All shall win medals

What is it with Waterford and handing out medals? In 2002 we had a load of to-ing and fro-ing as the County Board tried to engineer a grand beano for the handing out of the Munster championship medals. This didn’t sit too well with the players who were understandably a little reluctant to consider this an unalloyed triumph after losing to Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final. If memory serves me correct, they ended up posting out the medals.

Fast forward to 2013/14, and they seemed to get the carnival side of things right with lots of tales of a happy night for all in the Woodlands. But what’s this? A rumour began to ripple though the web that some of the players received shoddy medals valued at €4-5. This couldn’t be right, could it? It looks like it’s only partly right, with the County Board admitting that some of the additional medals that needed to be struck to ensure everyone involved got one over and above the 24 issued by Croke Park were incorrectly stamped/engraved but dismissing speculation about the prices of those extra medals as “totally inaccurate”.

What to make of it all? There’s always the chance that the County Board are not being entirely truthful about this affair. They have form in trying to deflect blame when a controversy erupts, even when they must have known that the truth would emerge. However, it seems reasonable to assume that if a member of the panel had received a medal that looked like something off the top of a bottle of WKD (not that they’d recognise that, no sirree) then we’d have had some reference to it on Facebook or Twitter. The fact that there has been no outpouring of teenage angst suggests that this was not the case and the explanation that a few medals were incorrectly engraved is the sum total of this story.

As scandals go, this is small beer. Mistakes are made when it comes to engraving all the time. The Stanley Cup is a notorious repository of the phenomenon:

In case you think I’m understating this, consider how much steam the story would have had if you stripped out the lurid suggestion that some players were effectively given fake medals and it had instead just been about a mistake in engraving. It’s not ideal, but it’s hardly a cause for outrage. I’ve seen it suggested that the County Board should have deputised someone to check the medals and ensure they were correct before they were handed out. Does that mean that lead time should be built into the process for every medal presentation to have errors corrected? You’re never going to eradicate human error, so fix the mistake and move on. How hard can that be?

Except that would be to miss the point of the fuss. There is a constituency out there who are convinced that everything the Waterford County Board does is inept. They were only too happy to believe a story that would cast the Board in the worst possible light, safe in the knowledge that even if they’re proven wrong it’s only dumb luck on the part of the Board – remember, they are ALWAYS inept – that they were not even more inept.

Is it too much for people to take time to get the full story before making their minds up? If we proceed from the point that everything the officers of the Board do is going to be ridiculed even when it happens to be untrue, then what person, the type who might have the talent and drive necessary to take the county forward, is going to want to take on the the task, thankless at the best of times. We have enough problems in the county without having to make up problems in order to make a point.