"People would say 'you put in a fierce sacrifice,' but it never felt like that"
Pat Critchley can't wait for the lock-down to end, for lots of reasons, but mainly so he can get back to the job he loves.
A knee injury ended the inimitable Zoom's storied sporting career in the 90s but through his coaching, the enthusiasm, the enjoyment and all the good things about sport will never fade for this great Laois man.
It all started in St Brigid's Place in Portlaoise where Critchley and the boys developed a love for every sport under the sun. Being a Portlaoise man, hurling and football were his bread and butter but Critchley embraced them all, as you'd find out in his unforgettable memoir 'Hungry Hill.'
By the time he was 21, Critchley was playing for 15 different teams but he reflects on that part of his life as a pleasure rather than a challenge. One of Pat's good friends Seamus Plunkett joined Wooly Parkinson for The GAA Hour's Pat Critchley tribute show on Thursday and Cheddar perfectly summed up the gifts of this all-rounder.
"He was an incredibly athletic player," says Cheddar.
"There are a lot of players who have achieved a lot in a particular sport but there's not that many who have achieved a lot in a number of sports. Everybody knows Pat's hurling and football achievements, but I was lucky enough to see a lot of Division One National League basketball and I would have no doubt in saying this, and Pat will probably bate me for it after the show, that he definitely had the ability to play Irish international basketball in his position as a point guard."
Coach, author, band-member, basketballer, Laois' only ever hurling All-Star 🌟
"To my mind this is not the case, Laois have more than one hurling All-Star"- Pat Critchley, Hungry Hill.
Day 14 without the GAA is Pat 'Zoom' Critchley appreciation day 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ZhbZbR0DfM
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) March 25, 2020
"He just happened to turn up at a Laois novice cross country championship one day, and went out and won the bloody thing. That sort of backs up my box to box or parish to parish theory about his athleticism, he was an incredibly athletic person," continued Plunkett.
Critchley is Laois' only ever hurling All-Star but that status has never sat well with him, his modesty apparent throughout this interview.
"Laois were probably only ever going to get one All-Star, unfortunately John Taylor was sent off in the National League game against Dublin and that was the rule at the time that you couldn't win an All-Star after being sent off. I'd say it would have been John Taylor's All-Star only for that. John should have probably won two or three All-Stars at that time..."
In coaching, Critchley has been just as energetic and as successful, completely overhauling the culture towards women's sport in Presentation College Portlaoise, winning numerous All-Irelands with their basketball and ladies football teams. He has also managed the Laois hurling team and the regard he is held in by his players is clear as day from this 2020 video about his Sigerson Cup run with IT Carlow.
One step from Sigerson Cup history, @itcarlow are on the brink.
The players are smiling, the college is bouncing and, behind it all, a @CLGLaois legend is masterminding it.
That man is Pat 'Zoom' Critchley. pic.twitter.com/HPQbtxZupF
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) January 28, 2020
One of the many reasons Critchley is so admired by his players is his knack to make the rigours of training an entertaining thing. He has a name for each of his drills and his training sessions are known for their lively, upbeat pace.
"I'd always name the game or the drill. It brings a huge sharpness to them. You might need to explain it to them for the first time, but after that, they just know. I could shout 'Two team's shooting,' or something like that, and they'll know to jump to it. That shouting the name quickens the mind and the reactions and makes them sharper.
"People would say, you put in a fierce sacrifice," Critchley says of his coaching, "but it never felt like that. You don't do something for that length of time without loving it. Just loved the coaching. It's not a chore. It's something that I enjoy and something that I'm missing at the moment with the lock-down. The youngsters will be getting back to the field at the end of this month, so I'm really looking forward to that."