Common sense never lives up to its name

Former Meath and Dunboyne dual player Paul Fagan is now domiciled in Kildalkey. Soon, he will line out for TG4’s Underdogs against Davy Fitzgerald’s Waterford hurlers. Now read on…

As far as hurling in Meath goes, P. Fagan has seen and done it all. Indeed, he did his bit for the GAA in London when he was there too.

If my memory serves me correct he may have picked up a Meath SHC medal with The Village – where he now lives with his wife Emma and family – having been part of Dunboyne teams which lost four finals.

The thing is, that Paul was able to hurl at all in the last few years has been nothing short of a miracle given that he collapsed with a cardiac condition whilst training with his adopted club.

Naturally, it was assumed he would never hurl again. However, knowing the man as I do – and specifically the extent to which hurling consumes him – long odds would need to be offered on wild horses keeping him away from it. Even if he was riding said equines himself!

Paul Fagan between the posts for Kildalkey

Yet despite all the above, it was actually the formative stages of my dear friends career which flooded back to me over the weekend. As anybody who has been ingesting my material for long enough can attest, this wordsmith has been very fortunate to develop special bonds with some sports persons who began as heroes admired from afar. Colm O’Rourke, Graham Geraghty, Noel Meade, Jack Charlton, Trevor Brennan, Sean O’Brien, the list could go on.

But then, there’s the other list. Without wanting to sound egotistical, people who, by one means or another, ended up under my wing. Well, the relationship between David Gallagher and I probably needs a category all to itself. Hope would be that it could be seen as a two way street. In fact, thanks to his speech on his wedding day it’s enshrined forever more.

With young Fagan, it was definitely a case of him being mentored by yours truly. How or why it came to pass as such has never really been deciphered but what can be absolutely stated is that, from the first time eyes were laid upon him on a pitch, his prodigious talent was obvious. Not that such would or should have been a major shock, given that his brother Kevin was also gifted with stick and boot, while mother Teresa was a noted Camogie player in years past and is now equally so in the realms of Pitch And Putt.

However, looking back on it now, his abundant talent could’ve been managed better. Worse, though, is the fact that I was as guilty as anybody for it not being. Having picked him at centre back on the Junior C team with whom one was a selector, though P was only gone 15. Albeit he was the best player on the pitch that night.

It gives me zero pleasure to recall now that between school, club and county, he ended up lining out with 11 different teams that 2002 season. Lunacy. Yes I want my teams teams to win, always, and am as big a fan of pushing boundaries as anybody. In terms of the playing rules though. Player burnout is not something to be trifled with.

The story of Paul Fagan’s 2002 was catapulted back to the forefront of my thoughts having seen a few Tweets by the Chairperson of Walterstown GFC, Ruth Chambers. Wherein she lamented “October 22nd and the first game of the year for some of these lads. Absolute madness”. Whilst also commenting that “Walterstown have one player currently expected to play schools football with St Pat’s, U20 football with us, U21 hurling and Regional Championship. Go figure”.

Walterstown’s U-20 team

The truth is there’s no figuring it as things currently stand. But it could all be rectified very easily. Revert the Minor grade to U-18 – thus narrowing the gap between underage and adult fare – and play the U-20/21 competitions during the long summer evenings.

Benefits accruing from same would appear to be twofold. One, it keeps younger players in matches at a time when some competitions tend to be stalled due to inter county action. Secondly – and more importantly in my view – it may dissuade the younger generation from leaving on a jet plane during what is supposed to be peak club season.

Mind you, the underage competitions aren’t the only things close to home which need and deserve better treatment. Namely, the Feis Cup, Tailteann Cup and Corn Na Boinne tournaments which have basically been sacrificed in order to let the U-20/21 competitions and the Regional Championships be run off.

The latter are definitely a worthwhile concept, and a novel way of adding a bit of fresh excitement to the local club scene. But they could just as easily be done without.

Out of respect for the competitions in question and a modicum of common sense, a few simple adjustments could make a very big difference. The only problem is, common sense very seldom lives up to its own billing.

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