You stick your neck out and make a prediction. The truth is only history will confirm if you are right or wrong. Even then, you can never really prove your point of view beyond all doubt as due to circumstances beyond your control, the thesis was never tested. However, having the belief, the firm belief, in the first place and with the benefit of history, there can be a substantial support for your viewpoint. Things would have been better had your opinion prevailed. Strong belief in anything is a culture, but only has value if it has integrity. High standards are also a culture. Belief in high standards is a massive culture which undermined at any point in history can have lasting repercussions.
CASE STUDY 1
24th August 1980, I made my Senior hurling championship debut in Piltown for Windgap. It was the relegation play off final versus Mooncoin. I got my opportunity as a number of the senior squad members didn’t want to play the game and wanted to demote the club down to the Intermediate grade. Reasons will follow. Regardless, I was excited for the opportunity to start at midfield (later moving to corner forward) and was planning to derail any thoughts of easy surrender on the field of play, the day after my first shave. My father and my sister were there to support. Despite what would have been considered an understrength Windgap team, we were only three points down entering the dying stages. I had worked hard but with very little reward. However, I had the belief I could do something to turn the game. Time was running out though. The final whistled beckoned when the ball broke to me just include the “21” as it was known in those days. (21 yards now known as 20 metres). The ball came to hand. I rounded the defender and facing me was the Mooncoin goalkeeper, Ned Quinn (Later to become a very successful chairman of Kilkenny County Board). I took aim and with a rocket of a shot hit the back of the net. Ned pucked out the ball and the final whistle was blown. A draw, Windgap 3-7, Mooncoin 2-10. No extra time. A replay would be required. I was elated, my senior championship debut and a relegation saving goal. The future looked bright for me. It felt good. The man or more appropriately, the boy who saved Windgap from Senior relegation!
The debate between the senior members who were very surprised we got a draw, and those who wanted to fight to remain senior status continued. They were very concerned we would win the replay. My personal belief, now looking forward to an illustrious senior hurling career, was that we had to fight to stay senior, Play the games to the best of our ability on the pitch, not off the pitch. Maybe at some stage ability will see us intermediate or worse, but let’s have a culture that does not involve defeatism and easy surrender. The opposite view was that we have some very good young players coming through the ranks and it would be better to develop them at Intermediate level and then get back up to be competitive at senior level. Especially as it was now an aging senior team who were struggling to be competitive at the top table of Kilkenny hurling. On Monday 20th October 1980 in Piltown National School, a meeting took place. Thirteen people were in attendance including myself. The topic, simple, should we play the upcoming relegation playoff replay against Mooncoin. The result was a resounding 12-1 in favour of conceding the match and opting to go back Intermediate. I was the lone dissenting voice. It serves no purpose to identify the others. Some have passed, some still very much involved, some no longer involved. It was democracy. Can’t really argue with it. When you are competitive and lose, it always hurts. Hindsight though, says I was given a very special opportunity. As a young fresh faced 17-year-old, I was allowed the floor to make a case. I wonder how many clubs allow their young lads that sort of platform? How many clubs give their young people the confidence to speak and forward argument? Even today when society, talks so much how they value the input of young people. How many young people are really listened to? I may not have been heeded, but at least I was given the opportunity by the elders of the day. For every negative there is always a positive. This for me was one, the main one with the value of hindsight. That and the fact that my senior club championship goal scoring records stands at an average of a goal a game, probably one of the best in Kilkenny hurling, if not the best!
Was it the right choice for Windgap looking back with the benefit of hindsight? Four years later in 1984, Windgap lost the Intermediate relegation final to Young Irelands by 4-2 to 2-14. However, in 1986, Windgap won the junior final county final in Nowlan Park beating Danesfort by 1-11 to 2-1. This was probably Windgap’s greatest ever day as it was the only main adult final Windgap have ever won on the field of play having been awarded the 1970 final in the board room. The second stint in Intermediate lasted two years until they lost the 1988 relegation final to St. Lachtains of Freshford by 0-8 to 1-7. They have been junior since. So, in the 43 years since that meeting in Windgap National School, they have spent 37 in junior, six in Intermediate, none in senior. That statistic would have read at least one more in senior had my belief been heeded. I’m sure there will be varied views as to what would have happened.
Check in next month for HISTORY OF BELIEF PART TWO when another case study might enlighten further.