Irish team manager Paul Earley recently began collective training for the forthcoming International Rules Series. No, unless you’re one of us who forlornly champion the case for the seemingly soon to be shamefully extinct hybrid game, you probably didn’t know. Chances are, though, a trip to one of the sessions in Donaghmore/Ashbourne GAA Club would open a few eyes.
Detractors will ramble on about it being a made up farce and the like. You might even be told that Gaelic football is not an international sport. Now, apart from the fact that such a stance is an insult to the Diaspora around the world who strive to keep GAA communities going wherever they are in the world, it also ignores inclinations that there can surely be no greater honour than representing your country, in sport or any other sphere.
The importance which the Earley family bestow upon representation was mentioned here not so long ago. So motivation for those selected certainly won’t be an issue. What could be, though, is the omission of some of those who have, wrongly and inexplicably, reportedly gone unasked.
All of the above was mentioned because, in poring over the recent Ryder Cup, it became obvious that many similar sentiments could also be applied to the biennial golf event. You’ll have those who’ve no interest in it. Curiously on the basis the basis that ‘golf isn’t a team sport’.
Even though, when it belatedly appears on the Olympic stage again in Rio, it will be two man teams that will represent each country. Which is also the format for when the World Cup of golf takes place. Mind you, there would be those who’d question the necessity for that too, but why shouldn’t golfers have the opportunity if those who indulge in competition ploughing do?
Of course, with the Ryder Cup, it’s even more complex in that as well as representing their countries, the players involved are representing their entire continent as well. Some will indeed use this fact in a negative manner, but, maybe the greatest likeness between the team scenario in golf and the hybrid football is that they’re both unique situations sadly under-appreciated.
Short of being informed you can’t do something, there is no greater motivation than seeing someone do what you’ve always wanted to do. I can personally vouch for that in so many ways. However, what’s important to state is that therein probably lies one of the greatest driving forces behind the Ryder Cup.
Remember, when it was first decided to challenge the dominance of the Americans in the sport via a team format, it was initially a selection comprising players from Great Britain and Ireland who challenged them. Then, sensibly – and only rightly – players from the rest of the continent were afforded the opportunity to show what they could do against those perceived to be the best in the world.
Where a comparison between the International Rules and the golfing jousts can also be applied is in terms of team selection. Such line ups of any kind will naturally always generate disagreement and debate. But, were Earley to exclude a certain player who has by all accounts thus far not been invited, it would be as baffling as Paul McGinley’s decision to omit Luke Donald in preference for Stephen Gallacher.
That selection decision matters not a jot, now, because hindsight always reflects perfection. In case anyone thinks I have it in for the latest successful European captain, relax. Horses for courses is something worth sticking by in a lot of ways, and, on those grounds, it was just a personal feeling that Donald was as much entitled to inclusion as Ian Poulter.
For all that, McGinley’s captaincy was one of the most courageous – and therefore successful – that can be recalled from the matches which can be recalled during my lifetime. The concept of ‘match ups’ is the latest fad to sweep through sport. Who gets ‘matched up’ to the top players on GAA teams tends to be the basis of much conjecture now.
When it comes to golf, match ups attain relevance regarding what players on each side are combined for the fourballs and foursomes. Despite all the talk of a straining in the relationship between Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, dismantling a partnership that had proven so effective on the given stage was surely a gamble.
Unlike Tom Watson – his idol turned rival – the former Ballyboden footballer (eventually) got his partnerships spot on. Mostly because being combined with McIlroy illuminated the Ryder Cup inner lunatic (and swathes of undoubted class) in Poulter when it mattered most.
On the other hand, Watson’s decision not to re-deploy Jordan Spieth and the obnoxiously arrogant – yet supremely talented – Patrick Reed on the Friday afternoon proved disastrous. Ditto the under utilisation of Phil Mickelson.
If Poulter was the defining figure from Medinah, Sergio Garcia assumed the role in Scotland. Sir Nick Faldo’s slurring of the Spaniard was scandalous on innumerable levels. Most gallingly as it was outrageously disrespectful to the players exemplary record in the event. The player and his comrades had the last laugh.