LeBron James, when asked at the recent NBA All Star weekend what his abiding memory of his involvement in the annual event was replied: “Probably the last time we were here (New Orleans), it was great to be able to do our bit to lift peoples’ spirits after Hurricane Katrina”
It was a statement which resonated greatly with yours truly. For the role sport has, does and always will play in dealing with some of life’s more unpalatable aspects could never be overstated. Yet, recently, the thought entered the mind that sometimes getting overly het up about things isn’t the best policy either.
The view has oft been expressed before that perhaps supporters of Meath football – and maybe to an extent those in charge thereof – got so used to being spoiled with glory in the Sean Boylan era they began to take it for granted. I would sheepishly include myself in that bracket too.
Problem is, when that train of thought takes hold, you begin to think it will always be like it used to. Of course that can never be so. All the great performers must eventually leave the stage. Becoming convinced of that very fact often seems to be the hardest thing, mind you.
Where the problem arises is that GAA folk are generally an optimistic lot. New season, hope springs eternal and all the brouhaha. Again, guilty as charged here. So, after a decent run in the O’Byrne Cup and what – initially at least – looked a noteworthy win over Galway in the opening round of the NFL, spirits were again elevated.
Not even another Clones catastrophe could derail what may well have been delusions that things were in better shape than may actually be the case. What was at least hoped, though, was that such an utter abomination might at least draw a feisty reaction in the home game against Armagh.
Indeed it did, for a while. But, what never used to be a failing of teams in green and gold – failure to kill off teams when in the ascendency – reared its ugly head again. Thus, when Paul Grimley’s side recorded a win they in truth deserved, my emotions fluctuated between crestfallen, upset and dangerously distressed.
The latter of course being my own fault for getting so wound up about what’s only a match. However, there’s a lie lurking you see. When something has been an intrinsic part of your entire life and mattered on far greater levels than could be articulated to justification, it becomes so much more than a game.
With the result that when things don’t turn out as you had hoped them to, the initial feeling, at least, is one of heartbreak. To many people, that will unquestionably be seen as an abhorrent overreaction, but no apologies will be made for it here. A modicum of perspective never goes astray, mind you.
It duly arrived when news filtered through the Meath midfielder Andy Tormey had been hospitalised after the game. Thankfully, he made a quick recovery and played his part in the very gutsy effort against Donegal. Were a certain steed to come up trumps in the Cotswolds during the week it would surely top his recovery off altogether!
At a personal level, in an attempt to cheer myself up and remove the desperately unwell feeling, what seemed the natural recourse was entered into – watching more sport. Namely, the aforementioned All Star weekend. Which had been recorded, as reams of sport tend to be in the office. They generally all find their use, too!
Truthfully, the master plan only partially worked, as this hack would’ve failed a fitness test for much of the week that followed. What viewing the basketball did achieve, all the same, was confirm existing opinions on what a great spectacle the All Star weekend is. Who wouldn’t be buoyed by the utter madness of Kevin Hart?!
There was more than that, though, to what was a couple of nights of (needed) unwinding, entertaining serenity. Use of that description is of course from a personal perspective – especially in light of what preceded it. Players make it clear that, for all the frivolity of the slam dunk and three point shooting contests, it’s something they love being part of.
Cue thoughts going back to GAA. One of the annual shames that is allowed ensue is the disgraceful treatment of those in the higher echelons of the association towards the Interprovincial Series. As former Meath player Joe Sheridan recently tweeted: “It’s the one small thing players asked to be kept, yet the GAA do no promotion, and try to fade out the competition”.
My thoughts entirely. If for no other reason than out of respect for Martin Donnelly – long standing benefactor to the grand old competition and surely the greatest sponsor Irish sport has ever seen. Why not have the Railway Cup Finals on the eve of the respective All Ireland Finals? Play the games with the best players in the country minus those from counties involved in the main event.
Truly make it All Ireland weekend, just like All Star weekend. Copying other sports hasn’t done the GAA any harm before, they should again