Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

I should have been in team more often, insists Mark


By Declan Bogue

There are better ways of your county career ending than it just fizzling out with the odd token appearance off the bench.

Unfortunately, that was the lot of Mark Poland as he couldn't secure a starting slot over the summer as Down reached the Ulster final and ultimate defeat to Tyrone.

"It annoyed me. There is no point painting it up any other way," he says now.

"If we had won those games it wouldn't have bothered me.

"There wasn't anyone happier than me in the Athletic Grounds or Pairc Esler. But when you are really going at it in training and doing everything you can to make the team...

"But there were other factors too. It wasn't all about getting on or getting gametime. I have never, ever took a Down jersey for granted."

His Ulster final lasted all of 14 minutes. On as a sub for Shay Millar, he was off again shortly after a collision with Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh.

"I was just wanting to get on the ball and go at them, because I felt we were very laboured. There was nobody really penetrating at all," Poland recalls.

"As far as I remember I broke the tackle, I was stumbling at the same time, and whenever I was falling I just caught Colm Cavanagh's knee.

"It was totally innocuous, but after that I can't remember much either way."

That game reflected how the sport has changed, largely freezing out players like Poland.

He himself regrets the changes and hopes that the example of Dublin can cause a change in philosophy.

"You beat one, and then there is another man clinging on to you. But that is the way the game is evolving and, to me, it's going to come in cycles," he explains.

"At that time it was sickening. And it probably wasn't enjoyable for supporters. Sport should be about fun. There are a lot of people who feel it is about winning. To me it's about winning, but with a bit of style and class too.

"Those games in 2010 (on the run to the All-Ireland final), especially against Kildare, it was probably one of the best games I have ever been involved in. That's what people want."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph