Published Monday, 25 June 2012
Take the Ireland Rugby team for example. Just last weekend they succeeded in putting the World Champions New Zealand to the very pin of their collar, almost recording a historic draw in their second test match.
Just seven days later, against the same opposition, they fail to register a single score on their way to a 60 point drubbing.
A true reflection in the gulf of class between both teams would probably be somewhere in the middle. Punching well above their weight one week, drastically below par the next.
If we were to go by National league form and reputations, then one would have had Down a few points ahead of Monaghan going into this Ulster Semi-Final.
'It's all on the day' is an endearing term we love to use when assessing who might come out on top in an Ulster Championship game. But how can we explain how one team can dominate so much in one half yet capitulate in the next?
Here are some reasons I have come up with:
Application is another name for work-rate or hunger. When one team applies itself much more vigorously than their opponent, then a gap often appears on the scoreboard. Monaghan fell into this category in the first half outscoring Down 0-11 to 1-2. The tables reversed in the second with Down outscoring Monaghan 0-12 to 1-2.
Momentum and the ability to finish a game strong is another key area. 'It's not how you start but rather how you finish' is term particularly relevant when two teams are neck and neck entering the final few minutes of a game. When Tommy Freeman netted for Monaghan it should have been an end to the Down fight back but a lack of ruthlessness on the part of the 'Farney Army' allowed Down to mount a renewed challenge.
And then of course let's not forget the ability to deal with pressure a la 'Pirlo' style. In the dying moments Aidan Carr and Liam Doyle converted crucial frees for Down, whilst at the other end Dick Clerkin missed a couple of gilt edge chances for Monaghan.
And last but not least, there's perseverance. When the chips are down that's when you really earn your corn. Down didn't throw in the towel when they looked dead and buried. The credit for this must be given to the smallest man on the field Conor Laverty who singlehandedly dragged Down back into this game.
I was always told that 'wee men' were best kept for the circus. But he flies in the face of everything that the modern game of Gaelic Football has become. Huge strength and size now seem to be a pre-requisite for County Football. But at about 5ft 6 inches and 9 stone, he doesn't buy into the theory.
A first Ulster Final appearance for the Mourne Men since 2003, Tyrone or Donegal will be extremely worried about a certain wee man from Kilcoo running rings around their defence.