I’ve often been to Croke Park to watch football and hurling matches over the years, especially when my own faithful county Offaly are playing. I hope to be going yet again to see this year’s All Ireland Hurling Final with my Dad, to see Micheal Donoghue’s charges in all their glory, with Tony Keady’s battling spirit inspiring them as they take on Waterford in what should be an epic battle.
It’s been an integral part of our father-son relationship for as long as I can remember. I enjoy it and I love to watch how each manager interacts with their team and how each player interacts with their manager. The better they interact with their manager, the better chance they seem to have of winning on the playing field. It always reminds me of a story a legendary hurler and friend told me.
Talking to the manager
Walking past a pitch one day, a stranger wearing the famous number 6 on the back of his jersey stopped to watch four children trying to hit the sliothar over the bar. They were at the far end of the field. The sliothar bounced to where the stranger was standing and he grabbed it and pucked it high. It went so high up into the air, it seemed to disappear into the sky only to reappear again on its descent. The stranger was standing at least 80 yards away from the goal. The sliothar went straight over the black spot of the goal.
The children went wild roaring ‘no way!’ and ‘lucky shot!’ The stranger yelled out, ‘One more shot!’ to which one child replied, ‘No way he can do two. The wind is blowing.’
One of the children pucked the sliothar down to where the stranger was standing. He hit the sliothar high again. This time, everything got quiet, even though the wind still blew as hard as ever. The sliothar again went straight over the black spot.
The children were stunned. One child hit the ball toward the stranger again. The stranger lofted the sliothar up in the air the same way, with the same result.
One child asked, ‘Who are you?’
The stranger said, ‘I’m just passing through. Want to learn how to play hurling? I’ll show you how.’
The stranger worked with each child, showing him how to improve his hurling. Every child improved immediately. It got so the children couldn’t miss.
Suddenly, the stranger disappeared. Three of the four boys looked around and saw only an empty green field. One of the children’s mouths dropped wide open. He was frozen in place. They were sure they had seen a ghost.
Suddenly, the stranger reappeared out of thin air.He said, ‘I am not a ghost. I do what the manager tells me to do. Today I am a teacher, teaching you how to play hurling and other things about life. I taught you how to play hurling but I also taught you about more important things than hurling. Remember, I taught you if you don’t have a goal, you don’t have a game. I taught you that, unless you pass the sliothar and share the scoring, you lose. I taught you that, if you do not follow the rules, you cannot win. I taught you that you have to be honest with yourself. You need to know what you can and cannot do. I taught you to develop the part of your game you do best. I taught you to play defense against the bad things of life and play attacking to keep the good things going. I taught you to improve your game and improve your character. I taught you not to repeat mistakes in your game but to eliminate the mistakes as soon as you can. You must quickly eliminate the mistakes, so the mistakes do not become a habit. I taught you to put others before yourself.
‘One more thing, you must always talk to the manager. If you don’t talk to the manager, the manager won’t talk to you,’ he said, before disappearing again.
The boys froze. One child said, ‘I think my mother sent this guy.’
Another child said, ‘No, your mother wouldn’t send a strange guy to teach us to play hurling. She’d send a Joe Connolly, or a Tony Keady, or a Joe Canning or some other famous hurling star.’
They all kind of laughed but the child persisted and said, ‘No, my mother is always praying for me. My mother is always talking to the ‘Manager’ about life.’
A Prayer Poem for Tony Keady
The following is a prayer poem to and for Killimordaly, Oranmore, Galway and Ireland Hurling legend and hero, Tony Keady, Double All Ireland Hurling Winner and All Star. This is a Poem of Remembrance for everyone that knew you, especially your wife Margaret and family, friends, fellow players, colleagues and Hurling and GAA families and sporting fraternities:
Somewhere in the early morning of eternity you are running free on the Hurling Fields of Heaven with the famous number 6 shining brightly as ever on your back.
Loosed from the skirmishes, hooks and bonds of earth; unchained from all that bound you here.
The years together were too brief, yet who is to measure time?
Or how long is long enough.
You brought joy, energy, competitiveness, brilliance, team play, individual play, friendship, success, passion and whispered hope, to those who loved you most, your wife and family and especially to every Galway fan that ever lived.
A single thread of darkness or loneliness pulled you beyond to the moment of now.
We cannot fully understand nor shall we try, we simply know that in the vastness of all that is you are running free on the Hurling fields of all tomorrows. And a lone seagull calls to you and you respond with laughter.
You carry now, no burden, no chain, no jersey pull, no round the neck tackle nor bond to hold you.
You carry only the warmth and the love of those who cared. So run free Tony and your fellow team mates and loved ones who went before you and open your arms and touch the clouds and dance with the morning sun and know that even in our tears we celebrate with you as you enjoy the Hurling fields of Heaven and bid you good journey, til we meet again and we will always love you and thank you for your kindness, charity, talents and passion for all things family, Killimordaly, Oranmore, Galway, Hurling, GAA, sport and life.
“Tony Keady Should Have Played in ’89.”
Amen. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis and may you now rest Tony in God’s beautiful peace on the Hurling fields of heaven.
Thought for the Week
As your thought for this week, see where you need help from your manager. Listen to what is been told to you and try your best to get a good result. Believe in yourself to always play well on the playing fields of life!
Let me finish with one of my favourite sports prayers, ‘A Hurler’s Prayer’, written by Seamus Redmond and recited recently by Tony Keady’s son at the great Tony’s funeral. I thought it was worth sharing at this time especially since our Galway Hurlers are preparing for battle on the great hurling field of Croke Park this coming Sunday.
A Hurler’s Prayer
Give me O’Lord a hurler’s skill.
With strength of arm and speed of limb.
Unerring eye for the flying ball.
And courage to match them whatever befall.
May my aim be steady – my stroke be true.
My actions manly – my misses few.
And no matter what way the game may go.
May I part in friendship with every foe.
When the final whistle for me is blown.
And I stand at last at God’s Judgement Throne.
May the great Referee when he calls my name say,
You hurled like a man, you played the game.
(PS…Any tickets to spare I am available for selection!)