Disbelief of final collapse
LET me take you back to the Monday morning after the Connacht football final. We're gathered in the Sligo Park Hotel, staring at an empty space where the Nestor Cup should be. A chasm of nothing.
I promised readers last week that I would reflect more on our championship exit so here we go.
The week after the Connacht final was one of sheer disbelief.
We had prepared so well and worked so hard to get ourselves into a good position after beating Galway and Mayo.
We didn't think that we were invincible and we weren't cocky but we did gain confidence and that's only natural.
We approached the Roscommon final in exactly the same manner and it was so disappointing not to perform.
People have asked me about complacency but we didn't allow it to get in. We had analysed it so much but maybe we over-analysed the importance of not taking them for granted and maybe didn't focus enough on our game plan and work rate.
Roscommon did to us what we did to Mayo and Galway. They foraged for everything, worked so hard and it took us a long time to get going.
When the final whistle blew, Roscommon people raced onto the pitch and there was no point trying to get through the crowd. So I just sat there, completely dejected, with every kind of emotion running through my head.
Was that my last Sligo Connacht championship game?
I don't know that yet -- it's a decision for after Christmas time. I haven't even thought about next year but I did feel very good this season. I knew where I needed to be and what was required to get to that level.
I've consistently said that I will never stand in the way of a younger player coming through and that if I couldn't keep up with the best, I would step away. But I had a fairly good championship and contributed well as regards my role in the team, which was to forage around breaking ball.
That suited me down to the ground. If Kevin Walsh is back in, my future is something we'll talk about but if a new man comes in, he might decide to go with a bunch of young fellas and my decision might be made for me.
The first people that came to me after the final whistle against Roscommon were my family -- my brother and sisters and nephew. We stood around and looked at Roscommon getting the cup before I made my way slowly to the dressing-room. Some fellas had already showered; not much was being said.
I don't think anybody would have a problem if Roscommon had beaten us and we had played to full potential, which was something we prided ourselves on.
I got home later that night, dropped the bag, threw off the tracksuit and joined some of the lads for drinks. A few of them were drinking oranges, others had a pint or two. A meeting was organised for the Monday morning at the Sligo Park and we talked about the previous day.
We resolved to get back to training on the Tuesday night and give the qualifiers a serious run but we were wiped out by Down, who played well and deserve credit. Questions, questions. Did we peak too soon? Was the extra Galway match a game too much? Look, there's been talk about the six-day turnaround and while it is asking a lot, that's what's there.
We pride ourselves on training so it's more about mental preparation at that point. You can talk about fellas having a few drinks after losing a provincial final and argue that fellas in that position shouldn't be going out drinking.
Is it good preparation for a game a week later? That's a choice you make. I'm not a drinker so I don't know how it affects the body. A two-week break is something the GAA should look at but there's another solution.
Connacht is a small province and could be played off very quickly, leaving plenty of time before qualifiers and the All-Ireland series. You can look at it two ways -- if you don't want to suffer a hangover, play a game immediately and get it out of the system. That's my kind of thinking but in hindsight, an extra week may have stood to us.