Pa Ranahan: Pressure is a privilege and Billy Lee’s footballers can embrace that privilege this weekend

Setting goals in any walk of life is hugely important. They need to be far enough out of reach to challenge us, but not so far as to demoralise. It sets out where we want to get to, but maybe not how we are going to get there. Small wins help with this. Setting short term targets that help you get to your desired destination.

In 2011, Limerick were going through a dry spell as far as goals were concerned. We had played three rounds of the league and only raised one green flag.

The goal? More goals!

We played Clare in Cratloe in a challenge during a break in the league program and Maurice Horan set a target for the players in the half back and half forward lines. We were each to get on the end of at least one ball that created a goal opportunity.

Simple stuff.

Surely if it was that easy then I would have been doing it every game. But that one challenge made a huge difference to my mindset. Every time I could see a move developing, a trigger went off to join the attack at the right moment so that I could get a shot on goal. And twice in that first half I did just that.

The next game against Cavan I got my first goal for Limerick. The following week I got my second up in Louth. And by the penultimate game against Westmeath, I was almost expecting to score a goal, and only poor finishing let me down. The last game against Wexford you could see players from all over flying forward at every opportunity.

5 April 2015; Pa Ranahan, right, Limerick, shoots to beat Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher and score his side’s second goal. Allianz Football League, Division 3, Round 7, Louth v Limerick. County Grounds, Drogheda, Co. Louth. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Goals are great. But achieving a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Luckily for the Limerick footballers, finding the back of the net has become the norm, with majors in all of their last nine competitive games. And the goal of finishing in the top two in Division Three South is still very much in their own hands heading into the final round.

They were second best for a lot of the game last weekend but again showed their battling qualities by being level heading into the final ten minutes. And with better decision making could possibly have gotten a result. To be fair, the performance wins most games in Division Four.

But Limerick are operating against a higher level now. And Offaly were that bit better. Especially in the final third, where they hit an impressive 0-16 from play. Having played against Offaly numerous times down through the years, no matter how they were going as a team, their forward unit were always a handful. They seem to produce lovely strikers of the ball and can put up big scores on their day.

From a Limerick point of view, they perhaps will be unhappy at the ease at which their opponents worked their scoring opportunities. There is a fine line between being disciplined in the tackle and being able to slow an attack further out the field. Watch how the top teams use their bodies to stop quick breaks against them.

Another step on the development journey.

The other area where Limerick can improve on is getting more scores coming from the middle third players. To be fair, the whole half back line have contributed to date, but midfield and the half forward line have only raised one white flag between them. They are covering serious ground and working hard, but if Limerick are to reach their goal of finishing in the top two, then they need to provide more support to Hugh Bourke and Danny Neville (not forgetting a 0-2 cameo from Brian O’Donovan off the bench vs Tipperary).

2 January 2020; Danny Neville of Limerick scores his side’s first goal during the 2020 McGrath Cup Group A match between Waterford and Limerick at Fraher Field in Dungarvan, Waterford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Have a mindset going in that you will work as hard getting up the field as you do getting back. Set that target in your own head. The rewards for being in the right place at the right time are hugely satisfying. There is no doubt the fitness is there to do it. But sometimes it’s about unlocking it. And trusting your teammates to make the right decision when you do.

A repeat of the Wicklow game in 2020, where there were scores coming from all over the field, would be most welcome!

As much as their destiny is still in their own hands, there certainly could be easier assignments than a trip to Aughrim. Even though they have suffered two losses to date, the anomaly of such as a small division means Wicklow could yet find themselves in the top two.

For Limerick, it’s less clear. The only certainties are that a win by four or more guarantees a promotion play off, whilst a loss by four or more means a relegation game. The scenario for every other result in between will depend on the score from Tullamore.

We’ve all been in dressing rooms where it’s been said “every score counts”. Well, this coming Saturday, it absolutely does. Every single ball matters. And it’s great that that’s the case. There are plenty other players and teams across the country who would love to be in that situation this weekend.

Rising temperatures. Hard ground. A tough opponent to challenge you.

As Billie Jean King said, “Pressure is a privilege – it only comes to those who earn it”.

Limerick have put a lot into earning that privilege. Embrace it. Hit the small targets that are no doubt being set. And the rest will look after itself.

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