I like to be prepared. By that I mean fit and mentally in that zone to go into ‘battle’. It’s a cliche, but that is the way you have to consider it. No matter at what level or where you are playing. That’s my G.A.A. world anyway.
The tournament in Vienna was only my third since our win there in October 2012. A year in England and a succession of injuries being the primary reasons. Personal choice was a factor on a number of occasions too, reflecting a somewhat diminished hunger, or tiredness of it all.
Pulling out of Vienna was in my mind in the week leading up to it. I hadn’t been able to train in a number of weeks and I wasn’t mentally up for it. Travelling had a sense of duty about it – interpret that as you wish.
I struggled to get my head right in the lead up. I was comfortable with how Olof was planning to use me; as and when required (a nice way of saying as a sub!).
A couple of years ago, when I helped the hurlers a bit with training, I used to speak a lot about figuring out how you could contribute to the team and then executing that contribution as many times as you could. You could be the man who strikes the score or the man who breaks up play but never strikes the ball. It didn’t matter, find a role, a contribution, and understand how that can fit in the bigger picture.
Make complex simple is something you’ve heard here before. I knew I wasn’t fit and I knew I wouldn’t be sharp. That was a given so I’d need to be efficient. I knew if I got the blood up that I could make a contribution but I needed to think a bit more deeply about what that looked like. I broke it down into three straight forward actions.
- Let the ball into the full forward line
- Take on my man
- Seek to switch the play
There is nothing revolutionary there but there were two underpinning points.
I’d make my decision prior to receiving the ball and based on a number of factors; my body position, where my man was in proximity to me, what I could see before and as I received the ball, what I could hear and how the ball was delivered to me.
Once I had the ball I would execute immediately. No hop, no solo, no hesitation. This may be the most critical point. When you are rusty, getting caught in possession is a no no.
I survived and contributed on Saturday for those simple reasons. Pete’s winner against Amsterdam demonstrated #1. Kev’s first goal against Paris in the group and the penalty in the final can be attributed to #2. Jonny O’s opening point in the final was a result of #3.
At this point, allow me two additional comments. An ‘*’ should be inserted to note that when in a scoring position, go for the score with the emphasise on being ruthless if there was a sniff of a goal.
The second point is don’t misinterpret above as anything other than describing how simplicity can bring clarity to your contribution. It doesn’t mean I played without error. I remember at least one shot when my body position was not right. I went to give Kev a return pass when he was clearly going to be gone passed me by the time I’d release it and I still don’t know what I was doing with a square pass to Jody in the middle of the pitch that led to a turnover.
However, by and large, my contribution was based on those three actions. The critical point is the timing of the decision. It was made before I received the ball and reflected in the speed of execution.
I’m writing this as a take home thought heading into the winter. My biggest frustration last weekend was fellas taking a hop and a solo. I think its linked to a number of factors; wanting to be on the ball, waiting to see how they can make a pass other than the simple one (sexier) or maybe simply not knowing what they are going to do when they get the ball and require time to make the decision.
Whichever it is, it leads to a potential lost opportunity. Whilst one dilly dallys on the ball, gaps are closing, opportunities are being lost. I saw it before my eyes on Saturday.
I wrote this in the context of our group but we are not unique in needing time to reflect on this point. So many players and teams at so many levels can make a simple game so complex.