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Can Momentum and Self Belief Prove Dangerous?

Saturday 15.07.2017
Team Talk Mag

There are many qualities that make up a winner on the GAA pitch but while skill, talent and commitment are essential elements of a player’s DNA, the importance of self belief and confidence should not be under-estimated.

This week in the lead up to the Ulster Final social media has been full of notices of Down fans, clubs and businesses publicising their support for the red and black and their commitment to the cause. The buzz around the Mourne County is almost palpable as the team prepares for its first Ulster final for nearly seven years.

At the start of the season very few Down fans honestly expected to be where they are this weekend but following well merited and hard fought wins over near neighbours Armagh and championship favourites Monaghan all that has changed. Suddenly the swagger is back in Down football and the lack of confidence and self belief that belied their form over the past two years has been replaced by a sense of optimism that borders on blind faith, the sort of blind faith that turns failing footballers into Ulster champions.

Adding to the buzz and the sense of expectation two pre Ulster Final chat-shows were organised with former greats from both counties getting the chance to share stories and recall games from the past. Opportunities to meet the players have been staged. Schools, clubs and villages have been bedecked in the Down colours as the Mourne County comes to terms with the possibility of being provincial champions once again.

Momentum is a massive factor in any walk of life and none more so than in sport. It can engender confidence, inspire belief and lift players to levels of performance they thought they were previously not capable of.

Judging by what we have read and seen over the past week there appears to be a growing self belief among the Down footballing public that this is going to be their year. The disappointments of the last couple of seasons have been forgotten and the whole county has woken up to the realisation that the Kingdom of Mourne is once more back at the top of Ulster football.

Clones on Sunday will be awash with colour as four different counties contest the two finals. The red and black flags of Down will fly proudly and in huge numbers as success starved supporters come in search of glory. They will be loud, they will be numerous and vocal and will get behind their team in the hope that the momentum built up since that fantastic display against Monaghan will lead them to another unlikely win. This time however there is a huge prize for the victors.

While the Mourne County appears to be building up a considerable head of steam in search of another Ulster title what of Tyrone in all this you might ask.

In a week where the O’Neill County was very much preoccupied with the loss one of its finest administrators and a real ambassador for the Red Hand cause, the late Pat Darcy, Tyrone GAA continued to operate as it always does.

Travel through the towns and villages of the county and although there is a distinct lack of colour, flags or bunting that should not be mistaken for a lack of interest in this match or a lack of hunger for another provincial title. The gates of Garvaghey remained open for business as summer camps and the day to day running of a GAA mad county were overseen. Training and preparations for the county’s senior and under 17 teams went on apace while the ladies minor and senior county squads turned their attentions to upcoming challenges.

On social media most Tyrone supporters are treading warily as far as trying to call Sunday’s game. Granted there are one or two whose posts are so far off the mark they cannot be based on logic or rational thought.

Meanwhile Club Tyrone officers, fresh from their success in establishing the London chapter of the organisation took their message and their methodology west to New York in the hope of developing a further arm of their formidable organisation. Judging by the photos, videos and testimonials from the trip it seems that the visit was hugely successful. No doubt the hard work put in by Mark Conway and his fellow officers will bear considerable fruit in the not too distant future as the Tyrone expats get the chance to share in the Red Hand success.

Will that success see back to back Ulster titles for the O’Neill County or will the Down juggernaut prevail? Can Tyrone’s experience and efficiency overcome the heady mix of momentum and self confidence that is currently pumping through the veins of the Down GAA fraternity? Those questions will be answered on Sunday but one thing is for sure, Down teams in the championship have always proved difficult opposition for Tyrone as shown in 03 and 08.

A Down team playing with confidence is a formidable opponent for any team and Eamon Burns and his players will not fear Tyrone in any way. They will relish the occasion and rise to the challenge knowing that as against Monaghan very few outside their circle expect them to win. What greater incentive can you have as a player than to prove the doubters wrong once again especially in the biggest game of the season.



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