At a recent conference in Croke Park, Crossmaglen Rangers official Peter McMahon said that he hoped those present “wouldn’t be disappointed by the ordinary nature” of his club. What he meant was obvious, that the Armagh outfit had the same worries in terms of getting personnel to fill committees and look after teams as any other unit.
On another level, of course, Rangers are anything but ordinary. Yet, their humility is often the most striking thing. McMahon went on “People often ask what’s the secret? Well, there is none, the power comes from within”. One sensed what he meant was that it comes down to a question of priorities.
Years back, myself, Paul Reilly, Matt Dwyer and Damien Hynes set about doing a newsletter for St Peter’s, Dunboyne. Our efforts didn’t meet with universal approval. In fact, it would be admitted that some of the greatest cock ups of this writing career occurred in Black And Amber News. Our motives were simple though – to take the club to another level in terms of communication and media output. To be more precise, we wanted to get to the place that other clubs in the area were already perched – producing newsletters and running websites.
In one issue, we ran a competition to design a new club crest. The prize for the winning entry being a voucher for Dunboyne Sports & Leisure. Again, keep it local. Former Meath player Tommy O’Connor’s contribution won out. It contained many instantly recognisable local landmarks, most notably Dunboyne Castle. Everything just fitted.
Towards the end of 2012, years of work – physical, financial, engineering and administrative – came to fruition when the club’s new pitches close to the castle came into use. It was something that at times I feared might never happen, but, its completion marks another milestone for the club. Of course, part of you starts to dream of things like stands and floodlighting pitches, but for now, to have Meath play a challenge game to officially open the new greenery – and better weather than the night they last did in 1993 – would be a dream come true.
Funny things they are, dreams. For the 11 years these wheels were parked at committee meetings and, truthfully, ever since, a dilemma has swirled in the mind: what’s more important, having top class, modern facilities or mopping up success on the field? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Anyone that’s ever been involved around team sports – as player, administrator or supporter – has heard and been taken in by the rumour that ‘x’ or ‘y’ player is transferring your way. Truth told, the failure of a certain player to complete the desired move in the favoured direction very close to home is a regret that will be taken to the grave.
That sense of regret is only heightened by the feeling that not all that could’ve been done in certain places to make it happen was. The dividend accrued from a gamble very often outweighs the stake invested and in the aforementioned case that would most certainly have been the case.
On other occasions, however, it isn’t. As the case of the Parnells club in Dublin recently demonstrated. Ambition is to be admired – both in terms of facilities and achieving optimum output and yield on the field! Indeed, what often felt like a distinct lack of ambition in certain places made the heart in this seat very heavy.
The Parnells case has a distinct feel of identity – to some degree at least – being lost in the broadening of horizons. Put another way, as with plenty of other facets of the society before the economy imploded, when boundaries are pushed, one can often end up in unfamiliar territory – in over your head as it as it were. In such situations, maybe, rational thinking goes out the window.
It’s a matter of dreams and ambitions. We all have them. If we didn’t – as life has shown in some areas, with regard to matters far more important than sporting ones, of late – there’d be no desire to get out of bed in the morning at all.
In so many ways, there is nothing ordinary about the nature of Crossmaglen Rangers. They are the club side everyone should – and presumably does – aspire to be like. You just have be careful how you go about chasing the dream. Believe me, there are times when I despaired that boundaries weren’t pushed right to the edge, or further.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not worth it though. Tough as it is and fanciful as it seems, sometimes you just have to believe the old adage – what’s for you won’t pass you. But boy it’s tough feeling left behind.
Dreams and ambitions are essential and seeing them dashed can be heartbreaking. No matter where we desire to end up, though, we must never forget from whence we’ve travelled.