Our minor squad had two surprise visitors on Monday 20th October last. Manager Michael Holohan in conjunction with Eddie Buckley (OLG Chairman) arranged for the boys to be addressed by none other than Colm “Gooch” Cooper and OLG legend Brian Hogan. Eddie did the introductions and then both stars sat down in our Clubhouse lounge for a Q & A session with the minor team. Michael Holohan set the ball rolling by putting the following questions to Colm & Brian.
What does the term team ethic mean and how important is it to a team?
C.C. Colm started by thanking OLG for the invite. He was acutely aware of OLG’s proud Hurling tradition and was delighted to take part in any session that might help bring on younger players. Team ethic for CC was about one word & one word only – HONESTY. He went on to explain that honesty meant giving 100% all the time and never cutting corners either in training or on match day. It meant the ability to call someone out, who is not giving their all. Failure to do this he felt, leads to a spiralling effect where others begin to cut corners – leading to the erosion of the team ethic that team mentors work so hard to instil. CC stated that during the last twelve months, his knee was the size of a rugby ball. The Club galvanized behind him by taking turns to visit him to keep his morale up. When the time came to train again – his club mates set up a rota, so as he could train alongside others, at his own pace. The absence of any team ethic would have prevented this from happening, as far as CC was concerned. CC ended by citing Michael Jordan, the basketballer – who said the following:
“Great players win matches; Great teams win Championships”.
B.H. Brian also stressed honesty as a key trait and emphasised the importance of being honest with yourself first. He too had read a piece about Michael Jordan. It referred to the fact that he holds the record for the number of most successful shots in the dying seconds of big matches. What was fascinating to Brian was that MJ also holds the record for the most misses in the same circumstances. Brian stated that this tells us that MJ had the courage to back himself again and again and again. It didn’t matter that he missed – he kept coming back for more. This would be a recurring theme of Brian’s throughout the night. He referred to this as handling adversity and to never go hiding. BH appeared to accept mistakes as a hazard of the job. It was how you reacted to the mistake was what was most important. Team ethic teaches you to NEVER GO HIDING!
Club V County – where do top players stand?
C.C. Colm stated that for him, the Club is very special – “the Club is where it’s at guys”. He put on his first pair of boots playing for his Club & he’ll put his last pair on with them also. He grew up with his Club and formed massive friendships with fellow members. Colm stated there was something special and unique about winning with your Club.
B.H. urged the OLG minor boys to cherish the time spent playing with the Club and to train to win because ultimately, it’s about winning. BH felt the minor grade was particularly special, as some guys will go to College and then move away from home and the special bond will be broken, possibly never to return. BH felt playing for your club was about enjoyment / love and that there was no sacrifice involved. He urged the boys to give it their best, to give it their all and to fulfil their potential – once again he stated, it’s all about winning. Don’t have regrets – don’t piss away a minor Championship!
Talk to us about performing under pressure and how to react when things are going against you?
C.C. likened playing big matches to sitting exams. You don’t go into the exam hall without studying and you don’t take to the field without preparing. CC has checklists in his head the weeks leading up to big games and he gains confidence from knowing he’s put in the work. These lists will cover off items such as diet, rest, training etc. CC cited the Mayo drawn match as an example of how to handle adversity. The spark was provided by Kieran Donaghy’s catch, which led to the goal. The point being that when the team is down – make the decision that you’re going to be the one to provide everybody else with the lift – by lighting the spark. The rest of the team will respond to this spark by gaining inspiration from your efforts. He also cited Donnchadh Walsh & Anthony Meagher as underrated players who frequently provide that spark of inspiration.
B.H. Brian’s philosophy was the next ball, the next ball, the next ball. He stated you have to develop a thick skin, in order to be able to forget about what has gone before and concentrate on the next ball. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and learn to compartmentalise i.e. break things down. The next ball is the most important ball at that time – concentrate. An honest mistake never beat any team. Forget about it and concentrate on THE NEXT BALL!
How do you prepare the week leading up to a game?
B.H. Don’t waste energy worrying – control the things you can and let the other stuff go. Get a consistent routine and find out what works for you. Some lads are quiet and some are noisy. Some lads like to have headphones on – others like to sleep. Find out what suits your temperament and stick with that. Get worked up at the right time – close to game time. These routines will help train your mind to be in tune to the fact that this is a big match week and this is how you deal with it.
C.C. stated he becomes incredibly selfish with his time on the week of a big match. He goes into his own bubble, which he likened to hibernation. C.C. does not do lunch up town or shopping but likes to go for quiet walks. Over exposure to “well meaning people” leads to a lot of talk that can be draining and ultimately serves no purpose. He referred to these people as “Energy Sappers”. CC is even selfish with family and friends – it’s what works for him.
Modern game – how to cope with defensive systems?
C.C. Movement, movement, movement beats defensive systems. Create runs in training all the time. C.C. reckons he has six or seven runs that he uses a lot and with which his teammates are familiar. Get on the same wavelength with your team mates at training by communicating with one another, in order to develop an understanding of what’s going to work under pressure. Be able to kick with both feet and learn to adapt – be flexible.
B.H. Be able to think on your feet. The KK half back line at one point became so dominant in Hurling; teams developed a short puck out to counter-act it. This provided a new challenge. Do I go with the runner or do I stick to my area. Make the decision and run with honesty i.e. go to get there and to make the tackle. Don’t be stuck in no man’s land. The forward wants you to look confused and will derive great heart from seeing you struggling to get to grips with the game. In the drawn All-Ireland final, BH stated that KK’s tackle count was low. That needed to change for the replay and that’s what was worked on. BH also talked about how a forward can set the tone by making that tackle. This can send out a powerful message to an opposing team that everyone on our team means business and that there is no escape. B.H. cited a prominent member of the KK senior team as an example of someone who had to work hard over the years to improve that aspect of his game (tackling) and has done so dramatically.
Discipline and Referees – how to handle bad decisions?
C.C. You need to get to the pitch of the game where you’re tough and aggressive without being dirty. Declan O’Sullivan was cited as an example of someone who came out hard against Cork, the year after Kerry had rolled over to the same opposition (back in 2009). DO’S laid down markers in terms of tackling for the rest of the team to emulate. CC stated the team must get to the pitch where they are:
“Going to the point of fighting - without fighting”.
B.H. the referee never changes his mind. You must have controlled aggression. BH used Martin Comerford as an example of someone who will take the punishment. Squaring up to fellas is grand but it’s much more important to show your opponent that you can’t be rattled no matter what is thrown at you. This is how the real battle is won. If your opponent sees that your head is going down or that you’re not making that run as much you had been earlier in the game – then you’ve lost the psychological battle and that feeds through to the other team.
Question to C.C. Is it possible with all the analysis nowadays, for players to be confused on the field of play?
C.C. answered this question in the wider context of player burnout and stated he did feel there are issues with regard to the demands being placed on players and where it will all end. He felt that this is a cause for concern. C.C. accepted there is a huge amount of video analysis and that the info collated is important. He felt that the way it is disseminated to the players is crucial, so as not to cause information overload.
Question to B.H. How does Kilkenny keep recreating the hunger for success year on year?
BH cited the man at the top as the person who sets the tone with regard to hunger for the rest of the team. When players join the panel, they are under no illusions as to what’s expected of them and the amount of work that lies ahead of them. BH also referred to Derek Lyng as someone who has added to that work / hunger ethic. The players are expected to “work like dogs” and there are no superstars.
What are the key traits of a winner?
C.C. Commitment, Honesty, Quality, Skills, Hard Work
B.H. Spirit (collective spirit in the group). If someone is pulling against you – get rid of them as they will bring the whole thing down. It is not possible to carry these people.
If things are not going well – how do you turn it around?
C.C. cited a game where he hadn’t touched the ball in the first 15 minutes – far from ideal. But he didn’t panic. The work had been done, so he believed in himself. He had patience and confidence. He said in those situations – you must find a way to get into the game. He cited Dara O’Se who used to say he had seventy minutes to crack his opponent………..so there’s plenty of time!
B.H. Some days it falls for you but the days that it doesn’t; try to do something you have control over. Try to nail a tackle. It you wait to make a spectacular catch, the ball may not come to you in that way. Nail the tackle instead to find a way to get into the game. YOU HAVE TO FIND A WAY!
The Q&A part of the evening ended at this point and both Colm & Brian then chatted with the minor panel in a more informal manner. OLG is grateful to these two modern day GAA legends for taking time out to meet with our minor players. We wish both Colm & Brian well for the future.