Working to our strengths will help us compensate for physical shortcomings

We didn’t get the result we wanted in Limerick and not for the first time. A trip to the Shannonsiders is no easy feat – it was a one point loss to the Shannonsiders back in 2008 that put us into Division 4.

We didn’t get the result we wanted in Limerick and not for the first time. A trip to the Shannonsiders is no easy feat – it was a one point loss to the Shannonsiders back in 2008 that put us into Division 4.

A point that day would have ensured survival. A point yesterday would have been a great start to the National Football League 2013. It wasn’t to be although it was within our grasps from what a couple supporters who were in attendance told me. They were also realistic enough to say Limerick could have been out of sight had Eoghan O’Connor’s shot hit the back of the net instead of the crossbar.

Adjudging from what I’ve heard we struggled a little in midfield, something that has blighted Leitrim at inter-county level since the loss of Christy Carroll and Gary McCloskey. Darren’s Sweeney’s on- going injury hamstrings the management. Options are very limited in terms of natural midfielders. Both Wayne McKeon and Paddy McGowan are better suited to roles where winning primary possession is not their primary job (though they have been giving their all in the middle of the pairc).

I was gladdened to see my club mate BB Brennan getting some match-time. With some big game experience under his belt BB can contribute something to the team, but he will notice the step up from club to county for some time until he gets up to inter-county pace.

BB can help contribute some strength and bulk to the team – another area we struggled on Sunday according to reports. We have to face it – we are a small team. No matter how much strength and conditioning a player does you can’t add inches and height. Yes you can improve your strength on the ball and in possession and in the tackle but you are still working with what God gave you.

I know I have written about how Donegal’s Rory Kavanagh has transformed his physique but Rory was over 6 foot to start with! Size does matter but it isn’t everything. Take another Donegal man as an example – Mark McHugh. McHugh’s mobility – made possible by his relatively slight frame – is part of what enables him to sweep so effectively, combined with his fantastic reading of the game and his uncanny positioning. Like McHugh we have to work to our strengths right across the field.

Barney, George and the lads will study Sunday’s game this week and will hopefully rectify some of the issues that contributed to the loss. They will also see the positives – coming back from four points down to really push Limerick all the way. Had we gotten level at any stage in the second half we would have taken something from the game I’m sure.

The lack of any goals in 2013 is concerning. We don’t tend to hit big scores from points alone so we will need to bag a goal per game in the league to make winning that little bit easier – especially away from home. To emphasise the point, the other win

ning scores across Division 4 yesterday were Carlow 1-14; Waterford 1-9; and Offaly 1-13. Both Carlow and Waterford won by a point.

There is no magic formula to goal scoring and while it can be worked into tactics and game-plans, it is also a state of mind. Crossmaglen are perhaps the best example in the country of this. When they want to kill a team off, they get a goal. When they need to come back urgently, they get a goal. It’s as if the entire team collectively decide, right let’s make this happen.

We welcome the legend that is Mick O’Dwyer to Leitrim this weekend. His Clare side were pipped at the post by Waterford in their opener and missed numerous chances to take something from the game hitting five wides in the final ten minutes. We could effectively end their promotion hopes in Pairc Sean. It would be nice to do so by rattling a ball into the back of the net in the process but I’d settle for a 0-6 to 0-5 win just to keep our own promotion hopes intact.

As I said in last week’s column I was unable to make the trip to Limerick as I was taking part in Ireland’s toughest 10K challenge, Hell & Back, in Kilruddery Estate, Co. Wicklow. 2,500 souls braved the mud and the mayhem for what was a brilliant event. My team consisted fellow Melvin Gaels Gareth and James Phelan, plus Colin O’Driscoll – son of the four-time All Ireland winning Dublin footballer Gay. (Our club assistant secretary Ciara Barrett also competed with another team of locals while a Carrick-on-Shannon rowing club hoodie was also spotted at one stage.)

Kilruddery is a stunning estate and one part of the race entailed an ascent of the Sugarloaf Mountain. During the cruel climb I got caught behind some ladies had started before me but had stopped on the narrow path to take in the panoramic views the summit allowed. A rasping Leitrim roar soon got them moving again and I then realised what I had become: a poor copy of Frank Darcy .... his motivational shouts from years of hill-training in the Phoenix Park ranging in my ears as I took to the heather and rattled past them.

A lifetime of leaping ditches while herding cattle, bounding over bog-holes while bringing home the turf, building and climbing mountainous trailers of bales, and running up the mountains of north Leitrim and Sligo just because they are there, stood me in good stead. (As I said above, working to one’s strengths is vital in all aspects of sports!) I finished 28th overall in a time of 1hr 5mins. Our team – Three Culchies & Dub – also ranked very respectfully.

See you all in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada on Sunday. Hopefully the result will prove more heavenly. Liatroim abú.