Excellence. The quality of being outstanding or extremely good according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It identifies that word comes from the Latin excellentia, from the verb excellere ‘to surpass’.
This Sporting Life - Colin Regan
I draw your attention to the meaning and origins of this word as we are finally within touching distance of the completion of Leitrim GAA’s Centre of Excellence. That’s a bold name to put to anything. You could call your son Excellent but that doesn’t mean he’d end up winning a Connacht title with Leitrim with a Man of the Match performance to top things off.
Naming your child is a big responsibility. Just ask Seymore Butz. Sometimes a Rose by another name might smell a little sweeter. You want a strong name. And one that hopefully comes to reflect their personality, what they are. You want them to be comfortable in their name.
Leitrim GAA Centre of Excellence is certainly a strong name and one that we hope comes to represent what Leitrim football represents in the future. However, the name will not make that happen. It is the culture and standards and values that are instilled in the centre that will dictate this.
No more so than it is the values and environment a child is raised, in addition to the opportunities he or she is exposed to, that will help determine who they are, rather than any allocated to them.
Its opening should draw a line in the sand from which time on a certain standard – one of excellence – is demanded from all those who use it. The same outstanding standards must be demanded from those who run the centre, our county board, administrators, and our coaches.
The parents of the boys and girls who will bring the place to life with their hopes and dreams and shouts and laughs should also receive communication about the journey Leitrim GAA wants to bring those young idealists on.
A journey that will not only allow them the space to achieve their potential but will also provide the support and guidance necessary to help then ‘surpass’ that potential. To make their lives extraordinary.
If we can imbue in all those who pass through the new Centre a desire to bring the Excellence they have experienced back out into the world then we can rest assured in the knowledge that the audacious name we bestowed upon the venue was also an auspicious one.
But culture is a bit of a beast. And it is one of the most difficult things to change and alter. For firstly we must identify what the current culture is. To do this a root and branch evaluation of the current systems, personnel, and procedures must be undertaken.
The culture currently impacting on Leitrim GAA is a many headed beast. There are those, and no shortage of them, that are striving for excellence. But there are those, a smaller number of them I believe , for whom the motions and going through them is absolutely adequate. Excellence is a demanding master and requires constant attention. It also requires a unified approach and a great level of support to ensure its rising tide lifts all boats.
You do not become excellent overnight. A period of change will be necessary. There are those who embrace change and those who fear it. George Dugdale and Barney Breen attempted to change a culture in one squad and they were forced to fall on their own swords (and those of a few others) because another culture, that of the wider GAA fraternity in the county, wasn’t prepared for the temporary pain that change so often brings.
It is a phenomenal achievement for Leitrim GAA to have reached this milestone. It has taken great effort by countless people and we all must reflect on that; we should celebrate that excellent effort.
Our clubs voted to have the €250,000 made available to Leitrim by the opening of Croke Park to soccer and rugby invested in the centre. We should celebrate the excellent sacrifice. But now that we are on the cusp of a long-held hope becoming reality it is not time to rest on our laurels. It is time to press forward.
So we are, as ever, on a journey. And excellence is not a destination, it is that journey. There will be steps forward and there will be backward steps but as long as we walk the road together then it will be a journey worth taking.
A final word to all involved in the Mohill GAA. How delighted Philly would have been to see the crowd turn out in his honour for the rededication of the local pitch in his name. It was surely a difficult but proud day for his mother Phil and brothers John and Michael. May many generations find the same joy in playing there that Philly did every time he took to the field.