I try and I try and I try…
This column has repeatedly gone down the road of condemning those who choose to compare sports because as previously stated, it is futile and pointless.
However, it’s hard not to get enraged as fans from all sides of the sporting spectrum come together in the pursuit of slating one another.
With the Rugby World Cup being a total disaster and the Irish national soccer outfit a bit of a laughing stock, the argument rumbles on as fans of both sports argue over which one is our nation’s sport. The irony of them both being garrison games has seemingly been lost in the wash and condemned to the history books.
While all the attention has focused on the tanking in Tokyo and the garbage in Geneva, closer to home the GAA has thrown up plenty of extremely heart-warming tales of triumph. Something that more people should be taking notice off.
Instead, so many spent their time getting sucked into vile Twitter arguments around certain sports and their fan bases, something that directly plays into the hands of the trolls of this world.
The last minute.. pic.twitter.com/wdFsyJrtHC
— Antrim GAA (@AontroimGAA) October 12, 2019
Stories such as the Lord Mayor of Belfast captaining his club in an Antrim final or the tale of Padraig Pearses winning their first Roscommon title at the eighth attempt seem to be repeatedly put on the back burner because they don’t stoke the fires of social media or give rise to their blood-thirsty cohorts who look to be angered at every waking turn.
At the end of a long inter-county season, media outlets could be forgiven for slightly resenting the club championship campaign but the reality is that, in many respects, it offers so much more to the people of Ireland.
Every waking week, timelines are inundated with fantastic stories of first-time winners, second replays and three-in-a-row champions, among many, many other entertaining tales.
Three week’s back there was the now legendary interview with O’Donovan Rossa captain Danny Heavron following the Magherafelt club’s first Derry SFC title since 1978. Speaking to BBC NI’s GAA guru Thomas Niblock, of the same parish, the Rossa man gave an interview so honest and emotional that it brought a tear to many an eye.
“It’s strange to say this, it is… but in 50, 60, 70 years time when you’re burying your friends, you’ll always look back on this day,” Heavron said.
“This is a day you’ll look back on when you sit around a wakehouse and say, ‘Can you believe we won a championship in 2019?’ This is what it means to us boys.”
This. Is the best interview I’ve ever done. Danny Heavron, one of the best men I’ve ever met. https://t.co/SfWszbvuE9
— Thomas Niblock (@thomasniblock) October 20, 2019
Heavron then summed the success up in the most eloquent of ways by paying tribute to his late mother for seeing them through to victory.
“I was praying to Mammy, that she would see it through. Simple as that.”
More recently Tommy Walsh gave an inspiring interview with Nicky Brennan, brilliantly captured by Shane Stapleton, following Tullaroan’s first adult hurling championship win since 1994.
A moment of huge satisfaction after years and years of hurt. Remember, this is a guy with nine All-Ireland medals as well as nine consecutive All-Stars.
“The Tullaroan people went through some suffering over the years with hurling, sports-wise I’m talking about. They’ve had big losses after big losses. We were on a great Kilkenny team and we were winning the whole time.
“But this team had to come back after getting bet after bet, throwing away leads. We just stayed going and going. We said we were going to die or we were going to win a county final. And thank God we won the county final.
“For years I was celebrating with Kilkenny and the Tullaroan people were great to me. They backed me up, this and that. But I wanted to share something with them that we could share together. I’ve never had that in my whole adult life. I could never share victory with Tullaroan.”
Tommy & Mickey Walsh, Father & Son, share a special moment after @TullaroanHurlin victory in the @KilkennyCLG intermediate hurling final. Putting away years of heartbreak, the pure joy on display is what club is all about. #croí&club #GAABEO #TG4 pic.twitter.com/iSKPGAkRLB
— GAA BEO TG4 (@GAA_BEO) October 29, 2019
The point is not to shove Gaelic games down everyone’s throats. While it may be Ireland’s national sport, not everybody is a fan and that’s fine. But why do we consistently take shots at one another in defence of sports such as rugby and soccer where the gap between punter and professional is only getting wider?
Between first-time winners such as Ratoath in Meath, a junior club back in 2011, and the fiasco this past weekend in London that saw six halves of hurling go down in order to find a winner, closer to home, there are success stories happening right under our noses, week after week.
Saturday saw Thomas Davis qualify for a first Dublin football final since 1991, another huge success story for a team boasting zero inter-county players in the most high profile of championships. While this weekend, John McEntee’s Clontibret go to war with Crossmaglen, the club McEntee’s name will forever be synonymous with having won five All-Ireland titles with the Armagh kingpins.
Over the past number of weeks, upwards of 50 county champions have been crowned with each success having its own unique story to tell.
As we move into the provincial series, more and more of these stories will emerge as these amateur club players make the most of their moment in the sun and the opportunity to etch their names into their club’s history books, a seminal moment for every Gael.
With the impending failures we’ve come to expect from our professional sides, this is where we should be focusing our energy. We should be celebrating the great and wonderful world of Irish sport as perfectly captured by Gaelic games and how it stands out from the rest of the world.