Sports journalists often use ‘tragedy’ and ‘disaster’ as descriptions for events that occur on the pitch but there is of course a large amount of context attached.
When an actual tragedy befalls a sportsperson, the go-to cliché is that it puts things into perspective, but that is insulting to those who are involved and interested in sport – almost all of them know exactly how important, and unimportant, it all is and they are aware of the big world beyond, too.
The death of young Tipperary hurler Dillon Quirke last week was something that hit everybody because we all know people in their 20s who play sport to a high level and we know that it might just as easily have been them.
Nobody going to FBD Semple Stadium last Friday night expected anything other than a routine county championship game that was going to end in either a win for Dillon’s club Clonoulty-Rossmore, their opponents Kilruane MacDonaghs, or else a draw.
There is nothing quite like the silence of a losing dressing room after a big game, but I can’t even begin to imagine the numbed quiet under the Old Stand in Thurles as the players tried to process what had happened.
The image I cannot escape is of a Clonoulty-Rossmore player or mentor, or perhaps a family member of Dillon, having to gather up his gearbag, knowing it would never again be used.
Nobody’s death can be said to be less than anybody else’s but this will obviously hit Clonoulty-Rossmore hard.
To have a player on the county team is a status symbol, a touchstone in the club for everybody else to look up to and cheer on and blush with pride when the television commentator namechecks where the player is from.
For all its faults, though, it is in times of adversity that the GAA proves itself as the community organisation.
The Quirke family – Dillon’s parents Dan and Hazel and his sisters Shannon and Kellie – will receive endless assistance from those around them in the club, West Tipperary, the wider county and country. It will be appreciated and provide them with support going forward.
Earlier this year, Galway hurling manager Henry Shefflin missed the Allianz Hurling League game against Cork after his brother Paul died.
Fellow Kilkenny man Ritchie O’Neill is coach and selector for the Tribesmen and he was on media duty after that game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“When something like this happens, the message we would have had is life is for living,” he said.
“You just say, go out and express yourself as best you can.”
There will obviously be a lot of grieving for the Quirke family, Clonoulty-Rossmore and Tipperary but, when life does begin to return to something like normal – though it of course never be the same again – Dillon will act as an inspiration for them, a legacy to uphold.
He will never grow old, but will instead be held as an icon for club and county, a man whose memory remains intact. That’s no comfort now, but in time it will be.
I’m sure every sportsperson has dreamt of scoring the decisive goal to put their side ahead late on in a major final Of course, for such an opportunity to materialise our team has to be losing with time running out.
Those passing moments bring a dryness to the throat as we consider the possibility that all of the prep work and hours of thankless training will result in coming up just short.
Against that fear is the need to be ready if the chance comes though, and Kilkenny’s Sophie O’Dwyer was able to do that in Sunday’s All-Ireland senior camogie final against Cork.
Kilkenny scored the game’s first six points, but a goal from Fiona Keating helped Cork to go in level at half-time and they were 1-11 to 0-12 in front with just under four minutes remaining.
Brought on with 12 minutes left, O’Dwyer had had little time to settle into the game but she was in the right place to pounce after Cork goalkeeper Amy Lee had saved the initial shot from Kilkenny’s Niamh Deely.
Kilkenny are back on top of the tree while Cork must deal with final disappointment again after last year’s narrow defeat to Galway
Just as impressively, Katrina Mackey levelled for Cork as injury time dawned and it looked like there would be a need for extra time. Then, having just missed a free, Kilkenny’s Denise Gaule nailed one when it mattered most.
There was time for Cork to try to conjure a late equaliser but it was to be the Cats’ day – double disappointment for the Rebels after their intermediate side had lost to Galway, while Dervla Cosgrave scored four goals as Antrim beat Armagh by 5-5 to 0-14 in the junior decider.
The official attendance was 23,426 – somewhere between a quarter and a third of what Croke Park can hold – but in the closing stages of the senior final it certainly sounded like more were there.
Kilkenny are back on top of the tree while Cork must deal with final disappointment again after last year’s narrow defeat to Galway. The knowledge that they are close may not be much consolation, but it will be a driving factor for 2023.
RTÉ’s coverage of Euro 2022 was excellent and the viewing figures, when announced, are likely to reflect that.
Interest in, and knowledge of, women’s football has exploded over the past decade or so – members of the Republic of Ireland team are now household names thanks to increased media exposure.
It was curious then to see RTÉ’s Head of Sport Declan McBennett engage in Twitter discussions over the weekend where, when asked why the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland highlights show was cancelled, he simply said that it didn’t attract enough viewers.
People wanted live action more than highlights, he said, though the popularity of Match of the Day and The Sunday Game would dispute that.
That Soccer Republic was cut from an hour to a half-hour, with all panel discussion dispensed with, made its failure a self-fulfilling prophecy, but showing games late on a Monday night, three days after they had been played didn’t help either.
Next week, RTÉ will be wall-to-wall with the European Athletics Championships because it’s a package deal – you can’t pick and choose. When it comes to negotiating TV rights again, the FAI would do well to have confidence in its product and demand more from the broadcaster.