Posted by Ronan Scully in Features.

I have often been to Croke Park to watch the various Gaelic football and hurling matches and I hope to be going yet again to see the All-Ireland Hurling Final with my Dad to see the great Anthony Cunningham’s chargers from Galway there in all their glory.

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 player once told me.

Talking to the manager

A stranger was walking by Croke Park before it became the iconic stadium it is now. He stopped to watch four kids trying to hit the slíothar over the bar. They were at the far end of the field. The slíothar bounced to where the stranger was standing and he grabbed the slíothar 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 years away from the goal. The slíothar went straight over the black spot of the goal.

The kids went wild roaring no way! and lucky shot. The stranger yelled out, One more shot! to which one kid replied, ‘No way he can do two. The wind is blowing.’

One of the kids pucked the slíothar down to where the stranger was standing. He pucked the slíothar high again. This time, everything got quiet, even though the wind still blew as hard as ever. The slíothar again went straight over the black spot.

The kids were stunned. One kid pucked the slíothar toward the stranger again. The stranger lofted the slíothar up in the air the same way with the same result.

One kid 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 kid, showing him how to improve his hurling. Every kid improved immediately. It got so the kids couldn’t miss.

Suddenly, the stranger disappeared. Three of the four boys looked around and saw only an empty green field. One of the kid’s mouths had dropped wide open. He was frozen in place. They were sure they had seen a ghost.

Suddenly, the stranger reappeared out of thin air.

‘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 slíothar and share the scoring, you lose. I taught you that, if you do now 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 defence 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 you 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 other 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 kid said, ‘I think my mother sent this guy.’

Another kid said, ‘No, your mother wouldn’t send a strange guy to teach us to play hurling. She’d send a Michael Duignan, or a Henry Shefflin, or a Joe Canning, or some other famous hurling star.’

They all kind of laughed but the kid persisted and said, ‘No, my mother is always praying for me. My mother is always talking to the manager about life.’

Thought for the week

As your thought for this week, see where you need help from your manager. Listen to what he or she is telling you and try your best to get a good result. Believe in yourself to always play well on the playing fields of life!