Sacrifice built Cummins’ big-day resilience

As sacrifice becomes more of an ugly word in inter-county Gaelic games, former Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins has preached the benefits of players giving up aspects of their life to try and achieve success.
Sacrifice built Cummins’ big-day resilience

Cummins has no hesitation in saying that sacrifices, such as giving up alcohol for a time and avoiding chocolate, gave him an edge.

“It’s like putting diesel into a petrol engine, full stop,” he said about alcohol at the recent GAA coaching conference.

“I am not saying that you have alcohol bans; I am talking moderation. It’s just as simple as that. What are you prepared to give up to have the life you say you want?

“Everybody has the DVD of the All Blacks training, clearing the dressing room after training. It’s cool, like. Every single day of the week they are living that. They are making sacrifices every day.

"Why? Because the more sacrifices you make, the more resilient you get. Resilience a lot of the time isn’t built up on that pitch over 70 minutes: it’s built in the days, weeks and months leading up to that event.

“I wasn’t a drinker anyway, so it wasn’t a big sacrifice. I’d drive and stay with my friend until half 11 or 12 on a Friday night and I’d drive home. When I did, I’d confirm to myself that I made the commitment to the 29 other fellas on the panel with me that we are going to show the world something they’d never seen before on Sunday, when we have to deliver, when it counts.”

Giving up chocolate was, though, a bigger issue for the two-time All-Ireland winner.

“Chocoholic, absolute disaster, nightmare, my vice is chocolate. I used to wreck our dietician’s head, show her pictures of the fridge, she used to go mental. I thought, I can’t stop my wife eating chocolate — we all know it’s a fate worse than death! I put a fruit bowl over the fridge.

"To make a winning decision, I put a better option in front of myself. One week, I went overboard before we played Kilkenny in a National League game. What am I going to do to commit? Goal number one, don’t eat chocolate for the week. When you are coming down off the chocolate buzz, by Thursday, I am telling you, it’s not a nice place to be, rats going up the wall and everything.

“I went into the game on Sunday with a pain in my head, because I was coming down from the sugar rush. I had invested everything in this game. This game was my world. Sure, I was gone to the clouds, and that’s the other side, you can overdo all that kind of stuff. You can go mad at it. That day, I absolutely tanked. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Unlike outfield players like Pádraic Maher, Cummins’ tastes in pre-match music were more subdued. “I picked stuff with huge meaning for me and calm. One of the songs I picked was one I used when my wife was coming up the aisle to me: Charlotte Church, ‘The Heart That Matters Most’.

“When you listen to the words of that, one line says: ‘Can you see the wonder in their eyes?’ When I look down on the bus travelling in [to Croke Park], I looked at the supporters and it filled me with huge confidence that they were there to support me to do the job we had to do together.”

Cummins also recorded videos of himself to boost his confidence.

“If I was collecting an All Star, the night when I was sitting above — the Burlington is where I got the initial ones — I’d have sat on the bed, told my partner to go, I’ll follow you down.

"Not the coolest look in the world sitting on the bed talking into the phone; be locked up for that kind of carry on. Right: ‘You are about to go downstairs and collect an All Star. Your system works. You doubt yourself constantly through the year. That’s just the way you are. You are chasing to be the best you can be and doubts are just part of that journey, a part of what you do.’ And then save it. Back yourself.

“Sixty-five per cent is body language. So, there you are, sitting down, cocky as bejaysus, because you are about to go down and collect this thing, telling yourself there is nothing to be afraid of, you have the ability.

"I instantly got a buzz from it. ‘Hey, guess what, that fella on the thing is right and guess what, that fella is me.’”

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