In the late 20th century, there were 21 medals awarded by the governing body (GAA). At the time, there was a possibility that 18 players could have played on the day. Fifteen starters and up to three substitutes. Then there were the players that played in preceding rounds. This is where things got messy. There are stories about the destination of the medals being determined by the flip of a coin. This appalled some 21st century sensibilities at the workshop dinner. They wanted to extend the awarding criteria. In response, one participant flippantly suggested that everyone in the victorious county should get a medal.
The award of a medal, or other momento, can be more important for those who did not get minutes on the field. Every adult player prefers minutes to medals. It is no contest. Where a player did not get to play then it is important to most of them that their contribution is recognised. Potential substitutes keep starters on their toes. Panel members keep both on their toes. Those outside the panel keep the pressure on panel members. But everyone wants to make a contribution on the biggest day of all. That is the ultimate goal. Minutes on the field.
192. That is the number of different players that played on the day that their team won a senior All-Ireland hurling title in the 21st century. One of these 192 played some minutes in 10 victories. Henry Shefflin stands at the top of the list.
The number could have been slightly north of 440. There were 22 titles between 2000 and 2021. For most of the period only 5 substitutes were allowed. Not all teams used five substitutes. This was particularly so in the early days of the 21st century when the number was increased from 3. The main reason the number is less than half of what it could have been is that there are players who played on multiple victorious teams. Henry Shefflin played some minutes in ten wins. He alone reduces the number by 9. A gaggle of other Kilkenny players also played on multiple teams that won the Liam McCarthy cup. Limerick has won three of the last four titles.
Ninety-eight played on one victorious team, forty-six on two victorious teams, and twenty-nine on three. After that it is single figures.
Who are these 192? There are two named John Power and two named Kieran Murphy. The two Powers are from Kilkenny and the two Murphys are from Cork. Ryan, Maher, and Murphy are the most common family names to have tread on the grass during regulation time. John and Conor are the most popular first names. There is only one Henry. There is only one Shefflin.