Local radio presenter Brendan Cummins opined recently – in paying tribute to the great Brian Smyth – that the 1949 All Ireland winning captain would be a great subject for a biography or an autobiography even. In franking his view, the Dunsany man said that Brian would be far more worthy and deserving of such a work than many of those publishing their life stories. Often multiple volumes of them.
There’s no doubt there’s a valid point in his observation. But maybe what it really does is prompt a look at certain matters which pertain across the sporting codes from a different angle. While there’s no questioning that most top professional sports stars are very well paid, even though it may not be popular to point this out, it must be acknowledged at some level that those involved in top level sport can sometimes find themselves under enormous.
The inspirational courage displayed by Cavan goalkeeper Alan O’Meara and former Cork hurler Conor Cusack shed light on an area that was for too long taboo. They cannot be commended enough for their bravery. Hopefully it will emphasise to people that it’s ok to not feel ok and encourage people to open up more.
For you cannot help feeling there are numerous cases bubbling under the surface only waiting for a light to be shone on them. Sporting pressures are of course only one facet. At certain levels, however, they seem to be forever on the increase. Probably because so much of a top sports star’s life is lived in the public glare. Which may go some way to explaining why so many top stars now write books – or at least get them ghost written.
Pressure can come to light in other ways too. Players dropping out of panels – in various sports – has become worryingly more common. Perhaps, however, things came to something of a head when English cricketer Jonathon Trott dropped out of their squad after the first Test in the Ashes series. When it’s remembered that his former colleague Marcus Trescothick did the same in similar circumstances some years ago, you wonder is there something more serious to it.
Rivalries are part of what makes sport great. And the rivalry between England and Australia spans many sports. Maybe it’s greater nowhere than in cricket during the Ashes. To my mind, England would’ve entered the current series as favourites. So the manner in which they imploded in the first instalment is bound to have had a shuddering effect. Things like the Ashes leaving the mark it has on people in recent years is taking things a step too far.
As was said not long ago, apart from players, I generally have preferred positions in most sports too. And even though yours truly would by no means be an aficionado of cricket, there is a preference for seeing the batsmen do their thing. Like the recent rugby matches, mind you, after the first Ashes instalment, it was the bowlers garnering all the limelight.
You could, of course, say that it was a case of the English batting order falling apart. Such a view wouldn’t give due recognition to the performance of the Australian bowlers, particularly Mitchell Johnson. Nor, indeed, would it be fair on his English counterpart Stuart Broad, whose efforts – albeit in vain – were among the few highlights for his team.
In one way, the view that it’s only one game of five and that there’s plenty of time for matters to alter is understandable. Given the confidence the vanquished were exuding beforehand – maybe too much of it – recovering from such a thrashing might take some doing. Add to that Australians – what’s the nicest way this can be put – are confident at the best of times.
That status is only bound to have been embellished by the ease with which they disposed of Alastair Cook and his colleagues first time up. Thus making the task facing the latter all the more onerous. Just to really top it off, David Warner who has had – let’s say – a colourful past against England, and the latter would seem to have sparked the best in him and left themselves with an even bigger hill to climb.
Look at it from another way, though, and sometimes a team responds well to a kick in the backside. They’re under pressure, no question. It’s often said that pressure is for tyres. Like it or not, however, it’s also part of top level sport. Channelling it in a positive manner is crucial, mind you. For reasons far more important than sporting ones.