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The Unused Sub – When Winning Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

The Unused Sub – When Winning Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be
By Mark Farrelly
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Guest post by Niall Connolly.

Don’t get me wrong it not that I want to lose, it’s just that sometimes it might just be easier.

The elation, joy and “o-lay o-lay o-lay” is nothing but an act, a mask over the anger, inadequacy and even embarrassment that bubbles under the surface. It’s not that you’re bitter, of course you're delighted for your mates and their success bit you feel like an outsider, that you don’t belong here, there’s no feeling of accomplishment.

You may have worked as hard, if not harder, than most of them and made a valuable contribution throughout the year but it makes no odds. You still can’t enjoy it.

The celebrations, the hugging backslapping and jumping are unbearable. The smile on your face is so forced that you can feel the muscles in your face cramping up. Some lads are delighted just to be part of the win, for whatever reason they know that the team is better off with them on the sideline. They can accept that for team glory they must sacrifice their own personal ambition.

But not you, you expect more from yourself. You know you're good enough and the competitive fire that burns inside you makes watching unbearable. Maybe you're selfish for thinking this way but then maybe you're not. You have a drive that isn’t satisfied with being second best which all great people need.

You wish you were able to enjoy it like they do but it’s not happening. The frustration of the last two hours or longer doesn’t just dissipate with the final whistle. It stays with you for days afterwards.
And then the crowd arrives, joyous family and friends, making you want to be swallowed up by the ground. Their congratulations and handshakes, no matter how genuine, come across as patronising and condescending. You can see you self-confidence lying in little pieces at your feet.


The “well dones” are pointless, what exactly did you do well?

You managed to sit down for an hour, throw in a water bottle a couple of times, clap and shout encouragement and if you're lucky crash a few balls off the crossbar during the half time show.
Then comes the inevitable platitudes from the captain and manager. How it was a team effort and you were every bit as important as the others and that if you weren’t there at training to push the lads we wouldn’t be here.

Load of bollocks.


When you eventually manage to escape from the dressing room you're faced with the toughest decision of the day; To go out or not? It’s a horrible decision to be burdened with, dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

Go and you subject yourself to even more of the post-match inadequacy that only gets worse when the people singing your praises have a few scoops on board. And your pints will taste bitter all night too.

Don’t go and you appear sour, that you're not a team player, somebody who has a bad attitude. You can only guess what is being said about you, that’s if people even bother to talk about you or notice you're not there. Then come the calls and texts asking you to come up, but you're committed now, you’ve decided not to put yourself through it so you make your excuses to blow them off.


Over time you start to get over it. You realise that it’s not the end of the world, that when you look back it seems petty and juvenile. You resolve to using it as a positive, something that will spur you on to bigger and better things. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that other positive thoughts lark.

Then comes the presentation night. You smile for the camera and accept your medal. You feel you haven’t earned it and contemplate just getting rid of it.
But you don’t.

When you sit down sit down to tell your grandkids about that medal you don’t have to be the unused sub. You can be the hero, they don’t have to know.

Also read: Why I Think Stephen Hunt Was Right About GAA Player Commitment
Also read:  Vote For The Best GAA Book Of All Time
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