John McEntee: Ulster sides will be trying to 'do a Tiger' this summer

Tiger Woods has set the bar high in terms of sporting achievements in 2019. Ulster counties will be looking to upset the odds in similar fashion when Championship the action begins next month

FEW sports have a relationship with the GAA quite like golf.

It is a perennial fundraiser for many clubs and committees countrywide.

It also serves as the default alternative pastime for many players, as well as being the adhesive which connects many former players socially.

Hurlers typically have very well refined hand-eye coordination, which enables them to swap the hurl for a club and generate a similarly successful outcome.

In my adopted home of Keady the townspeople have formed a strong and enduring relationship with one of hurling’s finest, DJ Carey, via their passion for hurling.

In the local shops the people often talk of DJ’s exploits on the golf course with equal reverence as his wizardry on the Gaelic fields.

One evening as I was cornered in a local pub as an avid golfer, who’d spend much longer in

the 19th hole than the previous 18 combined, attempted to convince me that he’d just outplayed Kilkenny’s greatest ever golfer – DJ Carey – in a match-play event.

Somehow, that title didn’t have the same ring to it but I endured the story while being amused that DJ’s exploits with a hurl were either long forgotten or unknown to this man.

Golf has universal appeal. As does Tiger Woods. For many, Tiger is to golf what Usain Bolt was to athletics.

It seems as though even when things go against them they typically navigate their way through all the chaos to achieve success and shine brighter than everyone else.

In some respects this is easier achieved in an environment where the individual is responsible for everything and not reliant on others.

An absolute focus and a capacity to orchestrate everything ensures the individual is in utter control.

Team games are so different. Players can be ultra professional, be fixated on attention to detail, be physically and mentally prepared and employ their visualisation training, but when they are on that pitch they are reliant on 14 team-mates who may or may not be as disciplined or committed.

It’s one of the trials of being a Gaelic footballer and the absence of a winning mentality is perhaps a key reason it is incredibly difficult to win in team sports.

Conversely, when a team can all commit to the same high level, their chance of success is also high and there will always be an opportunity to repeat this success.

Teams with a winning mentality are the best teams. They are the teams who feast at the top table year after year; Dublin, Mayo, Kerry in football or Kilkenny, Galway, Tipperary in hurling.

Then there are the teams who have that winning tradition but who the punters dismiss based on one reason or another.

This is where the comparisons can be drawn with Tiger Woods. At odds of 14/1 to win at Augusta, Woods was someone the bookies felt had a bit of form and who was likely to make the weekend cut but who was unlikely to be a serious contender.

Yet, bookies being bookies, they distrusted Tiger so they kept his odds on winning shorter than most of the remaining field. What was their concern? With Tiger, anything is possible.

There are a few football teams outside the aforementioned group who possess a winning mentality and fewer still

who’ve shown even a glimmer of promise over the course of the League that might worry the bookmakers.

The only other team the bookies fear is Tyrone. Their odds of success have nosedived in recent week with the unfortunate news emanating from Monaghan that Darren Hughes may miss the entire Championship, and most recently, that Odhran Mac Niallais is opting not to play for Donegal in 2019.

Neither team will be stronger for these losses so the door to provincial success for Tyrone remains wide open. With this path comes an easier progression into the Super 8 series and a probable place in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Remember never to bet against Tyrone.

On July 17, 2017 Tiger Woods dropped out of the top 1000 golfers in the world. Two years later he won arguably golf’s most prestigious tournament and catapulted himself into the history books once more.

Is there a football team out there in the wilderness who could turn their fortunes around and shine brightest this summer?

Could Cork, with their tradition, send shockwaves through Ireland by beating Tipperary or Limerick before overcoming Kerry to win the Munster Senior Championship?

Maybe they need to take a few baby steps forward before they become giantkillers.

What about the Down tradition? In 1990 no one saw the greatness of the team that followed in 1991 or 1994.

In fact, their Ulster Championship opener against Armagh in 1991 was arguably the worst game of that decade with many leaving Páirc Esler believing a combination of both teams wouldn’t win another game. Yet Down defied the odds.

If there is a surprise this summer it is going to happen in Ulster. Hope springs eternal up north and, with hope, anything is possible.

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