As pre-season draws to a close, thoughts now turn to what lies ahead for 2016/2017 – but also present are memories the highs and lows from the season past. It’s important to look back to look forward, after all. The following is from an article that our 2015/2016 Leinster Cup winning Coach Ali Robinson wrote about her squad for NewsFour, the local community newspaper… have a read, and BELIEVE!
Once in a while, a sporting achievement stands out – a special occasion, where the sheer guts and determination of underdogs trumps that of overwhelming favourites against the odds, showing us that it is possible to do the impossible… and so it was last April.
The scene was set for a showdown between two clubs; rivals who had fought it out for the first and second spots in their Leinster league division for three consecutive years. Muckross -V- Wicklow league matches were always tense, high tempo affairs – but it was Wicklow who consistently came out on top, remaining unbeaten by any league counterpart.
When both clubs were drawn on the opposite sides of the Leinster Division 11/12 Cup, Muckross watched on as Wicklow relentlessly marched on through the rounds, winning by an average score of five goals to nil. Our team navigated their way through to the quarter-finals, and then won a tough semi-final against Monkstown to book their place in the final, which based on form was generally considered to be a fait accompli for Wicklow… but Ali’s Army had other ideas!
Nerves were raw; fear, dread and trepidation abounded; but often in the face of the seemingly insurmountable comes clarity. “So what if they have an ex-international on their team? So what if they’ve beaten us consistently for the past three years? So what if no one is giving us a chance?” If we believed as a unit and agreed as a unit that we could be victorious, then we WOULD be victorious.
As a Coach, your job is to instil belief – you have to believe it yourself, otherwise there’s no point in turning up. So, once the cup final date was set, two weeks of intensive physical and mental preparation for the MHC 5s squad ensued, and they were ready for battle. The strategy was steadfast – every player knew their exact role to play; and every player believed that if they carried out that role, they would win.
For Muckross, there was a beautiful symmetry to this Cup final – the club had last won it back in 1994, when two of the current squad were 13 year olds playing for Muckross Park College; and two players who now play on the Muckross Vets squad were also on that 1994 cup winning side. The pressure was on. It’s one thing to lose a league match but to lose a Leinster Cup final with the weight of club history bearing down was simply not an option.
The scene was set in Three Rock Rovers, on Leinster Cup Finals Day. The sun was shining amidst a soft breeze; kits were gleaming, muscles taught, and minds focussed. When the whistle blew to start the match, Muckross knuckled down and got to work. A nil all draw at half time – the strategy was working. There were individual battles being fought all across the pitch, and this was the first time in three years that Wicklow weren’t having their own way with Muckross. In front of a sea of supporters in green n’ white that surrounded the pitch, the squad fought hard for themselves, for eachother, and for their club.
Full time – still nil all. Wicklow with everything to lose; Muckross with everything to win. This incredible battle would now be decided by a penalty shootout. The crowd fell silent as the nominated players stepped up to take their strokes. 1-0 Wicklow; 2-0 Wicklow; panic on the Muckross faces. 2-1; 2-2; 3-2; 3-3; 4-4; 5.5. Into sudden death. Wicklow pushed a penalty stroke past the post. Now, one stroke separated the impossible from the possible – could this group of players claim the cup for the first time in 22 years, and with it their place in Muckross history? The Muckross centre-back steps up. She eyes the goalkeeper in front of her; then looks right; then goes left – and rattles the back of the net.
Muckross are the winners, and with that win comes a tsunami of emotion, ecstasy, tears, relief; justification of all of the effort, sacrifice and commitment along the way. A unique feeling that is experienced so rarely in life – the pure joy of victory. Their supporters on the sidelines say it’s one of the most powerful performances from a Muckross team that they’ve ever seen!
It may not have been the Olympics, or the World Cup, or the Irish Senior Cup – but sport is sport, no matter what level. To the victor go the spoils. MHC 5s claimed victory – defying all the odds, against the run of form, in spite of everyone who had expected Wicklow to romp home. That victory can never be taken away from the squad of 16 on the pitch that day.
What Muckross showed to all present and to themselves the power of BELIEF. In sport and in life, believe that you can achieve it, work hard to achieve it and you WILL achieve it, despite the odds.