"That tag in your right hand presses against the nape of my neck and severs my psyche"

Ex-Wexford hurler Diarmuid Lyng imagines a philosophical discussion between a young hurler and his coach

Sliothar, hurling

General view of a sliothar ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

I imagine a conversation between a young hurler, Fuinseóg (Fwin-show-g), and his coach on the GPS ‘tracker’ devices players now wear to capture the statistics of movement and performance. Fuinseóg is standing in front of the modern world with his hurl in one hand, his geansaí in the other, with his coach sitting on the dressing room bench in front of him, tracker in hand. The rest of the players have left the dressing room.

"Put in the tracker now, Fuinseóg".

 

"I’m not wearing it. I don’t know what happens to the information. You have it. I understand what you’re using it for.  And I don’t even support that. But DataCorp! Who even are they?"

 

"Fuinseóg just put in the tracker. We need your Performance Data Analysis to track team and individual KPI’s.

"Everyone else is wearing one. It helps us understand performance and also how we’re measuring up against the targets we set at the start of the year." 

 

"But what’s happening to the information? Who owns it? Is my on-field movement valuable to them? Is there a market for all of this information we’re freely feeding them?"

 

"They just make the technology Fuinseóg. And it’s useful to us. And it improves the game. Your numbers are above average. What more do you need to know?" 

 

"What more do I need to know?"

 

"Yes Fin. What more do you need to know?" 

 

"Maybe you should ask that of yourself. Or maybe you should ask me what my experience of the game is like. Not about how many metres I covered or how many plays I had or whether I scored or not.

"Maybe you should ask me what guided me to the right wing in the last few seconds for the winning score in the semi final. Or where I went to in myself the moment the ball was passed back out to me. What that felt like. Have you a column for that?"

"We don’t Fin."

 

"It might have been ‘point something of a second’ to you and your machine, but that wasn’t my experience of it. You have that affliction, coach. That arrogance that comes with knowing things in their construction and composition and nothing more. What a poverty of mind it is to never stand before things in their utter unexplainableness."

 

"We love the game too Fuinseóg. The stats are guide. Information feeds performance. We want to measure it to see if our systems work and if we can improve our chances of winning. But we still accept the magic in it."

 

"You might. But you fear it. You don’t trust it. You don’t trust yourself. You don’t trust the deepest parts of yourself. But fear is a habit of mind and habits of mind can be broken.

"Let me tell you about the last ball, the last point that won the day. When it was handpassed back to me a battle opened up inside of me. Every breath was a fight between gravity and grace. And grace is a choice. It’s submission to gravity. The battle was won by giving in to gravity. Not fighting it. By allowing the world to have its way with me.

"The elements and the crowd and the three defenders baying for my blood. I allowed them all to be as they were.

"They were all playing their perfect part in the music of what happens. I accepted my role. And fear stood down 

"In that moment I trusted that outside of the measurement of preparation is a final say. And that final say isn’t working off what we had done. Or how far we’d run. Or how much we’d lifted".

"It was working off why we did it. Why we ran. Why we lifted. 

"The measurement has its place. It has value. But I won’t genuflect to it when out there on that field there are myths being lived. Not the bullshit myths advertising companies peddle; myths that live through us. Out there we don’t need to be encumbered by our fragile and fearful minds. Out there is big medicine."

 

"That tag in your right hand presses against the nape of my neck and severs my psyche. I come in here at half time and you expect me to drink the energy drink of my own castration. It only serves to remind me that the poor economic eye, the reducing eye of economics wants to have its say. It wants control. It wants control because it fears not having control. It wants to slap its name on every corner of the arena to remind us. It wants to buy its way into our great story.

"If I follow suit, if I’m fighting for control, when who I am in that moment is only one heartbeat in the symphony of a million heartbeats, fear takes control of my hurl and grace stands down. In those moments fear is energy deprivation. I am deprived of the energy required to fulfil my role in the story.

"Do you understand? Can you create enough space inside of your ideas and your sense of yourself to allow for the possibility of what I’m saying?

‘It’s not that it’s more magical than we imagine. It’s that it’s more magical than we can imagine."

 

"Put in the tag Fuinseóg." 

 

Fuinseóg walks out of the dressing room while pulling his geansaí over his head.

 

Fuinseóg – Ash

Self interpreted etymology

Fuin(neamh) Seoigh – Beautiful energy

Or

Foinse Óg – youthful source/vitality

This article was brought to you in association with Bord Gáis Energy, proud sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship – keep up to date and follow #HurlingToTheCore