21 May 2022

After a dramatic week for Laois Cumann na mBunscol hurling, children still provide the best example

COMMENT - After a dramatic week, children still provide the best example in all of this

After a huge reaction to our piece on Cumann na mBunscol last week, the chairperson stepped down and the story became national news. While some called for greater sanctions, we must not forget that children on both teams were caught up in this, and they provided us all with a fine example in the midst of this controversy.

Some amazing stories emerged from this year's Cumann na mBunscol hurling finals in O'Moore Park.

There was tiny Ardough NS, home to just 18 pupils down near the borders of Laois, Carlow and Kilkenny, winning a first ever Cumann na mBunscol title.

They had seven year old Daniel Lawler in goal, a first class pupil, and he played a stormer.

Then there was Graiguecullen winning the Division 9 final. One of the school's teachers told me before the game they had only really been hurling in the school for 18 months, but they have already won a Cumann na mBunscol title.

With some really talented hurlers, their progress has been remarkable. One player, Jack Byrne, has progressed at such a rate that he is already on a Laois hurling development squad.

There was skill and excitment, laughter and tears, and every other emotion that juvenile sport can elicit. There were a lot of good stories in O'Moore Park this year, but they were overshadowed by a bad one.

No child stepped out of line over the two days, but some adults did lose their way. They made some bad decisions and paid a hefty, and subsequently very public, cost for those decisions.

If Castletown had concerns for their players, as they subsequently claimed, there were better ways to deal with them than playing a handful of their best players on the school's 'B' team and then trying to cover it up.

You would hope they regret taking the action they did, but only they will know if they do.

It is a pity things like this overshadow so much good work, because it is the only negative experience this reporter has had in dealing with Cumann na mBunscol since starting to cover the games. The competition is a welcome antidote to the staid, sometimes dour world of adult GAA.

Castletown NS, as an institution, has been criticised this week, which is disappointing, and was not our intention. We were disappointed with the behaviour of individuals, but there is more to a school than the Cumann na mBunscol team. There is more to a teacher or principal's job than the Cumann na mBunscol team as well, and we were not passing comment on anything outside of what happened in O'Moore Park on the day.

Praise for the school has been scarce over the last week too, but consider this - in an eight-teacher rural school, they are still fielding two Cumann na mBunscol teams. They had 29 kids togged out last Thursday week. Regardless of the motivation for doing so, this is impressive.

The school, and Castletown-Slieve Bloom juvenile club, are obviously doing some things right, but some of the decisions made, both in the run up to, and on the day of the final, were wrong. And because of that, whatever they were doing right was quickly lost.

And they knew it was wrong too, otherwise they wouldn’t have tried to cover it up.

The story we told reached people and distances which were neither envisaged, nor expected. I believe it did because, even though this is a story about something that happened in Laois, and was reported on in Laois, the theme is universal.

Everyone has either seen or been involved with a juvenile team which were subjected to some questionable behaviour by the adults in charge.

If the article in last week's paper serves any purpose, let it be a reminder to those involved with juvenile teams that their decisions can have far-reaching consequences. If there are perceived to be disputes among the adults, then it is up to the adults to resolve them, not send out children to deliver what is the adults interpretation of justice or equality.

The young hurlers of Knockmay and Castletown went out to play a final, as it was presented to them by the adults in charge.

Their skill and behaviour on the day was a credit to themselves, their families and their schools. They did not set the grounds rules for the game, but all of them did go out and give their best.

In this sad story, they set a fine example for the rest of us.

READ ALSO - UPDATED - Laois Cumann na mBunscol chairperson steps down, no replay likely

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