Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Declan Bogue: Guest speakers trend leads to more questions than answers

From following the domestic club championships that are concluding up and down the country at present, there is a definite trend among club sides to ape certain elements of what happens in the county scene. Sometimes, this can be an ill-fit.

It never ceases to puzzle how some clubs find themselves in a county final at some level and then begin to change all the things that motored along smoothly before.

One such innovation is the introduction of a ‘guest speaker' for a night prior to a final. This happens quite often in clubs where they would approach somebody who has achieved much in the game, and invite him into a room full of players he has never spent time with and tell them how they are going to win their final.

This approach is often used as a means to combat ‘same-voice syndrome', whereby players can be listening to pure wisdom in every team talk, yet begin to zone out because it's the same person delivering it every time.

In practical terms, that means somebody travelling to the team training on a Tuesday or Thursday night, delivering a fire-and-brimstone speech, and then leaving players ready to rip the changing room doors off the hinges. A few days later when a final is there to be played, the message of a few days previous is of absolutely no worth.

By the time the big day rolls around, it is too late for complicated instructions. Players inhabit a different space where it is all about the individual and collective performance. Certain performance targets and goals can be reinforced, but introducing them to new concepts at that stage is a waste of time.

Cast your mind back to 2006 though, and there was one occasion that went against all of this. Derry were playing defending All-Ireland champions Tyrone in their own backyard of Healy Park in the Ulster Championship. Before the game, their manager Paddy Crozier invited Eamonn Coleman — manager of the 1993 All-Ireland winning Derry team — to address his troops.

Despite being gravely ill at the time, Coleman plugged them into his energy grid and fired them up for the battle ahead. By half-time, Tyrone were still to open their scoring.

Few people could do that, but then Eamonn Coleman was a special man and his bond with those players had long been cemented. Which is why it came as a surprise that Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald showed up in recent times on the Dunloy sideline. His close relationship with manager Seamus McMullan was the main reason and it was another example of Fitzgerald's manic devotion to hurling.

But it's hard to tell whether it was the right thing for Dunloy. When a team hits 17 wides in a final you have to ask yourself; was there too much pressure placed upon the players?

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