Time and tide wait for no man especially in sport
WE'RE a great country for proverbs, or sean-fhocail as we call them as Ghaeilge. There's one for nearly every occasion but sometimes one wonders how true they are. There are two sides to every coin and for every glory story in sport there's an equally devastating one. What's true for the winning team is the very opposite for the losers.
Take, for instance, everything comes to him who waits. It was so true for the hurlers of Carrigtwohill who had to wait for 93 years for another county senior title and it was true for Courcey Rovers, who have been trying to win the county for ten years. It finally came to them on Sunday last.
But what about the Irish rugby team? Star players like O'Gara, O'Connell and O'Driscoll have given so much to Ireland and have waited so long to put themselves into a winning position in the World Cup. They were in an ideal position to create their own bit of history on Saturday but blew the chance. Was it the expectations, the hype, the last chance saloon that affected them so that they never played to form? We'll never see those great players at a World Cup again and everything did not come when they waited.
It was amazing how many people got up at 6am to see the rugby team in action. Even young kids were talking about it on Sunday. I wonder how many would get up to watch Ireland playing Australia in the compromise rules?
It's always sad when a great team is on the verge of breaking up and great players retire. Like the day that Kilkenny beat Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final and we knew that we would never see the mighty 'Rock' in action in the red shirt again. Great players and great teams give us great memories but time waits for nobody and there is always a new generation ready to take up the challenge.
That new generation will also have its stars who will thrill us and life will go on. In that way sport can be mercenary and merciless. Wouldn't it be fantastic to see O'Driscoll leading Ireland to another grand slam before bowing out in a blaze of glory? Of course, knowing when to go is of paramount importance and how often do we see a super star hanging on too long, hoping for one last moment of glory.
As we watch Padraig Harrington struggling to recapture some golfing glory, and, possibly, Tiger Woods as well, we know in our hearts that McIlroy and his generation are the stars now and nothing can stop that. That is the way of the world but is sad to see sometimes. Seeing the shattered Irish team trooping off the pitch in New Zealand was one such moment, sad but unavoidable.
Will we see the same thing happening with Cody and Kilkenny hurlers in 2012 or O'Connor and Kerry footballers? Have we reached the end of an era with Nemo Rangers footballers and with Newtownshadrum hurlers? Definitely the future in senior hurling would seem to belong to clubs like Blackrock and Midleton who are producing outstanding underage teams, with the odd romantic win by the underdog like Carrigtwohill.
In senior football it's hard to say who will come to the fore during the coming decade. One would expect to see clubs like Douglas and Ballincollig, with huge populations and great underage success, coming to the top but it doesn't appear to be happening just yet. Castlehaven will definitely be one of the coming teams and their reign may well start next Sunday, with two county U21 titles under their belt in recent times. O'Donovan Rossa will seek to make the most of their successful U21 team but one wonders if they have enough depth and back-up farther down the line? Ilen are beginning to look good again at minor and U21 and it would be good to see them back at the top with a new team.
Of course what the Haven and Ilen have in common, almost, is their adherence to a single code, football only. There is no hurling at all in the Haven but Ilen have begun it at underage level but football is still top priority. Is everything now gone so professional in approach that it is nearly impossible to succeed in both codes at the same time?
Two clubs who seem to give the lie to this are near-neighbours, Newcestown and Bandon. Newcestown are a law unto themselves as regards being a dual club, an amazing example of dedication to both and fully capable of winning counties in both. But, sometimes, I can't help feeling that they would have won the county intermediate premier hurling title in recent years if they weren't so successful in football too.
Hurling will always be the number one sport in Bandon but their footballers are also on the verge of winning a county title. Is a town like Bandon big enough to accommodate successful teams in a high grade in both codes? If they are, what about a town like Carrigaline with a huge, growing population but fighting for their existence in premier intermediate football? What about Fermoy and Mallow? What should we expect of clubs like them? How long more can we expect smaller towns like Dunmanway, Clonakilty, Bantry, Skibbereen to survive in top-grade football? What part does tradition play in it all? No wonder forecasting winners of championships is getting harder each season.
They won't be too worried about the future just now in Ballinspittle as they celebrate their great county title win. A long time coming, came at last and they will celebrate long and hard before preparing for the Munster championship.
They are celebrating, too, in Kinsale and they have built this success on the back of a fine minor team. Too often we see good minors disappear without making the grade but Kinsale seem to be getting the best from theirs. It was another success for the smaller towns and it will be interesting to see if they can make the grade in premier intermediate.
Isn't it amazing how a small area in south-east Cork could win four county titles in the same season? Bandon, Courcey Rovers, Kinsale and Belgooly have all brought home silverware this year and the winning feeling seems to be infectious. Next season, some other corner of the county could repeat the feat.
It's encouraging to see Bantry bringing home county titles in underage hurling and the good work of a small, dedicated group is slowly bearing fruit. Hopefully, it can be carried on up the line and we will see a Bantry team being competitive in junior A hurling.
The All-star nominations are out and Cork representation as expected is none in hurling and only three in football. One can only wonder how Kildare, who won nothing in 2011, have five reps in football and Cork, league champions, have only three. It's quite obvious that these lists are drawn up only from the closing stages of the championship, which totally undermines the value of the leagues.
On Sunday next at the county final, the County Board will honour the families of the men who brought the All-Ireland senior football title to Cork exactly a hundred year ago, 1911. West Cork, as well as Macroom, had a strong representation on that team, but, unfortunately, because GAA affairs were ailing in West Cork at the time, those players all played for the two strong city teams, Lees and Nils.
Lees dominated the championship and were county champions at the time, but they went out of existence in the early sixties. Would you believe it if somebody told you that Nemo Rangers will only exist in the record books in a hundred years time? It's only right that we should remember and honour the people who served to build the GAA in Cork in the pioneering years.
Last week I took a group of Australians, one of whom was marrying my daughter, to see a local junior hurling match and they were enthralled at the action, especially when a couple of hurleys went flying in pieces. They were strong Aussie football fans and Gaelic football didn't hold any great interest for them. I still believe the GAA has no idea of the hidden gem that hurling is and how, if marketed properly with a simple explanation of the rules, it could sweep the sporting world. We just don't seem to have the will to try it.
We all saw the thousands of young Irish emigrants on television following the Irish rugby team all round New Zealand and I wonder how the GAA is catering for this new explosion of emigration to other countries? This weekend my son, another victim of the recession, is attending the Asian GAA finals near Seoul in Korea. How much coverage have those games received here at home? How much coverage do the All-American finals receive?
My brother-in-law in New York, who played many a great game for Clonakilty forty years ago, used to get GAA games on television but that service has now disappeared and nothing has replaced it. Why has the GAA forsaken our emigrants in this fashion? It makes me sad to see it happening.
Practically every family in the country is now affected by emigration and surely it's time for the GAA to become actively involved in making sure they don't lose touch with our Gaelic games. They all deserve better than to be abandoned by the association they served so well before being forced to emigrate.
We didn't see Bandon's draw with the Barr's in junior football last weekend but, by all accounts, it was more than the football that kept supporters entertained. Bandon, who beat Clon in the league semi-final the previous Wednesday night, will be delighted with the extra game as they looked football rusty against Clon. They will meet Kilmacabea, winners over Gabriels in the other semi-final, in the league final, and we still wonder why the Kilmacs can't transfer that form into championship success.
All paths lead to Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Sunday as the Haven attempt to lift their fourth senior football title since 1989, a proud record. They have been installed as strong favourites to beat a college team that has blown hot and cold in the championship but that's not a good position to be in. All West Cork will be rooting for the Haven as nobody wants to see our county senior medals disappearing across the County Bounds. It should be a thundering game of football if the weather and the pitch are right.
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