Qualifier hopefuls must win over onlookers as well as beat rivals to prolong summer
The Clare hurlers playing keepy-uppys before the All Ireland final replay two years ago was a joy to behold and endeared them to the hurling public.
Here was a group of happy young men who just loved to express themselves, throughout the summer that Clare side had been accumulating more and more admirers.
The qualifier route is a minefield but if a team can capture the imagination of neutrals, it may just give added impetus to prolong their summer.
During Clare’s extended summer in 2013 every player grew in confidence as the unlikely underdogs picked off their opponents bit by bit.
A lot of the panel were between 19 and 21. The view at the time, was this was a group of young men who loved devoting their lives to the cause.
Images such Tony Kelly running through the forest on Christmas Eve had neutrals willing Davy Fitzgerald’s hard working underdogs to success.
Such images these days evoke feelings that they are being over-trained and that the players are being burnt out... no longer the courageous contenders .
After the Davy O’Halloran debacle, Fitzgerald has went from a father like figure with a happy group of young men to a dictator figure.
Its naive to think that the positive atmosphere surrounding the camp two years ago didn’t help bolster confidence and extend the run.
Vice-versa a negative atmosphere would hamper chances of a repeat this summer.
These are amateur players, they're not shaded from the outside world, negativity outside the camp breed’s negativity inside the camp, it shatters much needed confidence to start a run.
It’s something Fitzgerald is aware of and the manager has recruited a PR man to help restore the positive image of his side.
Therefore Davy will be hoping for a double whammy this weekend by getting over Offaly on Saturday and earning themselves a more positive reaction coming into bigger hurdles down the line.
Last summer Wexford were the side that was boosted by the positivity surrounding them; it was a renaissance of hurling in the County, for all of Ireland to behold.
When they got past Clare there was so much euphoria surrounding the county that belief levels sky-rocketed and victory over Waterford in the next round seemed inevitable. Belief promotes momentum.
If Liam Dunne's men could cause a shock and overturn Cork on Saturday night, the Kilkenny game will be banished as a bad memory and they may return to the crest of the wave which propelled them to a quarter final last summer.
Likewise Wexford’s opposition Cork are in dire need of an injection of belief, they need a victory to get rid of some of their doubters which are dragging down the confidence and performance levels.
Both Limerick and Dublin need to dispel the recent negativity. The confidence will only fully return when atmosphere surrounding the camp improves. It’s a building process.
At the moment the qualifier hopefuls are seen to be well off the pace of favourites Kilkenny and Tipperary but that will change once the resurgent pack emerge re-energised.
The big winners from this weekend’s qualifier action will be whoever can deliver a performance which impresses neutral observers the most, expelling some of the doubt which hangs over them.
This side will find it a lot easier going back training on Monday night and the positivity surrounding the camp will grow belief in side it, they will find it easier in the next round to express themselves and going forward momentum will grow.
Belief is essential to manoeuvre the qualifier stage and it is a lot easier to create when onlookers are willing you forward.