News Off the Ball

Saturday 23 August 2014

Great players just need understanding and a canvas

Diarmuid Lyng

Published 28/05/2014 | 02:30

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Alan Cadogan, Cork
Alan Cadogan, Cork

There's something about great players. They don't ask for permission. They aren't caught slipping in the side door, anxious not to offend anyone by their presence.

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For most, there's real fear in a debut. It's the ultimate question. You can possess every skill there is, have all the medals that ever were, but ultimately, how you will react to the big league, when everything is harder, faster, stronger, is an unknown.

And the unknown induces a fear in almost all of us.

Two players stood out on Sunday in the Munster quarter-final, both debutants. Alan Cadogan was only barely outshone by Austin Gleeson. Neither needed permission. Neither asked for it.

Fowler scored five on his Liverpool debut; Lebron James' hit Sacramento for 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals on his NBA debut, straight out of high school. Tiger hit a hole-in-one in Milwaukee in his first pro tournament. The fact that he finished 60th almost adds to the allure.

Because it's not supposed to be perfect. It can't be. The experience of failure is too good a teacher. Gleeson won't go sliding in again in the last minute. And that's what sets him apart.

Staying safe within the limits denies the chance to push boundaries. Pushing boundaries gives rise to learning. Real insight into yourself as a player. As a person. It's invaluable. And it's undervalued.

We're taught to play it safe. Curb that youthful enthusiasm in case a mistake is made. And it was. It cost Waterford. Cost them a place against Clare in the Munster semi-final. Cost them a victory over Cork. And maybe, had he played it safe he wouldn't have slid in.

But had he played it safe in the first half, we would have seen him bottled up by Cork's Mark Ellis. Handpass back to Moran, set up another attack.

Instead, he took on Ellis.

I'm here. I'm present. And I'm going after what I want, and you and your four friends are going to watch me do it. Your All-Star goalkeeper will only watch in helpless awe as I do what I'm here to do, be who I'm supposed to be.

The great players don't need permission. They need understanding, a canvas – and nothing else.

Irish Independent

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