Saturday, 18 October 2014

Defeated Winners

Over the past few months a lot of the energy of the Galway FA and representative clubs has been spent on arguing and trying to agree a position on the so called "poaching" rule. In essence, this rule is put in place to restrict the flow of elite players from one club to another. One could write for hours on this topic and what associations, national and local, clubs, and players should do to maintain the "game" of football in Galway. Indeed, it is so easy to get completely absorbed in this topic and all of the other critially important challenges of running a club that you forget the things that really matter.

Earlier today, our under 14 boys B team played a league game versus Barna. The continuation of Colga's B teams has been the subject of a lot of debate - primarily due to the concern that we would not have enough players to complete and fulfill a season. However, as a club, we absolutely believe in the development of all our players as individuals through the medium of football. More importantly, we want to give players a chance...a chance to believe, a chance to play, a chance to express, a chance to achieve, a chance to put on a jersey for a club they love and cross that white line as part of one team...a chance to be included as a peer on a Saturday afternoon...

So, as we arrived in Furbo on a blustry Saturday afternoon with 11 lads, all of us were conscious of the performance and results of the team over the past 4 matches....lost 4, given up 15 goals and scored none. To put it mildly, we did not hold much hope for a result against a formidable Barna team. What happened is an important story to, there was no magic kingdom happy ending of defeating the unbeatable opposition.

Just before the match we gathered as a team. Hunched together on our knees we spoke about why we were here and what we could potentially achieve. As the coach, I looked around at the bare 11 and asked them one question - why were they here? To play, to win, to enjoy....they knew...they had no illusions they would win...we talked about why this was the most important game they had ever played in...because it was their next....we talked about our last opponents, Merlin Woods, and why one of their players would never get the chance to sit in a group like this again....he had died playing football in the very next game...we just sat as a team, being jostled by the wind, but we talked, we spoke, we felt, and we got up to play.

3-0 down at half time...script delivered as written. We sat again as a team....why were we here. Why was this the most important game we had ever played....why we were all so very fortunate to be here, heavily breathing, but breathing. And up these brave young men got...a heavy wind aiding and the unbridled joy of their 1st goal....the near belief this was doable with the 2nd goal....and they ran, and they tackled, and they tried, oh how they tried, and they roared for each other, and they felt as one team, and they lost....yes, they lost, Disney had deleted the happy ending script.

At the end, we sat as a team...I looked around with absolute pride. This was football - this was 11 young men doing what they absolutely love to play, to be included, to be part of something. We all agreed this was the most important game of our lives and we had given it all we had to give. We thought about Merlin Woods and the poor boy no longer kicking that football, or hugging his team, and we celebrated our best game ever....defeated but winners..and it had to make you think. Football is about playing, it's about loving being part of a team, it's about donning a jersey and crossing a line and being a part of something more than just you. Let's never forget why we play this game - we love it.

Friday, 3 October 2014

A month in......

It was autumn, a good few years ago, and a good friend of mine walked out of his apartment in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he looked up, smiled, and said, "there is football in the air." Yes, he was referring to the beginning of the college American football season, games attracting 100,000 people, and as we enter into October and the 2nd month of our new season his words still strike strong. There may not be the hundreds of thousands in attendance, but, already, all of the Colga teams have embarked on this season's journey - for us all, players, coaches, parents, and friends, it will be a rollercoaster of emotions. Expectations that will either develop from the kindle embers into roaring fires or will be extinguished as soon as the first October rain hits. Whether it comes from the fields of Knoxville Tennessee or our home in Kilcornan Woods, there is definitely that beautiful smell of "football in the air."

This season, Colga FC has competitive teams playing in Galway Football Leagues from under 11 to senior men's. We are fortunate to be able to field boys teams from u11-u15 and junior men's. Our girls and ladies represent our club across every eligible age-group from u10 to u18. One needs only to hop up to our home ground, Kilcornan, any night of the week, to see the impact of football across all of these players as we continue to ensure we build our home amongst the woods.

The heart and sole of Colga FC is to provide an opportunity for all players to develop themselves as individuals through the medium of football. This is as true for the child kicking their first ball at under 5 as it is for our teenage and adult teams competing at the higher levels. As a club, we certainly wish each and every one of our players the enjoyment they deserve on and off the pitch as part of our club. No doubt, it will be an eventful and "story" filled season.