Thursday 22 August 2019

Leitrim league run has stemmed tide of US departures - Hyland

Leitrim manager Terry Hyland feels the mindset of the players has changed. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Leitrim manager Terry Hyland feels the mindset of the players has changed. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

On the same night in New York before Christmas last year, Terry Hyland attended two functions, one hosted by diaspora from his native Cavan, the other a Leitrim event that required his presence as the county's new senior team manager.

What struck Hyland was the difference in age profile at both venues. Cavan, he estimated, was 65 to 70, Leitrim a mix mainly centred on 25 to 30-year-olds.

"It's a problem for Leitrim because they are exporting a lot of their people," he reflected.

Some years the temporary nature of that export business hits the county team harder than others.

This year there is some respite. Only Dara Rooney and Conor Cullen have signed up for action in the US this summer, the successful league run clearly having an impact.

"I think last year they would have lost eight at this stage so from that point of view it stemmed the tide," said Hyland.

"I remember being involved in Cavan and we had brought in lads from the U-21 squad and one year we lost six of them, it's a lifestyle thing more than anything else.

"It's not necessarily that the football is not good enough at home. Perhaps the system whereby club championships don't start until later in the summer allows that as well because their tie is more to their club than their county. If they see that they are not discommoding their club and community then they'll go easier."

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But momentum in Division 4, that eventually led to promotion, helped to focus minds.

"By round three, if you have lost two of your three games, that's it, your year is over and your chance of getting promoted is gone.

"That's unfortunately what would have happened Leitrim in the last couple of years, they ended up with nothing to play for after round three or four because their year is technically gone and suddenly players start to see a gap.

"Championship is three months down the line, the phone is ringing from Boston, ringing from New York, there are opportunities to go for three months for the summer.

"It's a lifestyle issue and we would have been losing players because of that."

There is renewed enthusiasm in Leitrim after their successful promotion push but also caution with the knowledge that, in three Connacht championship meetings over the last three years, their average defeat to Roscommon has been by in excess of 14 points.

Can they really hope to close the gap some distance on the back of one solid Division 4 campaign?

"I would hope the mindset has changed," he said.

"Leitrim have taken a bit of a trouncing over the last couple of years. Hopefully we can get that out of their mind with a different outlook.

"I don't care if you are playing Dublin, Kerry or Roscommon, before the ball is thrown in it should be an even playing field.

"It can change very rapidly when the game starts. But from a mental point of view you have to believe that you are going out here to compete and it doesn't matter whether you are coming around the last bend and you are in front but if you see the finishing line along with the other competitors, you still have an opportunity to get there."

Fundraising

Hyland quit managing Cavan in 2016 but stayed involved in a fundraising capacity.

There were offers from other counties but the journey time was in excess of two hours and that didn't appeal.

"If you have to sit for two hours in a car for two hours' work it's the wrong job," he suggested.

From his Cavan base, Leitrim's centre of excellence is an hour's drive away, their Dublin base in Blanchardstown IT just 15 minutes more.

On Tuesday nights Hyland heads for Blanchardstown with coach and former Cavan player Jason O'Reilly to oversee a session that had 21 from a squad of 35 at one stage this season, underpinning another challenge.

He's cautious about the introduction of a second-tier competition, wondering if those in a second tier would be cut adrift.

"I have an issue when they talk about a two-tier championship, because if we get rid of it we don't call it an All-Ireland any more then."

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