Heading into the All Ireland football semi-final, Meath are lined up as favourites. A strong performance to see off Tyrone in the quarters, allied with Cork’s ‘good-enough’ show against Sligo has influenced the thinking of many observers. For Cork this is perfect. Fuelled by the underdog status they play Meath off the park. For Meath, the burden of being favourites seems too much for them.
So how has this come about? Being underdogs offers many advantages to a team. Importantly it creates a simple but powerful focus. You can see an enemy. Them! The ones who are writing you off. Dismissing your chances. Not seeing your strengths and capability. The dismissive ones. They are the enemy. The ones you are going to prove wrong. To throw their words back in their faces. Go on – write us off! Rubbish us! Tell us we can’t win. This clarity of focus allows you to align all your strengths, successes, collective spirit in one direction. You can see their words right in front of you. It’s worth an extra player.
For Meath, the burden of favouritism is more than they can bear. They do not have the weight of success under their belts to cope with it. To refer to. To match the expectancy. The pressure to succeed is greater than their collective winning experience. If they had All-Ireland titles under their belts then they could match the expectancy pressure. Proven feelings and belief to underpin the pressure. Knowing how to win. But no – the pressure inhibits them. They have no enemy. No one to prove a point to. It’s like losing a player.
It’s no surprise that Cork seem to have an extra player on the pitch. In some ways they have. They should be praying the scribes write them off in the All-Ireland final.