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 tell...no, 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 do...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.