Brendan Guckian (right) pictured on the sideline in Tuam with selector Seamus Quinn. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Stunned, shocked and bewildered almost seems like the opening line to a song but it is fair to say that Brendan Guckian certainly felt that way after Saturday’s U21 loss as the Leitrim manager simply said “I have no explanation for the way we performed in the first half.”
Trying to make any sense of what happened in Tuam last Saturday is impossible and Brendan’s words, encapsulated the feelings of every Leitrim fan - “We came well prepared, guys were well focussed when we met this morning yet when we went out, we were completely flat footed, beaten in nearly every decision on the field, standing off our men.
“When Galway broke the line, we weren’t willing to track them, everything we spoke about doing during the week seemed to go out the window and that is something we have to look at. At the moment, I can’t explain it.”
The second half performance was more reflective of the ability in the Leitrim team - “In the second half, the lads showed what they can do, when they work and when they go at a team, they are as good as anybody. But their whole mindset was different in the first half to what it was in the second.”
Asked if expectations or pressure had got to the team, Brendan agreed that Leitrim's second half display made the first half all the more mystifying - “That’s the hardest thing, I have no explanation for it at the moment. The old cliche, it was a game of two halves, the first half we didn’t perform, we had no leadership. The second half, we worked and we really showed great leadership.
“What was the difference between the two halves? That is something we have to ask ourselves and we have to ensure it doesn’t happen again, especially when you are going to have so many of these lads coming into the senior ranks.
“I’d hope it is a once-off, that it doesn’t happen again. It wasn’t anything I changed in particular, it was the lads on the field who changed their own mindset, threw caution to the wind and worked their asses off and really went at Galway, put them on the backfoot and showed the talent that is within the squad.”
And Brendan believes that the second half was a truer reflection of the team - “We were looking for leaders at halftime and I think it is fair to say that every one of them were leaders during the second half and I suppose that is a positive out of it, the positive is that when we go at a team, we can compete with anybody. To get that belief into the lads for the future, that they will push on and learn from this.”
The loss of Ryan O’Rourke to injury after five minutes was a massive blow - “The first few minutes we were moving well and then Ryan went off injured, I’m not using it as an excuse, that seemed to disrupt us.
“Galway got a goal after it and a couple of points and the workrate dropped and the energy seemed to be zapped out of us for the last 20 minutes of the first half.”
Many pointed to poor kickouts in the first half as the root of Leitrim’s woes but Brendan believes that the problems ran much deeper - “We can point the fingers at different things but if a team isn’t working, there is going to be problems.
“The problem with the kickouts in the first half is because we weren’t working, we weren’t giving Jack options. In the second half, we upped the workrate, we gave him options and there was no issue.
“If you have so many men not working on a team, there is going to be problems and that is what was the case in the first half, we had too many problems all over the field because we were letting Galway dictate the game.
“The second half, we reversed the roles because we dictated it and that is why we got a display in the second half and a performance.”