It has been, he says, "the worst week's football I've had". Few
would quibble with Ciarán McManus's assessment of an unfortunate
Last Sunday week, Offaly lost narrowly to Dublin. Six days later
they were surprised by Louth in the second round of the All-Ireland
qualifier series and to put the tin hat on it, McManus played on the
UCD team who were also surprised, by Lucan Sarsfields -
coincidentally with Dublin manager Tom Carr on board.
Offaly's fate on Saturday followed a pattern that has seen teams
defeated six days before their qualifier match struggling to take
advantage of the second chance. There has been consequent
speculation that an interval of less than a week is not sufficient
for a team to recover from a championship defeat.
"I thought the first half (of the Louth match) was going well,"
says McManus, "we were staying in touch. But they were very eager
and fresh. They hit us hard early on and the hits seemed harder than
the week before. Even when we got a goal and were waiting for the
kick out, you could tell that they were that bit more fired up."
Michael McNamara trains the Galway hurlers and, in the same
capacity, was part of Ger Loughnane's management team in Clare. An
expert on team preparation, he has mixed views on the subject of how
frequently players can play competitively.
"Physically it is no disadvantage whatsoever," he says. "It's
psychologically that the damage is done. A defeat reawakens all the
doubts that management teams have spent months trying to dispel.
Addressing that mentally takes more than five days."
He agrees that in time the mentality governing championship may
change to take account of the new qualifier format, also to be
applied to the hurling championship next year.
"In time that will be resolved. The great competitions all around
the world provide for teams losing matches along the way. Teams like
Barcelona and Real Madrid are conditioned to redress the balance
when they lose. But GAA championship in its traditional format never
allowed for that.
"Managements just don't talk about championship defeat. They have
to dispel that fear so the notion of defeat doesn't enter their
" I don't want to use it as an excuse" says McManus. " We knew we
would be in for a difficult match against Louth. But we didn't start
thinking about it until late in the week. The first few days were
spent trying to forget Dublin and trying to avoid our own people. To
be honest it was driving us mad. All the talk was about Dublin and
Louth was never mentioned. Even on Saturday night you could see some
Offaly supporters weren't that disappointed. It was as if giving
Dublin a run was still the main thing."
McNamara says that the public environment can be one of the big
influences on a team and is particularly hard to control coming up
to big matches. " It can be hard to separate the event from the
match. The event is the hype and it's for the supporters, reporters
and the public at large. The match is for the players."
At the UCD match on Sunday McManus met team-mate Noel McGuire who
had been involved with Sligo's qualifier in Carlow, also on Saturday
evening. McGuire remarked that Sligo's build-up had been ideal. In
the two weeks between losing to Mayo and travelling to Dr Cullen
Park, the team managed to have a full week off to recover, go back
to their clubs and relax and a second week to train hard for the
qualifier. Louth also had a fortnight off after defeating Tipperary
in the first round of the qualifiers. More to the point, it was
seven weeks since they had suffered championship defeat against
Football is now over for McManus until the new league. He is now finished in UCD and says that this is probably his last free summer.
In the meantime he will be hoping for a call-up to the
International Rules panel due to travel to Australia this