The night before their Christmas Eve game against their rivals the New York Jets, their season was turned upside down by just five letters. The Eli Manning-led squad were having a tough time of it, and there was little hope of making the playoffs. Something was missing. But, a players’ chapel meeting that night, inspired them to go on a run like no other, winning the Superbowl the following spring. All in.
TWO words is all it took to change the New York Giants’ season in 2011. All in.
The guest speaker was a humble ninth-grade teacher by the name of Gian Paul Gonzalez. He was a friend of the team chaplain, but what he said in that meeting room transformed men into Giants. He brought with him a packet of poker chips. Each player was to write their initials on the back of a chip, and instructed to carry it with them wherever they went. When the chips were down, Gonzalez told them, there was only one thing to do. All in.
It was a simple speech, but the basis of which catapulted him into the spotlight. Since, he’s given talks to the likes of Arsenal, the LA Raiders and the Portland Trailblazers. And, just last week, the Dublin ladies football team was added to his repertoire. Gonzalez tweeted a picture of himself with the Dublin squad, and there’s no question they too are now ‘all in’ ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Monaghan in Clones on Saturday as the chase continues to dethrone Cork.
The Giants’ story might not have much to do with Cork, who defeated Galway by two points in their quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday, but it runs somewhat parallel.
Eamonn Ryan’s players may have dispatched a Galway side that many tipped had what it took to defeat the reigning champions. It would be maroon, they said, that would quench the decade-long dynasty. But, Cork were ‘all in’. Unlike Galway, who had brought in a top sports psychologist in the lead-up to the game, Cork had just themselves. In the aftermath of their nine-point defeat to Kerry in the Munster final, they had to look themselves in the eye, and dig deep from within.
On Saturday they did. Captain Ciara O’Sullivan set the tone with the amount of tracking back she did. Not to mention her tally of 1-3. Their complete desire not to give in to Galway, nor themselves, was epitomised in the closing minutes, when substitute Orla Finn worked back from corner-forward to put in a block on her own full-back line. Again, it was workrate that won the game. Blocks by Brid Stack, Geraldine O’Flynn and Marie Ambrose stated the same. They were ‘all in’.
Finn had been dropped to the bench for the return of midfielder Rena Buckley and she could have chucked in her poker chip to one side and drifted away to an unhappy place. But, instead she came off the bench and worked her socks off. She was either going to give it everything, or nothing at all.
Over the course of the closing 20 minutes, Ryan replaced five of his starting forwards – O’Sullivan, the only one not to get called ashore. There were tough calls to be made, but he made them. Doireann O’Sullivan was excellent in her first game back after a hand injury and, who’s to say she’s not in the reckoning for a starting place against Kerry in the semi-final now on August 29.
With the likes of Eimear Scally, Orla Finn, Emma Farmer, Orlagh Farmer and O’Sullivan all coming off the bench, the depth of Ryan’s squad is immense.
But, they’ll need that again in two weeks’ time because Kerry are coming. In fact, scrap that, they’ve arrived. Many were tipping last Saturday’s game to be the All-Ireland final, myself included, but with the Kingdom’s impressive movement both on and off the ball against Mayo in the Gaelic Grounds, Alan O’Neill’s side are just as good, if not better than Galway.
So now it’s time to pile those poker chips together again because from here on out, it’s all in, or not at all.