My GAA Life

My GAA Life – Monaghan’s JP Mone

Name? John Paul Mone.

Which teams did you represent?

Clontibret O’Neill’s and Monaghan.

What is your current involvement with the GAA?

Selector with the Clontibret senior team and a coach with the Clontibret juveniles.

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?

There have been many great moments for both club and county but for me the greatest moment looking back now was those times when you were involved with a team and were more or less written off, told that there was no point and that you couldn’t do it. Then you and that bunch of guys you played and worked with proved all the doubters wrong, and sometimes even yourself. The 2003 Ulster Championship first round against Armagh or with the club, winning the 2019 Monaghan title after being nearly relegated the previous year. Now that I’m involved in coaching young kids it’s something that I can hopefully pass on. There will be days when you get knocked back but if you’re willing to work for it, for that thing that seems impossible, it is possible.

What was the most surprising moment in your career?

When playing, you’re in a bit of a bubble. It’s all about me, it’s all about the team who you happen to be playing for. But when I finished my county days I got heavily involved in my own club, not just in the coaching but also in the running of it. I got a real surprise to see just what it takes to get those players out playing on the pitch. All the organisation, dedication, thankless tasks, the time and energy that is given by people to make sure this happens. Yes, we have issues within our Association, but we must never forget or take for granted all those at the grassroot level who are just as equally important. As one of those now, it regularly reminds me that “there may be times when our branches are weak, but as long as the trunk is strong.”

Who was the best player you ever played with?

Without question, Conor McManus. I watched him from when he was a young age, and the practice and dedication he put in. He continues to do so.

What was the best score you ever saw in a game you were involved in?

There have been so many, every game has a least one fantastic score. Foe me though – selfish reasons – my teammate Cahal Leonard’s point to draw the county final of 2002 against Maghercloone deep in injury time. It forced the game to a reply the following week that we won and as I was captain I got to lift the winning trophy. So thanks Cahal!

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?

My father had a major influence, but to pick a manager I’d have to go back to Sean Hughes and Brendan McGuinness from my club. If you’re lucky enough as a child, you have knowledgeable, dedicated and passionate coaches to guide you – I certainly had it in these men. Many managers have at least one of these attributes but being able to pass them onto to players is another skill. Sean and Brendan certainly could and set the template for coaching not only in our own club but further afield as well.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing?

If you’re playing in a game and things aren’t going well for you, look to get on the ball and do one very simple thing, even if that very simple thing is a hand-pass to a teammate right beside you. Do it again and again. Build your confidence back up and ease yourself back in rather than spending time getting more and more frustrated with yourself.

What was the best thing about playing in your era?

For me the relationships you built up with people, players, management and the backroom team, through the good and the bad. And then when the good did happen, enjoying those moments with those people and seeing the joy that it brought to our friends, families and supporters.

What was the worst thing about playing your era?

No doubt there were things that annoyed me when I was playing but when I look back now I realise just how lucky I was to be able to play. It would still be great if I were playing but there just seems to be so much more pressure being applied from all angles now. As an organisation we need to decide where exactly we want to go with this great thing that we have, the GAA. Life is very different now and how we approach it and I feel we, as an organization, need to tailor it to suit the modern way of life but still hold onto our ethos that have made it great. Don’t create these divides among ourselves and let them fester eg fixtures, club v county, club player v county player, club v Croke Park. Let’s have an honest discussion among all vested interests. At the end of the day, we’re all Gaels.

When did you know it was time to call it quits?

When my eight-year-old at the time could sell me dummies for fun!

What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one of your former teammates?

Monaghan is not a hurling stronghold but we do have a tradition of hurling within our own club, and I played until I was 19. In the dressing room before my hurling championship debut, the manager handed the team-talk over to our captain Brian Morgan, affectionately known as ‘the Ram.’ Renaghan’s, the local pub, had just sponsored us new playing gear. ‘the Ram’, not known for his ability to express his articulation for inspiring words, simply roared out “Renaghan’s got us new togs, don’t shit in them!” He then proceeded out onto the playing field whilst not using the traditional method of opening the dressing room but instead kicking it off its hinges screaming blue murder. Braveheart before battle would have been proud of it. Three of our men were sent off and a manager put to the stands later. We lost.