Sport is pickled with long-running rivalries, many of which have taken on lives of their own in the fullness of time. Arkle and Millhouse, Dublin against Kerry in Gaelic football, Tiger and Phil Mickelson in golf – maybe that has now graduated to Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. Manchester United and Liverpool or Phil Taylor and anyone you care to mention in darts. These are only a few of innumerable such examples.
The Meath/Dublin GAA rivalry ranks with the best of them. And, while it’s a painful existence for the green and gold corner at present, there’s enough genuine respect there to acknowledge that Dublin are considerably ahead of the rest of the football nation at present, not just Meath.
There’s a uniqueness to the relationship between the two counties. For instance, players from both sides involved in the 1991 saga still regularly meet for a game of golf. And for the howls of ‘Boylan ya bleedin witchdoctor’ that used rain down on the former Meath boss, upon his retirement from the Royal throne, the Cuala club in Dublin commissioned a beautiful piece of artwork – a photograph of Sean done almost like a painting, with Hill 16 in the background and the caption “Goodbye from The Hill, ya bleedin’ legend!”.
It resides in Brady’s of Dunboyne and could scarcely have a more fitting home, as players and supporters of both teams – and many other counties besides – have mingled thence for years and hopefully that will be a tradition which will endure through the generations as it has for so long.
Memories of the stick directed at the former Meath boss – most of it admittedly in jest – often cause a pondering as to whether an element of the GAA fraternity actually believed the manager’s work as a herbalist significantly influenced the successes enjoyed by his charges during his tenure.
Certainly, when it came to remedying player’s injuries, countless stars – from Meath and elsewhere and in codes outside of GAA as well – took part in sporting events they might never have were it not for Sean’s interventions. Indeed, his powers even extend beyond humans, with – in the wake of the victory of Road To Riches at Galway – Noel Meade fulsomely praising the Dunboyne legend for the role he played in the upturn in fortune of the trainer’s horses.
However, anyone who believes the success enjoyed by Sean’s teams was just because of the herbs is misguided. You can be sure there are some out there. The trouble with beliefs, though, is sticking by them. Especially when the weight of evidence declares said opinions to be unfounded.
Think of all those who protested cycling was clean even though an abundance of evidence suggested otherwise. Now, similar scepticism probably abided – and possibly still does – to athletics. And there are presumably those who’d still attest the drug problems attributed to their sport are exaggerated. Let pains be gone to in order to point out that it’s not a case of tarring all with the one brush, but, anyone who believes there’s no problem is surely in denial.
Which leads one to wonder how the upper echelons of golf will react now that the whiter-than-white veneer to their sport they often cling to has seemingly been comprehensively kyboshed by the furore surrounding Dustin Johnson. The response from within golf has been deafening – in its silence, or, eh, non existence!
Simply because, you suspect, the mantra is that such problems couldn’t possibly exist in the grand old game. Apart from such a stance being detached from reality, it is unfair to the individual around whom the entire matter revolves. On two levels. Firstly, if there is a problem, presumably help will be required to overcome same and the adoption of a line of silence will do little in that regard.
More importantly, though, a bit of clarity from those charged with the governance of golf would circumvent the maelstrom of rumour and innuendo currently engulfing the player concerned and, as a result, the entire sport. In view of the judgements meted out against other players – some of which have since proven to be unjustified – you’d have thought those in power wouldn’t have a lot of wriggle room.
Golf is currently in the midst of a changing of the guard. A glorious period being most fervently illuminated by McIlroy, but he has, of late, been matched in terms of displays of brilliance by Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. While my especial favourite, Mickelson, continues to enthral with his repeated reproductions of genius.
Could it be that another long held belief, that golf is the preserve of gentry of certain vintage, is also about to be mulched? Regardless of anything else, the sad reality is that until some class of manoeuvres are undertaken by those in control of golf, all the greatness will proceed under a cloud. The first step in overcoming any problem is admitting its existence.