Human nature probably dictates that, in times of strife, the obvious and chosen course of action is to revert to type. Go back to what’s known best. Thus, the value of sport to yours truly has been incalculable in at least attempting to deal with some of life’s more unpalatable aspects.
Hindsight now starkly demonstrates that a certain generation were spoilt with good times during Sean Boylan’s tenure as Meath football manager. The glory days were never going to last forever though and the failure to recognise and adequately prepare for that eventuality is now coming home to roost.
Having been involved in the management of a few teams myself, admiration would always be strong for anybody who takes on to look after any team. However, critiques of management go with the job. Taking them as an affront and tackling them in a combative manner actually leaves the way open for further negativity to manifest itself.
Furthermore, assertions that players of the past didn’t put in the same effort as those of today are as unfair as they are removed from reality. That is not to belittle the efforts of current county stars – anything but. One doesn’t, though, have to retreat to the days of Mick O’Dwyer and the late Kevin Heffernan to encounter rigorous training regimes.
Certain people in particular places should be acutely aware of the often unique – to put it mildly – training techniques employed by Boylan when he and his teams were at their zenith. As one former decorated servant imparted in this direction in the wake of Meath’s disappointing season conclusion against Armagh “One year under Sean, we trained 20 nights in a row!”
Anyway, when disappointment befalls hopes on the GAA front, racing is generally the next port of call in search of a pickup. It was only fitting, then, that an abundance of success for the local racing fraternity out West at the recent Galway Festival brought about some much needed cheer.
Trying to split the significance of Noel Meade’s annexation of a first Galway Plate after nearly four decades – thanks to the very talented if quirky Road To Riches and his very promising pilot Shane Shortall – and Tony Martin garnering the Hurdle and amateur handicap courtesy of Thomas Edison and Quick Jack respectively is as futile as it is unnecessary.
Both local trainers have long displayed their efficiency at producing winners on the flat and over jumps, and Martin’s increased presence and strike rate in the former discipline have – in the last couple of seasons – earmarked him as a genuine challenger to Dermot Weld’s seemingly unending supremacy in Ballybrit.
Knowledge of the difficulties encountered by Meade and his charges in recent times heightens the magnitude of the Plate win, as well of that of Maxim Gorky and commendable runs by other Tu Va inmates. His Galweigan winners are both owned by Gigginstown and are on a par in their quirkiness. That said, the first named 7-year-old Gamut gelding has throughout his career demonstrated a level of ability capable of being impactful in the upper echelons of the National Hunt sphere. Indeed, now that connections appear to have decoded his complexities, there may be no end to the riches he might amass!
Adaptable performers are rapidly becoming Martin’s stock in trade, as the exploits of horses such as Thomas Edison, Ted Veale, Greatness, Pyromaniac and Artful Artist exemplify, and his status may be about to burgeon still further – which can only be good for all of racing. Meade, too, will hope the upturn in fortune his yard has been enveloped with will see him stamp a greater influence on matters in the longer term.
On a (slightly) lighter note, one can only wryly, ironically smile at the realisation of the role – openly praised by the Castletown handler – played by Sean Boylan in improving the form and fortune of his horses whilst at the same time those exact two ingredients pertaining to athletes in an arena where once he ruled supreme has dissipated so.
Cognisance of what have been trying conditions away from sporting matters necessitates the conclusion of the column in an upbeat manner. Longevity of memory and a love of traditions being continued always render such tasks a modicum simpler. Other than GAA – and aside from Dawn Run’s heroic claiming of the Gold Cup – one of the most vivid racing recollection abiding is of Adrian Maguire winning jump racing’s golden fleece aboard Cool Ground.
You know you’re getting old(er), then, when the sons of admired characters begin forging careers in their own right. Until recently, Shane O’Rourke would’ve been the most pertinent example. Finian Maguire now merits similar status. He recently notched his first winner aboard MM Dazzler at Listowel.
That said horse was subsequently bought by JP McManus is a fair endorsement of a stable growing in prominence – and the young rider therein. For any young jockey starting off, ‘outside’ rides are the game changer. To that end, there can be few greater compliments than services sought by DK Weld in Galway.
Having delivered an accomplished performance aboard Whitey O’Gwaun, young Maguire will surely keep the Meath link prominent for years to come.