"There’s nothing to state ‘lucky winner.' An All-Ireland medal is an All-Ireland medal"
To Pat Spillane, a medal is a medal is a medal. And a Championship win, is a championship won.
The charismatic Kerryman won eight All-Ireland senior medals over the course of an illustrious career with Kerry. He won club championships, both senior with Thomond College and junior with his home parish of Templenoe and while some hold more prestige than others in the place where he stores his championship medals, not one of them, he says "states lucky winner, the losers were very unlucky or the losers were understrength on the day."
An All-Ireland medal, he says, "is an All-Ireland medal," before letting us know with a laugh that he has "the few of them." The wit and the joy, you'll be glad to know, still burn brightly in the ever-assured 64-year-old, who after being told that his microphone is on mute in this unfamiliar Zoom call setting, quips that half the country wishes they had the option to mute him of a Sunday night.
Pat still has the way with words.
“It’s something that’s floating around a lot, about the credibility of the Championship if a team has to pull out or if a team is depleted and I’d like to challenge that narrative because I think that’s quite a lot of rubbish to be quite honest with you," he begins at the launch of RTÉ's Championship coverage.
"I’ll tell you why: if you win a county medal, no one asks you whether it was the senior championship or the junior championship or the intermediate championship. A county medal is a county medal. If you win a league medal with your club, no one will ask you was it Division 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5..."
Spillane goes back to the good old days to prove his point. "If you can remember the All-Ireland senior hurling championship in 1941," he says, "well I'd doubt any of you can remember that...BUT, foot and mouth was rampant in this country and on the insistence of the Department of Agriculture, both Tipperary and Kilkenny had to withdraw from the hurling Championship. Cork won the 1941 All-Ireland Hurling Championship beating Dublin. I can tell you this, there isn’t a person in Cork with his 1941 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship medal that’s saying, ‘Ah well, this is not a credible medal, we were lucky to win it’. A 1941 All-Ireland medal was won by Cork and it’s credible, I don’t give a tuppenny!"
As for the logistics and the health concerns surrounding this championship going forward, the nine-time All-Star refutes the notion that a modern day player would brush virus symptoms under the carpet for the sake of, or indeed under the pressure of, playing a game.
“I think we’re underestimating these guys. The responsibility these lads will show and with the rapid testing and all, I don’t think, I really don’t believe there’s an inter-county player who will chance his arm with a symptom and try and play in a big match. I don’t think so, it won’t happen and if it does, it’s wrong anyway."
"I think we need a championship, the country needs a championship, the country needs sport and the championship over the next 10 weeks is he escape we need to get away from the doom and gloom. It will be, as someone has said, a symbol we are trying to fight back in some way against this deadly virus Covid 19 and I am looking forward to it, I really am..."
And so says all of us.
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