Monday, August 3, 2009

152 'just a number' - Butler

In a tournament that will mark a series of personal milestones, Stephen Butler is keen to downplay the most outstanding of individual landmarks to achieve on a national level.

Butler’s 152nd appearance in the green yesterday in the 10-2 win against Italy in the EuroHockey Nation's Trophy saw him surpass the great Paddy Brown as Ireland’s most capped player, adding to the record Irish goal's tally he already holds.

But the Glenanne man downplayed its significance, saying team challenges are featuring far more prominently in his mind.

“We’re trying to emphasise the importance of the team and not just individuals. I really respect that. The ‘team’ is perhaps, something we might have missed in the past but it’s working well for us now so there wasn’t a big deal made of [becoming the record cap-holder].

“There are always big occasions but my 100th cap wasn’t a really big deal for me [an off-season test match against China]. Even with 152, it is just a number. I want to get to a World Cup, I want to get to a major. That’s the most important thing.”

Butler was handed an unexpected debut in the last millennium by John Clarke. He had played a handful times with the Irish panel in 1998 but was well into a summer break when Gal Goulet picked up an injury. Within three days of receiving the call, the midfielder made his first appearance against Japan at UCD in a 3-2 win.

Since then, the level of international commitment required has gone through the roof.

“From when I started to now, the professionalism that has come into the game between all the teams has is massive.

“In my first year, I earned four caps. Now, we’re getting up to 20 or even 30 caps in a year. it’s a huge difference. The training that we’re putting in and the hours, there’s no comparison.”

And for players of his vintage, juggling full-time careers with that increased commitment has been particularly tough but he still feels there is a need for old heads around the squad.

“It’s easier for the students and I think the game will push younger as time goes on. It’s important for us to try and keep as many people in the game as long as we can because we need that experience because when players drop out like last year, it takes a lot to rebuild it.”

Whatever the pressures, Butler is keen to prolong his career as far as he can in pursuit of adding an appearance at a ‘major’ to his CV - something he believes Ireland are in a better position than ever before.

“Absolutely, we’ve a great structure in place and some really good young players coming through. A good base of senior players and a leadership group, all happy with Revs [Paul Revington], Arul [Anthoni] and Ned [Craig Fulton].To be honest, its all in place.

"I think yesterday [against Italy] is a good example of how we stepped up . In the huddle at half-time we were 4-1 up. We were saying ‘now’s the time to drive it home’. To actually turn it into a 10-2 game was a tough task so hopefully we’re showing the difference.”

* For an excellent rundown on Stephen Butler's international career, go to the Glenanne website


Anonymous said...

Is Stephen Butler the best Irish player of all time?

Anonymous said...

thats a very general question, you cant compare butler for example to nig (goalkeeper), or even paddy brown, or forwards like justin sheriff or liam canning of old.

maybe the best midfielder of all time but that would still be a huge call. all the same 152 caps, great acheivement

Anonymous said...

No, Jimmy Kirkwood is by a long way the best ever and he also has an Olympic Gold to confirm is status as world class. Stephen Butler has been excellent for Ireland, but is a long way off being one of the best players. One must also remember Billy McConnell who was named in the world XI. Ian Lewers is ahead of Butler in terms of talent. In respect of 152 caps and 75 goals, Butler is a hall of famer, but is certainly behind a number of players for best of all time.

Queso said...

Well done Stephen, I hope you do get the chance to perform at a major international event as the icing on the cake!!!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter. He is a great player and shows great attitude.
His dedication is an example for the lazy young talents.

Anonymous said...

Butsie is by far one of the greates servants of Irish Hockey ever to don the green shirt.

Not sure if he is the greatest, there are a lot of legends to compete with

David Judge
Johnny Cole
Nigel Henderson
Paddy Brown

Anonymous said...

11.45 You nail your provincial colours nicely to the mast there. Whose world 11 was Billy McConnell named in? You are asking for comparisons over a generation that are impossible and while your comments are merited in that you appear to have knowledge they should be tempered with some acknowledgement that it is not a straightforward answer. And as for Ian Lewers the jury would still be a long way out there I feel as his best days are yet to come. Stephen has consistently carried a torch for Ireland and for you to say he is "a long way off" is not fair and a little biased I feel.

Anonymous said...

Ireland (full team) have just lost to Russia - this doesn't bode well for the tournament.

Anonymous said...

I think that Nigel Henderson would be hard pressed to beat Ivan Bateman as the best Irish keeper.

Anonymous said...

lewers, better talent than butler, dont see butler playing for britain. yeh lewers will never be a irish great

Anonymous said...

As for Irish keepers, people over 40 all seem to regard Harry Cahill as Ireland's greatest keeper by quite some way. Davy Harte may be up there in 10 years time...

Anonymous said...

Terry Gregg ?
Stephen Martin ?
Marty Sloan ?

Anonymous said...

Re "11.45 You nail your provincial colours nicely to the mast there. Whose world 11 was Billy McConnell named in?" - I didnt write this original post but for the record it was the 1984 Olympics in LA. Its got nothing to do with "provincial colours". From 70's onwards Ulster was regarded as the outstanding province for Irish hockey. Speak to those in the know from that era who played for Leinster(Cole, Filgas, Judge, Canning etc)and they will tell you that the outstanding players were Stephen Martin, Terry Gregg, Norman McGladdery, David Judge, M Sinnamon, J Cole, Billy McConnell, J Kirkwood and they will always be in a "greatest Ireland team". Please do not include Henderson or Brown in any top 50 players. It may appear biased but the record books show the Ireland team at that time was dominated with Ulster players who got to a World Cup and regularly trained with GB when it was nearly impossible to get near the team without being from England. The poster also states that Lewers is ahead of Butler in talent. This is true though he is not ahead in his ability to dominate or control a game. Always hard to compare over different era's which is why I am surprised that someone posted D Judge with P Brown and N Henderson. Did they see these guys play at their very best or did someone else tell them about them? In saying that, of the current players in Ireland most would include Sherriff in an all time list ahead of anyone else irrespective of the amount of caps he has.

GET REAL said...

Totally and utterly pointless debate (although I accept it might be quite good fun!!!)

Hockey is a team sport and as such trying to compare individual players against each other (especially from different eras) is not what the game is about.

What you can't argue about is attendance at the world cup, olympic games and in some cases winning medals!!!