position. They have temporarily appointed the selectors as interim managers, but whether either of these men are natural born leaders would be open to question. Would these be the men to lead the troops onwards from where Moran left them?

Bananas and such-like
This is a crucial year for Leitrim, because of the banana skin of the trip to Ruislip in May, and the county board will be desperate to make sure that they do not become London’s first Connacht Championship scalp since 1977.

Getting the right man in charge is going to be of the utmost importance to them and getting it done quickly is going to be even more critical.

Failure to do this could see them drop two points to London in the league and also return from Ruislip more than a little embarrassed.

Clare’s consistency over the past few years has been impressive and you can expect more of the same from them over the next twelve months, with gradual increments of improvement taking place.

It’s always hard to see a win against Clare being on the cards, but should London dismantle Leitrim in their previous game, then they would be a good bet for a home win over the Bannermen.

This year London voyage to Kilkenny for what could be anything from a trip to hell (which it has been on several occasions) through to a decent work-out to add to whatever confidence the London players already have.

It’s a game that isn’t worth considering until we know what the Kilkenny mindset will be for the year ahead.

Harry's game
Wicklow return to Ruislip for the first time in two years, and this time without the wise old O’Dwyer at the helm. The Kerry legend stood down after a brilliant spell in charge of the Garden County and has been replaced by Harry Murphy, a man with 7 Wickow SFC to his name as well as a Leinster SFC with his club Rathnew.

This is a man who has been there and done it and no doubt he has inherited a fantastic group of players from the previous regime. However, Ruislip in April, just as the London lads are starting to get a sniff of the Championship in their nostrils, will test Murphy and his troops. By no means a probable win, but a possible two-points if the wind favours London.

And then finally there is the trip to Waterford. Always an awkward trip both logistically and from a football point of view and given Waterford’s obvious supremacy in the Championship game in the summer, they will start as favourites for this one.

How they react to being back in Division Four will be interesting, having previously spent so long in the pits of the league, they no doubt would have hoped for a longer spell out of it.

Whether they will be regarded as tips for automatic promotion again is doubtful, but at the same time, they will carry a lot more respect this season than they ever did during their previous visit to the dungeon.

All in all, it’s going to be a competitive division. There are quite a few teams who proved their value last summer in the Championship, others who are well on the road to building something more lasting and then there’s London, a team, who for the first time, will be starting a league campaign having played Championship football in July.

That alone is going to help the lads in the green and white to feel better about themselves.

The Preacher Man

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November 22nd 2011


Liam Dunne, Anthony Cunningham and Peter Canavan all face having to give their new
panels a major facelift.

There have been very few inter-county managers who have found themselves out of a job because they were an absolute rip-roaring success.

Indeed, even those few ultra-successful managers who do wish to step down at the very top of their game, are usually persuaded to stay on that little bit longer, to try and reproduce the glory. Inevitably they end up over-staying their welcome and the baying crowd get the kill they so desire.

The focus for the failure of any team to meet expectations is always on the manager and his deficiencies, very seldom is the spotlight on the players. Mostly it seems that players are beyond reproach, because they are amateurs and because of the sacrifice they make and because they’d run through brick walls for the jersey. It is very seldom that you will see the media doing a hatchet job on a player, it just wouldn’t be cricket. Not so the manager though.

The manager has to live and die by the decisions that he makes and he is shackled in his quest for success by the fact that he has a limited number of people of sufficient quality to choose from in order to try and achieve what he wants to achieve and / or needs to achieve.

The biggest problem any manager has when he first walks into a job in inter-county football or hurling is that there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that he must, more or less, stick by the panel the previous incumbent used.

Now, given that we have already established that hugely successful managers seldom lose their jobs, one can only assume that the fact that there is a new man in charge, would indicate that the team weren’t overly successful the previous year.

Current thinking dictates that the only reason the team were unsuccessful was because the guy with the bib doing the jig on the sideline throughout the game just wasn’t up to it. The players were fine, just misdirected. Or at least that’s how it translates.

There have been occasions when new managers have come in with their new broom and swept half of the panel down the drain along with the water from the previous night’s ice baths. Seldom has it turned out well for them though, as the backlash from within the county has generally been severe to say the least.

Just ask Justin McCarthy about his time with Limerick hurlers. He dropped twelve from the panel, a further twelve walked off in protest and he was left sending out a team of whipping boys week in week out. Hardly the dream that JP McManus had bought into with his generous funding of Limerick GAA and a personal nightmare for McCarthy as he received abuse and ridicule from all quarters.

In that instance it appeared that the masses were saying to McCarthy: “All you have to do is carry on doing what Richie Bennis was doing, but do it better.”

McCarthy obviously felt that he couldn’t do what he felt needed to be done with the players at his disposal. The players and the majority of the county felt he could and as a result, there ended up a very nasty and regrettable period in the history of Limerick hurling.

New guys
As 2012 approaches, there are four new inter-county managers who are in a position of looking at the panel that they have inherited and having to make very, very big decisions.

Thus far three of them have made those decisions, while the fourth one is only in the job three days, so time is very much on his side.

In hurling, Anthony Cunningham in Galway, Liam Dunne in Wexford and John Allen in Limerick have all made the decision that youth is the way forward for their respective under-achieving teams.

Cunningham has already slashed his way through what, one can assume, he felt was deadwood and replaced it with young saplings from the under-21 team of last year. The severity of the cull has been so grave that there are only three survivors from Galway’s last All Ireland semi-final appearance still on the panel. Cunningham has apparently taken the view that if you’re looking at three-year plans and such-like, then you need to start with 22-year olds, not 29-year olds.

John Allen in Limerick has been similarly brutal in his approach to the old-stagers and dropped seven of last year’s panel, which along with the retirement of two more, leaves the Treaty men looking fresh-faced once more. 

However, Allen has the advantage of having a Liam McCarthy success in his locker to back up his decision, so he will be given latitude by the Limerick folk, for a while at least.

Meanwhile in Wexford, Liam Dunne produced the sporting quote of the year when he described his attitude to his newly inherited squad in a recent interview with the Irish Examiner.

The All Ireland winner simply stated: “I just hope there are one or two fellas who have cop on enough to retire gracefully. That's all I'll say. One or two of them, their time is up. I didn't need anyone to tell me when I knew my time was up. I hope they are the same.”

Those standing on the edge of the cliff of inter-county hurling have been warned as Dunne sets about running the Wexford show the way he thinks it should be run.

Old wounds
And then there is the case of Peter Canavan in Fermanagh. The newly appointed rookie manager is putting his considerable reputation on the line by taking over what was probably the worst team in the Championship last year.

His dilemma is different to the other new guys though. While the rest of them have been deciding to get rid of players who they feel are past their best, Canavan is charged with trying to persuade players still in their prime to come back into the Fermanagh fold and work under him.

It’s a big ask, not because the players don’t want to play for Fermanagh under Canavan, but because there is a real depth of ill-feeling between those who remained last year to fight the good fight and in doing so had to suffer the embarrassments that the team went through, and those who decided that the John O’Neill way wasn’t for them and refused to play.

Canavan’s charisma will get the players back through the door, but it may need the cast from Casualty to attend to the glaring wounds.

One thing that Canavan will know is that there is no way he can go into his first year as an inter-county manager with the players that Fermanagh had last year. Unlike the other new bosses on the block, what he needs are the players Fermanagh had the year before and the year before that too.



November 15th 2011

The Boss is The Boss is The Boss

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness had a tough choice to
make regarding star defender Kevin Cassidy


They spent nineteen desperately quiet years up in the north-west of Ireland, minding their own business, reliving the glory day, sipping their pints and finding excuses why they weren’t yet ready to repeat the heroics of the men of ’92.


And they were pretty much left alone up there in the hills, with none of the Dublin journalists apparently that keen to negotiate the road through Leitrim and Sligo, while those that decided to go through the “wee six”, found all the stories they wanted in Armagh and Tyrone.


But then along came Jim, and since his arrival, the whole country can’t stop talking about Donegal…. granted mostly in a highly negative way, but all the same… the boys in Dublin are pre-occupied by what Jim McGuinness is doing in Donegal. And rightly so too.



You see Jim has a plan, and probably anyone who has followed his career through the years will know that he isn’t the manager of Donegal by accident.


This is a man who has studied and educated himself to be the Donegal manager, and he undoubtedly knew that when he took over, that if he was going to be successful, then he would have to do things differently.


For almost twenty years it seemed that Donegal had been patting themselves on the back for winning one All Ireland, no doubt thinking that they had the master plan, it was just a matter of deciding when they could be bothered to use it again.


Alas though for Donegal, the longer they partied and patted, the more the game was changing, and when they finally decided to knuckle down again, everything had changed, changed utterly and their master-plan was of no use anymore.


Then along came Jim with his new plan, his new approach and his new standards. By all accounts, while he was keen to keep these new standards out of the public domain, he was meticulous in sharing them with those within the group.


Most, indeed almost all, respected the importance of these standards. All bar one that is, as Kevin Cassidy went off on a solo run with journalist Declan Bogue.


The views of whether Cassidy was right or wrong to take part in the writing of a book documenting his journey as a county footballer throughout 2011 have been pretty well stacked in the favour of the player.



Journalists have come out saying that in an amateur sport, no man should be shackled by promises that they make to a team manager. After all, these men are amateur, and sure what harm was he doing anyway?


The irony of the whole thing of course is that these journalists are the very people who during the football season, put the likes of Kevin Cassidy and Jim McGuinness under the most intense, professional, scrutiny imaginable. And it was precisely because of this level of scrutiny that McGuinness was compelled to ask in the first place for absolute secrecy from within his group.


For anyone listening to any of the analysis of Donegal’s games this year, you would be forgiven for thinking that Jim McGuinness was the devil incarnate, sent to destroy Gaelic football as we have all known it. When in fact, all he was doing was setting a puzzle for the opposite manager to try and solve.


Little wonder then, that when the chance came to really put the boot into him, the boys in Dublin couldn’t wait to get started.


But the fact is that Jim was right and anyone who has ever managed a successful team knows that Jim was right, even if they choose to play to the crowd and say differently in public.



McGuinness needs to manage this squad of amateur players and in doing so, he needs to make sure that all the players realise that he is the boss. The only tool he has at his disposal is discipline. He can’t fine them or dock them wages… he can only deny them the right to play.


Here was big Jim’s first test and he passed it. He made a decision, albeit a hugely difficult and apparently unpopular one among the Donegal fans, but he made a decision. A player had crossed the line, that player could no longer be trusted, therefore that player had to go.


Much was made a few weeks ago about Alex Ferguson reaching the landmark of 25 years as manager of Man Utd. Ferguson didn’t achieve that by being afraid to make unpopular decisions early in his time at United.… just ask Norman Whiteside or Paul McGrath.


As mentioned before, McGuinness has prepared himself well to be Donegal manager. He has a Masters degree in Sports Psychology as well as a degree in Sports, Exercise and Leisure.


He will also know that the vast majority of those who are publicly ridiculing him, especially the media faces, are either incapable or unwilling to do the job he has undertaken, so in that respect, McGuinness holds the high ground.


McGuinness knows that it is he who has to plan the next few years of Donegal football, it is he who has to set his puzzles and solve the puzzles of others and to do that, he has to have faith in his ability and his judgements.


Just as a footballer with no self-belief is a liability to a team, so is a manager. Plain and simply, the boss has to be the boss.



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November 8th 2011

The Convention, The Candidates and The Clarets



Before everyone gets too de-mob happy at the end of what was a pretty tough season for us, there is one more very important piece of business that needs to be attended to, and it is something that involves every club member, in every club, in every county.

The County Convention is appearing on the horizon and already the nomination papers have been sent out to clubs in preparation for the election of officers.

A great many Gaels, particularly players, feel that this particular area of business has got nothing to do with them, but they actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

The GAA is a fully democratic organisation and as such, anyone who is elected to any office, whether it be within a club structure, a county board or further up the ladder, has to be put there by the people… firstly through nomination and secondly, through the election process itself.

All club members have a say in both these processes and it is important to make sure that your opinions and concerns are made known in advance of nominations…. not after the election.

The committee within this club are very open-minded and receptive to suggestion and it is vital that club members make their feelings known to the committee.

Ultimately it will be the club’s committee who will decide on what nominations the club will make for the various executive positions in the county board. However, if they have been made aware of the sentiments that exist within the club and amongst the club members, then they will be able to make better informed decisions.

The key roles within the county board aren’t ceremonial. The people elected to the top table have real influence over what decision are made for London and in London over the coming year.

The Association in London is at an exciting juncture in its history, especially given the increased numbers of participants, a trend that is certain to continue.

As a result, we need to make sure that we have the best county board possible steering our course. We can not miss out on capitalising fully on the benefits that the current economic woes in Ireland are presenting to our games and our clubs here in London.

The decisions that the executive of the London board make will affect a club both financially and from a playing point of view. So it’s important that the club do everything that they can do to make sure that the people at the top table best represent the interests of the St Clarets.

If you have ever attended a County Board meeting you will see a series of different meetings take place. There is the one that takes place inside the building, the one held in open where every utterance is documented – and then there are the meetings held in the car park afterwards…… all hush-hush and all very cloak and dagger.

These outdoor meetings are where the real political work is carried out. Individuals and clubs trying (and occasionally succeeding) in getting their own agenda serviced.

The GAA is as political an organisation as there is, and people are constantly trying to influence the decisions made to suit themselves best.

It’s vital that all members of the club realise this and appreciate the fact that they too can have an influence on the political agendas of the London County Board by making sure that, if they have an opinion that they feel strongly enough about, then they make sure that the committee are aware of their opinions and have the opportunity to discuss it and then pick a course of action. After that, the club’s delegates to convention have the chance to get the club’s voice heard.

There will be many whispered conversations over the next few weeks with candidates asking people from within every club if they can be relied on to support him in the election? It’s basically canvassing, in the same way a politician will go door to door before an election.

The question the club needs to ask back is - “In return for my support, what’s in it for me?” The so-called big clubs in London will be asking that question, so should St Clarets and it’s members.

We often hear it said at times of disharmony in the country, that the people get the government they deserve. The same too can be said about Gaels in any county… they get the County Board they deserve.

Let’s use the forthcoming convention to try and make sure that St Clarets get a County Board for 2012 that they deserve.

The Preacher Man

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November 1st 2011

Words of Wisdom



Wise man: Peter McGinnity

Back in the summer of 2010, a presentation was made to key people within the London GAA, proposing a roadmap for the future of the London County Senior team.


Among the many suggestions made in the presentation, one of the key statements made concerned the people that should be involved in future London county teams. The statement simply read: “Great players don’t make great teams, but great people do.”


Some of the suggestions made in that presentation have since been put into action and the results were there for all to see last summer.


Fast forward to the dying embers of this summer and as Roslea took possession of the Senior Championship trophy in Fermanagh for the second year running, legendary Roslea manager Peter McGinnity took time to reflect on the journey that the club had taken under his stewardship.


He spoke about how when he had taken over as manager five years previously, there was only one player on the team who had ever won a senior championship match, let alone winning a county championship outright. Now at the end of 2011, they were sitting with back-to-back Championship titles.


Much credit for that record will quite rightly go to the experienced leadership of McGinnity, but the great man himself was very quick to point out that there is much more to the Roslea story than him coming in and running a few fancy drills and delivering a litany of tub-thumping speeches.


“When you surround yourself with great people, then good things happen” is how McGinnity explained Roslea’s success, echoing the opinions presented to London last year.


So how do we, the members of St Clarets, take those lessons and use them for ourselves?


This past season was far from a perfect year for us. We showed our quality and fighting spirit at the very end when we really had to, by securing our Intermediate status for 2012 last weekend, but we also showed the downside of our character by failing to make a serious push for promotion in the league.


That failure in itself is a big disappointment and something that provides an additional hurdle we need to overcome in our pursuit of Championship glory in 2012.


And looking forward to next year, the key thing that we must remember is that we have good people within our club, both on the playing side and on the administrative side. We have people within our club that others in London would welcome with open arms. We have a unique atmosphere and vibe to us that is different to any other club in London.


We need to gel these qualities together so that we can be the best we can be in 2012. Together we have to make that uniqueness pay off for ourselves, just as we have done so many times in the past.


“When you surround yourself with great people, then good things happen.” Remember those words and realise that St Clarets are already half way there. We’ve got the great people….. now we need to start to make things happen for ourselves again.


The Preacher Man


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October 28th 2011

A Proper Start


London manager Paul Coggins needs
his players on board early in 2012

The news that the London senior footballers have been granted entry to the FBD League for the coming year has to be greeted with much excitement.

Granted, it’s a fairly meaningless competition in the grander scheme of things, but it’s real value isn’t in the silverware that may or may not be won at the end of it, but more in the opportunity that it presents for better preparation in the run up to the National League campaign.

Since the inter-county calendar was re-vamped a number of years ago to allow for each province to hold it’s own annual pre-season tournaments so to speak, as well as to give important trophies like the McKenna Cup and Walsh Cup their rightful place in the season, the Exiles have been at an even greater disadvantage than they were already at come the opening day of the league.

Game-Day One

Game-day One was exactly that for the London footballers and for the management it was almost always a “suck it and see” exercise in team selection, as they threw together the players who had shown up best in January training and hoped against hope that they morphed into a competitive football team.

Hope was generally followed by despair and often it wouldn’t be until the last knockings of the league that any semblance of a competitive Division Four football team started to emerge in London colours.

The entry into the FBD League though presents a new opportunity for the team and the management. It’s the ideal opportunity to get players thinking about and preparing for the inter-county season before Christmas, so that, when the FBD League starts in January, the team is already starting to function as a cohesive unit.


Results are of no consequence in this competition, but the real value of it will be seen in the first two or three games of the league, when hopefully London will be operating a few gears higher up the ratio than they generally are in February.

Of course there’s a cost and it was great to see that the delegates and County Board were prepared to acknowledge the progress that was made last year and were prepared to back Coggins and his fellow mentors with finance.

With the estimates for the overall cost of the exercise being quoted at in and around £20,000, it’s fair to say that the cost isn’t insignificant.

Going by the initial fixtures published by the Connacht Council, then the London players are going to have to make a sacrifice too with games being scheduled for them on Friday evenings. So a real commitment is going to be required from them to justify the decision to enter this competition.


The notion of Paul Coggins heading off with half a squad because the other half were unable or unwilling to take time off work, will not sit well at the top table and if the exercises is to prove worthwhile, then Coggins will need all his troops on board.

Two serious games over a weekend, combined with the amount of travelling involved is going to be a huge ask from any group of players, let alone a depleted one.

So, having brought some pride to the county last year with their exploits in the Championship, the county footballers are now going to be given the opportunity to build on that.

Paul Coggins has a responsibility to pick the right group of players and more importantly the right group of people to try and improve on last year and those selected have the responsibility to recognise and respect the huge commitment that the London County Board and the club delegates have made to assist them in their quest.

The Preacher Man

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