Something I’ve mentioned previously is the disconcerting phenomenon whereby people can’t enjoy their own sport of choice without needing to denigrate another.
It’s a weird form of insecurity. For instance, I once heard darts being dismissed because “it’s the same throw” every time – the critic failing to take the next step and realise that this is what made it a battle of wits and mental strength, which is why a contest can be so absorbing (not to mention how I still marvel at the mental arithmetic).
I find it’s easiest to like what I like and avoid consuming anything that doesn’t grab me, while not feeling the urge to broadcast such a lack of interest.
My bloodsport is golf, though unfortunately a day-job that involves a lot of weekend work covering GAA combined with two under-threes who resolutely refuse to take control of their own lives means that opportunities to get out on the course are severely limited at present.
Without wishing to sound completely lacking in self-awareness, golf is a test of character and a microcosm of life – it won’t bend to your will so your best bet is to go with it and hope to effect enough of a positive impact. Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the lamp-post, but there’s generally one or two good shots to keep you coming back.
While there is still a part of me that dreams of getting my handicap down to scratch, qualifying for the Open Championship as an amateur and then winning at a packed St Andrews, I know it may not actually happen, even if I were to practise 12 hours a day. In theory, it sounds doable – hit a good drive, good approach shot and good putt 18 times – but the reality is so far removed.
Perhaps over-exposure to sporting excellence has made us take it for granted but often we forget just how good the people at the pinnacle of a discipline are. My handicap is currently 14.7 – it probably should be higher based on inactivity – and a great round for me would be 80 strokes around Bandon GC; a good one would be 85, 90 would be passable and 95 upwards bad. For the professionals, 75 and above is a disaster and the Darwinistic nature of the sport means that too many of those sends you back home quickly enough.
Last weekend displayed the fine margins to good effect as both Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy were in contention going into the final day of the Abu Dhabi Championship while Séamus Power was targeting glory in the American Express Open.
Unfortunately, none of the three was capable of a Sunday surge and each encountered frustrations, though there was some consolation for Power as he moved up two spots in the Official World Golf Rankings to 47th – Lowry dropped to 49th, incidentally.
It mightn’t seem too great on first glance but bear in mind that the Republic of Ireland are 47th in the FIFA Rankings and golfers are of course individual contractors so there is a far larger field to contend with.
Ask yourself, is there anything you do that you might consider yourself to be among the best 50 globally? If so, you’ll appreciate just how much goes into developing such expertise.
It’s a quirk that, because Waterford-native Power went to college in the US and never played on the European Tour, he’s not hugely well-known over here. Hopefully, his good early-season form can be maintained, ensuring he benefits from the wider exposure, especially in the major championships.
That Ireland consistently produces players capable of reaching such heights is something that deserves to be hailed and long may it continue.
As for me, I’ll continue to play flawless golf in my mind, ready to put that positive visualisation into practice when the opportunity arises.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again three years later.
At the end of 2018, Bohemians announced a change kit that honoured Bob Marley, whose last-ever outdoor gig took place in Dalymount Park.
The white shirt featured red, yellow and green trim as well as an image of the musician. However, while they had licensed the use of the image, they had not sought permission from Marley’s estate and so, when that wasn’t forthcoming, the design of the jersey had to be changed, with a clenched fist – “a symbol of solidarity and support used to express unity, strength and resistance” – replacing the singer’s likeness.
For the coming season, they have made another attempt, this time with the approval of Marley’s family, and the general reaction after Monday’s launch was a positive one.
Most importantly, 10% of the profits from the shirt will be used by the club to purchase musical instruments and football equipment to provide to people in asylum centres across Ireland. Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) will facilitate this.
Farewell then to GAA water breaks, soon to be a thing of the past in the wake of the Government decision to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
It had always been the stated intention of the GAA to revert to normality on this front once public-health guidance indicated it could be done and there will be few who will lament the removal of these stoppages.
For the reporter, they were handy in terms of tweeting a scoreline without risking the possibility of missing some important action, but by the same token there was the constant danger of stopping one’s watch when the referee called the pause and then forgetting to put it going once again.
In slightly more important matters, there was a sense that the water breaks were being used more as coaching breaks and a team going well could have their momentum halted while a struggling side would have a pressure-release valve of sorts.
Ultimately, anything that signals the return to the usual way of doing things has to be a good sign.
Congratulations to Oisín Fralwy from Liscormcik, Kildysart, Co Clare who is the winner of our Christmas Sports quiz for 2021. Oisín will receive an Irish Farmers Journal bucket full of goodies and a selection of books by Irish sports stars.
1 Kilkenny (Eoin Murphy), Waterford (Conor Prunty), Clare (Tony Kelly)
3 Galway and Kilkenny
5 Tomás O’Leary
Mixed bag 1
6 Steve Stricker
7 Jason Smyth
9 Ashleigh Barty
11 James Lowe, Ronan Kelleher, Caelan Doris
12 La Rochelle
14 Ciara Griffin
16 Pádraig Hampsey
17 Donegal in 2014
18 Three – 2004, 2006 and 2009
19 Galway in 2004
20 2020 – Dublin’s Dessie Farrell
The beautiful game
22 Twice – 2008 (Manchester United and Chelsea), 2019 (Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur)
23 Stephen Bradley
Mixed bag 2
27 Pat O’Callaghan and Paddy Barnes
29 Gerwyn Price
Sport of kings
31 Minella Times
32 Oisín Murphy
34 Jack Kennedy
35 Willie Mullins
25 years ago
37 Colin Montgomerie
39 Cork in 2010
Mixed bag 3
41 Mark Selby
42 Light welterweight?
44 Collin Morikawa
47 Colm Bonnar