By Brendan Boylan,
Casey Martin is some man. Now, only the most studious of golf aficionados will know who he is, but his story is an amazing one. And one poignantly resonates with your columnist. Martin, you see, is a disabled golfer who made the cut at the US Open. That’d be a remarkable enough story in itself, but, when one considers that – like many things in the sport – red tape nonsense decreed that he wasn’t entitled to use the golf cart his disability necessitated in order to play the game.
He took the establishment to court and won. Too many of these are used in this business, but this is one cliché worth trotting out – where there’s a will there’s a way! There’s been ample evidence of the old maxim coming into play across the sporting codes recently. Very close to home, the hope would be that it’d come into play in the next few weeks too.
One of the greatest things about sport is the friendships that can be made therein, both in your locality and further afield. Maybe it’s more evident with the GAA than in any other code. 1991 will forever be a very special year for yours truly. For two particular reasons. Firstly, even though I had gone to a few Meath matches the previous year, ’91 was the year I really got the bug, and realised who my first hero was – Colm O’Rourke!
In November of that year, though something more especial happened. My local school won the Primary Schools Div 1 title for the first time after years of trying. The fact that David Gallagher was a mainstay of the team and someone with a huge future in the game was obvious. What wasn’t – and to be honest didn’t become apparent to me until a certain day in 2007 – was the friendship and closeness that would develop between David and I.
As the years have gone on, I’ve been lucky to befriend Colm, his son Shane and many members of the extended O’Rourke family too. Anyway, the two lads were in the news recently, for contrasting, if ironically connected reasons.
One of the bad things about this job is having to write negatively – if unfortunately the need arises – about those who are known personally and cherished friends. So, while news of Colm coming out of retirement to play for Simonstown in a B League game did bring a smile, taking in coverage of the drawn game between Meath and Carlow was excruciating and, frankly, upsetting.
Worse still was hearing what were only an element, it has to be said, of Meath supporters slating and all but writing the football obituary of a man who has represented club, county and country with distinction. Yes, he made a mistake, he should’ve held Keith Jackson’s shot which – when he didn’t – allowed JJ Smith score the goal that earned Carlow a most unlikely draw. We all know that, nobody more than David himself.
But, firstly there was no call for some of what was posted behind the wall of anonymity that online forums give. Secondly, there were 13 other Meath players on the pitch that should’ve broke up the Carlow attack before it ever got near our goal area. And there was the entirety of the game during which Meath could and should have put the issue well beyond doubt. Simply, matters should never have been still in the balance at that stage of the day.
Anyway, thankfully the second chance was availed of. Thankfully, there was much positivity to be gleaned from the performance too. From the continued good form of Brian Farrell and Graham Reilly to the impact made by the likes of Peadar Byrne and Damien Carroll. Not to mention the fact that David silenced his doubters and critics in no uncertain terms with a string of fine saves.
So it’s on to Kildare they go. It is said that rivalry is cyclical. There can be no doubt that Kildare currently hold the upper hand in that regard but the wheel of fortune will eventually turn in Meath’s favour. Not many will give Meath a hope but the players and we, their supporters, must believe.
Kieran McGeeney’s team might have won at least the last five meetings of the sides, but, their most recent NFL meeting would suggest the gap is closing. Hope would be that, despite all the turmoil. Meath have improved a bit since the league meeting. Detractors will say ‘they only beat Wicklow and struggled to beat Carlow’.
If one was to be petty enough about things, Kildare only defeated Offaly who rank as bad if not worse than Wicklow or Carlow. If you’re to believe that dominance in rivalries does exist, the belief must be that the cycle, at the very least, must be turning back towards Meath.
If you’re not in, you can’t win. We live in hope!