Everybody needs a hero, whatever walk of life they’re in. Sporting ones seem to hold an especial one in people. I’ve been very fortunate to have befriended many of my heroes over the years. People like Noel Meade, Trevor Brennan, Colm O’Rourke and Graham Geraghty. Heroes are particularly important in a sporting context – they inspire the next generation.
Three days after Dublin regained Sam Maguire, photographs were got with the grand old trophy after Bernard Brogan Snr stopped into a local hostelry while passing through the area. The joke on the night being that it’ll be the occasion a Meath man will hold Sam for a long time!
Not too much would be wagered on that being the case. Not only because of the progress Meath have already made and the talent that’s already coming through. Also due to some of what transpired on the local club scene of late. Now, unfortunately, circumstance deprived yours truly of the opportunity to see any action on the said weekend, but, in the space of 24 hours, Meath heroes of yesteryear Ray McGee, Donal Curtis and Geraghty – all either in or heading for their fourth decade – turned in inspirational displays for their clubs.
Seeing them still so effective at this stage tells you just how blessed we as a county were to have them in their prime. Any youngster lucky enough to see them in action – even now – will surely have been inspired. Just as Clare hurling captain Pat Donnellan admitted he had been inspired by Ger Loughnane and his team from the 1990s.
Maybe there’s no explanation for it, but, ‘colourful’ characters are generally the greatest heroes of all. Brennan, Paul O’Connell, Paul Carberry. Davy Fitzgerald though, is the king of them all. He was the first goalkeeper I can recall coming up and scoring. After he did so in the 1995 Munster final – and won his race back between the posts – there was only going to be one winner.
Then there was his outstanding save against John Leahy towards the end of the ’97 All Ireland. Similar result ensued. Davy Fitz is different. For example, where most would cower at the thought of facing down Henry Shefflin from close range, Davy thrived on it. Yet, it’s that very diffence that makes him one of the greatest characters the GAA has ever seen.
Davy is, in a sense, like Roy Keane – either love or loathe him, no grey areas allowed. This of course is a fanciful thought, but, personally he’d convince me to run barefoot across The Burren in mid November. Indeed, chances are he makes his current Clare players do it!
It’s indicative, however, that they’d most likely do it for him. Unfortunately, there’s an element out there that like to snipe and sneer at the great man from Sixmilebridge. Viewed from a fairer angle, though he has to be one of the most passionate and inspirational people many of us have seen. His passion is infectious.
It must be said, mind you, that he has been extremely fortunate to have an exceptionally bunch of players to work with. Talented underage sides from recent years yielded players such as Cian Dillon and John Conlon and Darach Honan. Add in that the county has put U-21 titles back to back fuelled by the likes of David McInerney, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Shane O’Donnell and that they have the McCarthy Cup for the winter shouldn’t be a shock.
Still, great players turned respected coaches such as Ger O’Loughlin and Anthony Daly saw their native team come up short under their care. When the Davy Fitz factor was added, for the majority of the season, it was a long long way from Clare to everybody else! And as was said when Dublin won the football recently it may take quite a bit for other teams to get where they are.
With Clare, the evidence may be even more obvious. Factor in that stars of the most recent underage success Seadna Morey, Cathal O’Connell, Niall Arthur and Peter Duggan couldn’t break into the senior team and Loughnane’s assertion that they could dominate for years isn’t hard to believe. If Davy Fitz is guiding the ship it should be an unforgettable voyage to utter greatness.