Have you ever started a project or business with great gusto, motivation and hope – only to realise that you’d completely misjudged the situation, your plan went belly-up and the best thing to do was to retreat back into your hole, hoping no-one would remember to ask you about that great success you’d been boasting about – rather prematurely as it turned out?
In Ireland, hurling is our national game. And Tipperary, where I lay my hat, is called ‘the home of hurling’. No matter that I understand only the barest basics of the sport, what I can tell you is that it’s fast, exciting and packed with adrenalin, commitment, focus and at least thirty pairs of strong hairy legs.
The game lasts 70 minutes. Kind of. Depends whether the ref remembers to look at his watch. And on the score too of course. Because if there’s a chance…
…the losing team might be about to score a point
then hey, we’ll just hang on another minute or two before we blow the
final whistle. After all, if there’s one thing better than a hurling
match, it’s a hurling match with a replay next week.
But let me tell you what happened on Saturday evening (16th June) in Semple Stadium, Thurles.
It was the Munster semi-final, a replay of the Limerick / Tipperary drawn match played the previous weekend in Limerick. There was a crowd of 27,117 and unlike Premiership soccer, not only do each team’s supporters sit side by side but they also stand as one to sing the National Anthem in Gaelic before a sliothar is hurled.
On the pitch it’s rather less harmonious but then they’re fighting, sometimes literally, for a place in the Munster Final.
Now unlike soccer, in a hurling match the points can come fast and furious. One point when you hit the sliothar through the posts and three points if you hit a goal.
So every few minutes the two teams are scoring points. It looks like it’s the home team’s night because although the first point goes to Limerick, at half time the score shows a fantastic lead of 10 points to our boys.
The two teams run back on for the second half and for the next 20 minutes, though Limerick are trying hard, they can’t close the gap to less than seven points. Here and there, supporters are leaving their seats. After all, they’ve a train to catch, home to Limerick and they might as well get a head start and get back to the station.
But something happened. Though Tipp remained strong and intent on winning, the Limerick players just maybe weren’t quite ready to concede defeat. They pushed forward again and again and in those last 15 minutes, they pulled back point after point until, at the 70 minute full-time stage, the score stood at 1-19 (ie one goal and 19 points) to Tipp and Limerick at 1-15.
But there were 3 or 4 minutes of injury time to play and that was all Limerick needed, clawing back the four points they needed to equalise.
So despite the scale of the mountain they had to climb, they kept their focus, determination and self-belief rock solid. Over the PA system came the announcement. The match would now go to extra time and the train wouldn’t be going back to Limerick till the final whistle was blown! Where else but Ireland?
By now it was 9pm and an extraordinary thing happened. After a fairly cool day most supporters had by now donned their jackets and fleeces and were trying to keep warm. Suddenly the sun burst out from behind the clouds leaving the poor Tipp players dazzled by the rays. The crowd donned sunglasses. Every time the ball went down into the far corner, the whole stand stood up to try and find it, then sat down each time it came back out. Up, down, up, down. We must have looked hilarious.
Every couple of minutes a player would get cramp and lie on the ground while one of the guys from the sideline massaged his muscles. Other players were knocking into each other, fists at the ready, their nerves frayed.
Their nerves? Jaysus, what about ours?
Twenty minutes later when the final final whistle blew, Tipp’s 2-21 score was matched by Limerick’s 1-24. Yes, we still had ourselves a draw.
Though it’s a blinkin’ nuisance we have a second replay to worry about next weekend, no one could help but be in awe of Limerick’s performance.
Though, believe it or not, I’m not a mad sports fanatic, I wrote a post some time back about the Munster rugger team who once beat the mighty All-Blacks during a tour of the British Isles when the All-Blacks hadn’t conceded a single point against any of the national or regional teams they played. Until they met Munster, that is. And that day the All-Blacks didn’t score a single point.
I titled that post, "To the Brave and Faithful, Nothing is Impossible", the motto of the Munster rugby team. I think they might lend it to the Limerick hurlers this week.
And so next time you’re facing defeat, when it seems despite your best efforts, your plan / project / business / whatever isn’t going to work, just ask yourself – have you really put your every effort into it? Really really? What if there were an extra mile to go – what would that extra mile be?
What would a Limerick hurler do?