BY MARTIN WALSH
TIMOLEAGUE native Bertie Smith proved to be an extremely worthy recipient of the West Cork Sports Hall of Fame award.
The current president of the Munster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union is the epitome of all that is good in life, especially sport, and he has a sincere grasp and understanding of his surroundings and its people.
‘Your home will never leave you, I love Timoleague,’ he said – its sentiment was absolute from one of West Cork’s most genuine and humble sons.
His journey through life has and continues to take him well away from his native Argideen. It’s a journey that is hugely interesting, yet he retains that most valuable asset of all – the human touch.
He is also a realist.
‘Competitive sport has a lot of challenges to face because society is different now as to what it was,’ Bertie said.
‘The responsibilities are different. Domestic situations for people are different. The choices that young people have are immense.
‘Every club is fighting for the same player or players and one of the interesting things is that they are all fighting for the good co-ordinated player or athlete. He or she is the one that is wanted by every club.’
Bertie Smith agrees that sport is all embracing and is well qualified to formulate the opinion. And he is also a keen observer.
‘The training methods for all of the field sports that I have been involved in were basically all the same but it’s all changed now,’ he remarked.
‘I remember being trained in the 1970s and training teams in the 1980s and early 90s, there was a lot of running laps of the pitch for long intervals but that has all changed now.’
He added: ‘In 1989, the day before the All-Blacks were playing in Musgrave Park, I went up to Highfield to watch their training sessions. Most of the session took place in what was like a school yard. It was a little grid and everything took place in there. The goal kickers went off and did their own thing at various times.
‘It made me think, when you go into a football or rugby pitch everything happens with people around when you have to make decisions. You are not going to be running a lap of the pitch before you make a decision. That morning, in the hour and half I was there, I saw all their work being done in about 25 square yards.’
Every sport is now dissected in great detail and social media has become an intrinsic but concerning element. So, is there an over analysis?
‘I think there is. I think the analysis is helpful but at the end of the day the players have to cross the white line and as I have said, the player has to make decision when they are on the pitch. Nobody can make that decision for you. People talk about the great players that they have time, but they make time for themselves to make the decision,’ Bertie explained.
On social media when players are criticised he opined that it is important to realise that the players are human too. He urged Munster fans to get behind the team at this difficult time.
Only recently Bertie Smith performed the officially opening of the new dressing rooms at the Argideen Rangers GAA complex.
‘All my life I played every sport. When I got the call from Donie O’Callaghan to perform the official opening it was an honour and a privilege to go down and cut the tape. I just love the place. I love the club there. I played at a time when we were very unsuccessful,’ Bertie said.
‘In the 1970s I was part of the great eight-in-a-row feat where we were beaten in the first round of the junior B football for eight years in a row. Things changed after that and I put that down to better organisation and the fact that we had two brilliant players in Barry Harte and Mark Foley, who really changed the club around, brought success and brought other people along.
‘Since the early to mid 1980s up to now the club has been in a good place. It’s a small area and you are always looking for players. Success is fantastic for the community.’