Day 2 – Senior Touch Championships, Edinburgh 2017

I’ve read a lot of sports psychology over the last year so I know this is basic stuff and I just have to accept I got it badly wrong. I should know better. I built things up too much in my head, put too much pressure on myself, and got into how big the whole thing was, dug myself into a hole. I should have just trusted my processes, trusted my body’s muscle memory, all those hours of practice, my body knew what to do. Just let it flow. That’s being ‘in the zone.’

But no. That’s not me, is it?

So, I finally got the big bed last night… but I got over-excited. And then I couldn’t get to sleep. And then I was getting doubly annoyed. I should be having the be having the best sleep of my life. And then I couldn’t relax. And then I even started thinking I can sleep here, I’d like to go back to the small bed, and… what an eejit.

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Today was a long day. Three games. Myself and my two roommates Billy and Brian had a great start to the morning. As we were getting ready around 7am. What video suddenly came on the TV? Ed Sheeran – ‘Galway Girl’! It was like a sign.

19369569_10158861678275297_1753564191_nHow could you not be inspired by that?

We obviously allowed ourselves a moment of nostalgia for the old country that we left whenever it was and then got back focused for our upcoming games.

GAME 1 vs. England

This was important. Could we back up yesterday’s performance? How would we be mentally? Up for it and confident or get scared by it. I wasn’t sure to be honest. We stood up well. We won 7-4. It was at 9 o’clock this morning and I can barely remember it. It seems like two days ago. I’ll need to look back at the video at some point. The couple of things I do remember is dropping the ball twice in the warm up and going ‘Come on Ian. Wake up!’ Sometimes you bring that into the game, sometimes not at all.

Attacking England’s 5m line, I got a pass from our dummy half and just had to catch it and fall to the ground to score. I fumbled it before grounding. The main referee wasn’t sure if I’d grounded it. Normally in that situation, you might use your body language as if you’ve scored, pick up the ball and run back to the half-way line. I couldn’t. I was too disgusted with myself. Hung my head and got back up to get into the defensive line. The referees were still discussing, but by that stage it was too late to bluff even if I’d wanted to. I don’t think I would have anyway. Sometimes you’re not sure of you’re grounding, or it’s a close call but here I knew I’d dropped it.

Touch has to be a game of honour. People who don’t know the game often ask how do you know when someone has made the touch or not. Disputed touches are far rarer than you’d imagine but in certain situations you do depend on the honour of your fellow players. I’d never lie about a touch I didn’t make and neither would most players I’ve come up against. The sport depends on that. In other areas, you push the boundaries and get everything you can to get on top but that area is non-negotiable for me. The other bit I remember was breaking through and running half the field, getting caught just before the try line. The Ian of the last millennium would not have been caught. I can tell you that for nothing.

Game 2 vs Wales

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So, did we learn from our defeat to Wales yesterday as I mentioned we’d need to do?

It’s maybe almost a cliche that visualisation is important in sport. Visualising yourself performing tasks well until you do. What’s also important is building a mental landscape and matrix of what opponents do. It allows you to react more quickly to their actions and attacks and allows you to see a broader picture rather than your focus becoming too narrowed when you come under pressure and you don’t see a backdoor runner etc. Yesterday I felt I’d completely unlearned my mental landscape of how Wales attack. My reactions were slow and hesitant. We watched back a video of the game last night and it wasn’t pleasant viewing.

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Today? Personally, I got to grips with the terrain again. Our team? We all played better. The result? We won 9-5.

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Try from one of our games vs Wales.

https://vid.me/4IQn

Game 3 vs England

Sun beating down. 5pm kickoff. 8 hours since our first game. This was a must win game for England to stay in the tournament. We started well and then we faded and they beat us 9-6. There was a lot of fatigue. My view of the game was that we let them get momentum and confidence through the game and we didn’t kill it. I was tired obviously but this was physically the best I’ve felt in an Irish shirt in about three years. Even scored a try. My sister Emer dragged to the wing, switched with Katie who passed in to me. I didn’t drop it as I fell over the line. That was learning since 9am this morning! I loved every second of this battle. I hope there are things we can bring from it into tomorrow if we end up playing England again.

Hopefully two more games tomorrow if we’re in the final.

Back to the little bed. Trust your processes Ian…

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