Two weeks ago Down footballers went on their pre championship training weekend and it got me thinking about the last few weeks before championship finally arrives.
The build up to the first championship match is like no other game, the league is a distant memory and is out the window, nothing else matters only this championship match.
This game is one you will have imagined so many times, from the throw in to the final whistle, what you will do with the ball when you get it and how you will stop your opponent when they have it.
Hoping that you will win every single ball while doubting if you will even win one.
The main motivation for me and I think for most players is that feeling at the final whistle of ecstasy and pure relief of having gotten over the line.
The attendances at training suddenly improved dramatically, the injury list cleared up and the competition for places put everyone on their toes.
Three weeks to go and the trainings are intense, more often than not frustrations boil over and tempers flare, everything has that added edge to it. Am I fit enough? Why didn’t I do more? My legs are tight, my legs are heavy all these things run through your head.
Local newspapers are beginning to talk about it and people around the club are asking how your feeling, hows training going, you’re up against it or surely you’ll have no problems with that one. All these added things bring the game to forefront of your mind.
Right now the Down footballers are entering their final days of preparation.
This week will be calm and the trainings will be less intense but the match very clear in your mind. It takes priority over work, school, college or even family.
The things you look forward to most is actually going to training and being in an environment where everyone is feeling the same, some will be nervous and anxious while others will feel like this is what they were born to do.
I was always quite relaxed during that week but then it would come to the day before and I would be up to ninety. I couldn’t sit still or didn’t know what to do to fill my time, the game is so close now but yet it’s still not here.
Sleeping was never a problem for me and I always had my gear sitting waiting – or I was arguing with Sara Louise as to who’s skort it actually was.
In our house we were always lucky because no matter who was playing, if something couldn’t be found mummy always came with it two minutes later!
And then its finally here……
You often hear people speak about the heat of the battle – this is exactly what championship is, an intense battle from start to finish.
The warm up is welcome and getting your hands on the ball, the adrenaline pumping focus focus focus – its just another game. The quiet words in your ear from coaches and teammates, the calm of the dressing room and the final words of the manager.
The whistle is blown and all the aforementioned goes out the window but how to adapt to that cauldron will determine how you play and whether or not your team will be successful.
Will there be claps on the back at the end or will you be left devastated wondering and wishing that you could start it all again and do it differently?
The long treacherous route of the qualifiers ahead or the buzz and excitement of a provincial semi-final to look forward too. Only time will tell……