LARRY RYAN: Davy Kool-Aid needed now

If the Clare hurlers once turned their season round by convening to drink Davy Fitzgerald’s MiWadi, maybe the same trick will work with Kool-Aid.

Or perhaps the bitter aftertaste of this week’s events will sicken their stomachs and have a disastrous effect on The Savage Hunger.

Whatever happens down the line, we can be sure of one thing; results will be interpreted to fit one of those narratives.

It is an intriguing situation unfolding in Clare all the same. Conveniently, we don’t really need to concern ourselves with the exact truth of what’s happening to see so many truths about top-level sport.

We might start with the precarious, fragile nature of sporting fellowship.

Mick McCarthy once told a story about a habit he’d picked up from Raymond Domenech during Mick’s spell at Lyon. The players were away at a training camp and every morning Domenech would dutifully shake hands with every man before he sat down to his breakfast.

Suitably impressed, Mick imported the custom when he became Wolves manager and swore by its benefits in building team spirit and respect.

We don’t know if he abandoned it after Domenech railed at his “brainless brats” following their disastrous 2010 World Cup.

The beautiful idea that we’re all in this together is, of course, a temporary confidence trick pulled off by the finest con artists, the best managers.

The burning desire to die for the man beside you, at least until you have to die for a better man we’ve found to take his place.

“Every single player played their part, from 1 to 30 on the panel.”

Fine words on the steps of the Hogan in September, harder to digest when you’re sitting on a bench in March, having ran and lifted your guts out for months.

It is a process that asks much of a manager’s diplomacy and a lot more of his back-up cast; a near- impossible blend of fight-for-my-place and happy-to-play-my-part.

Ultimately, keeping things on an even keel may come down to that delicate process which Alex Ferguson famously referred to as: “Get rid of the c****.”

Although Clare have denied any inequities in their disciplinary processes, another of sport’s age-old truths has cropped up here too; that some players are more equal than others.

Davy O’Halloran seems to think that is the case. And it might well be the most common gripe on sidelines up and down the country in every code: “How come yer man is starting when he wasn’t training?”

At elite level, the inequities tend to be a little more subtle than that. Things like Fergie imposing a zero-tolerance dress code, then warmly greeting Cantona when he arrived at a black-tie do in t-shirt and runners.

Or tolerating Ronaldo standing hands on hips after losing the ball.

Who knows if its an apocryphal story, the one that has Leo Messi defy Pep by gulping a coke in front of the team just a couple of hours before kick-off? But the story never ends with Messi being dropped.

Whether he was mistaken in his views or not, Davy O’Halloran has just begun a period of significant readjustment.

He is young enough to consider this a temporary setback but many studies point out how athletes tend to have their identities wrapped up in their achievements in sport.

As Donal Og Cusack has pointed out: “When a player leaves an inter-county panel it can often be a very challenging time in his life” The GPA, and others, have put together programmes. There are all kinds of triggers and milestones to watch out for.

Presumably gathered around a vat of Davy’s Kool-Aid, O’Halloran’s teammates were kind enough to supply him with an early one. In the statement released backing management, they probably became the first people to refer to him as “a former player”.

It might be the coldest statement a bunch of players have ever backed. That’s not to say they were wrong to do so. This is a group that knows what it takes to go all the way.

In the middle of that disastrous World Cup, the French lads released a statement backing one of their number, after Nicolas Anelka was sent home. In that case, solidarity didn’t work out very well. Only results will bring judgments.

In an interview with Tony Griffin last Saturday, I wondered what could stand between these Clare hurlers and greatness.

He didn’t talk about tactics or fitness or The Savage Hunger. He said: “How are we connected as a group, do we know why we are here for each other? If individuals are intuitively in tune then the magic can happen.”

It is Davy’s job now to convince them they are more in tune than ever before.

He has smoothed over divisions before. We can’t forget that only 19 lads were invited to the MiWadi party in the first place.


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