Championship defeat can be devastating but we must tread carefully as many are facing bigger internal battles

Sport can sometimes be cruel and the feeling of hurt and emptiness you experience at the hands of defeat is one of the worst feelings ever. I know this, because right now I am feeling that pain. I’m not alone though as the length and breadth of the country, there are teams being eliminated from their county championships each weekend but that does not make it any easier. I’ve been here before as a player and more recently as a manager and I’ll be here again. 

The Clonoe team that I manage exited the Tyrone championship at the weekend at the hands of an excellent Errigal Ciaran team and while the winning margin for them was 14 points, it really should have been more but for the heroics of our keeper Michael O’Neill. 

This performance, however, was not a true reflection on the men that I have been very fortunate to manage over the last two years as they are much better than that and have always been very competitive in all games, but Sunday was just one of those days when things simply did not go our way. 

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it went so horribly wrong and as manager of the team, I’ll take full responsibility for that. I believed we had the team in a great place going into this game, both mentally and physically but sometimes the best-laid plans backfire. 

There won’t be any excuses though, as Errigal pounced on every single mistake we made and their work-rate and movement on and off the ball simply had to be admired. They were relentless and ruthless when they needed to be and to win championships, that’s the minimum level that you need to reach. Darragh Canavan gave an exhibition in forward play and creative movement and on that type of form, any player would struggle to contain him. 

What I was hoping to be a super Sunday turned out to be a dark Sunday as Killeavy also exited the championship to Crossmaglen. But this was more of a contest and the Killeavy lads can take great heart and encouragement from it and hopefully kick on and improve as they are a young side keen to take strides forward.

I’ve learnt to deal with defeat head on over the years, and while there are always post-mortems, not everyone involved has the tolerance to deal with situations like this. Sport is so important in our lives and when we win, it brings so much joy, particularly in the community, but when we lose the pain is hard to take. 

Whether we like to hear it or not, players, coaches and managers out there are suffering from mental health issues, most of whom are probably keeping it to themselves, so they are experiencing a different type of pain when losing big games. People have to be aware of this and maybe keep a look out for any signs and offer help and support. We don’t know the battles that some people are fighting and the trauma that they are experiencing. 

My point here is sport plays such a huge role in everyday life for a lot of us but it is nowhere near as important as looking after someone’s mental health and wellbeing or indeed life itself. Defeats get us all down but some experience the downs a lot more than others. 

I can deal with my own team’s shortcomings and will do so in time but just be careful of what is said to others, as it could have a lasting impact and not in the right way. People will always make mistakes in life, but not everyone sets out to make them on purpose. This is on and off a football field. Sport is sport, but your health and wellbeing are far more important than that.

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