Common sense or premature condemnation?

It was announced some months ago that Meath would, in the upcoming summer, have their first home tie in the Leinster SFC in two decades. A significant thing, not least as it might persuade those in a position to promote and indeed assist in the drastically required remedial work at Pairc Tailteann into action.

The announcement also, however, triggered a spell of reminiscence regarding that day 20 years ago for a lot of reasons. Not least owing to the game being halted midway through the first half courtesy of a fairly vicious thunderstorm and monsoon-like rain. It also stands out, though because as I – in my youthful stupidity – saw it, Sean Boylan had the neck to drop Colm O’Rourke for the first time in his career.

My neighbour didn’t get much wrong in his glorious 23 year reign, Meath won the game by ten points in the end, but not before the great old warrior was summoned from the bench – along with Brian Stafford – to steady the ship after it appeared for a period that Offaly were going to weather the storm better than the locals.

That day – and in particular the O’Rourke angle to the story – have, in moments of idle pondering, regularly punctuated thoughts since details of yet another pending encounter with Wicklow emerged. Perhaps even more so most recently when it wouldn’t have been too difficult to draw parallels between the situation closing to home all those years ago and the unfortunate and scarcely fitting sideshow that appears to be engulfing the autumnal period of Steven Gerrard’s stellar career.

Maybe more senior and admittedly rational observers thought the same about the Meath team story back then, but, regarding Gerrard’s current circumstances at Liverpool, the conundrum surely boils down to whether the strategy being employed by Brendan Rodgers  regarding the man management of the most obvious and important leader among those in his charge equates to common sense or premature condemnation of somebody still with plenty to offer?

Inclination would be to credit Rodgers with the former. Maybe mostly because, like much of the sports viewing public, he presumably realises that engaging in the latter – or even thinking thereof – isn’t a ‘luxury’ he in an Anfield hot seat that may be getting more tepid by the day can afford.

A modicum of the beautiful, if rarest, of commodities, common sense, may also be at play. It’s been mildly amusing and not at all in the funny sense to see certain entities proclaim the players supposed inability to adapt to a relocation of the deployment of his services to a different hectare of a green field. Thereby equally rendering him supposedly surplus to requirements at a club which he has – prior to the arrival of and since the departure of – Luis Suarez carried almost single handed for so long.

Now, apart from insulting the intelligence and innate football abilities of one only a handful of truly great English players to grace the Premiership – John Terry, Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes and Tony Adams rank among his equals on any such list for this scribe – it also is purely illogical.

Different sport, maybe, but go back to Meath and 1995. When they were beaten by ten points by Dublin Graham Geraghty and Brendan Reilly were wing backs. A year on, they were the two most important forwards on the team that won the All Ireland. Inference being that talent will forever contain a strain of adaptability which enables it to shine wherever it’s put and whatever the circumstances.

How else to explain Rory McIlroy eventually getting to grips with his new clubs and exerting such a season of dominance in his sphere? Or Tommy Walsh enjoying such a magnificent career spanning so many positions in a Kilkenny jersey? Or Bryan Sheehan beginning his sporting life as a goalkeeper to now becoming one of the most versatile and therefore valuable players at Kerry’s disposal?

Forwarding of Gerrard’s abdication from the international scene as evidence of a diminishment in his productivity cuts little ice either. Shearer, Scholes, Terry and, latterly, Lampard, are the embodiment of a fairly truthful theory that stepping away from national service can enhance and indeed elongate meaningful productivity at the source of basic employment.

A situation that was as much necessary as it was desirable in the case in question. As evidenced by Liverpool’s ongoing reliance on their captain and the steadying, reassuring improvements his introductions have facilitated during the recent occasions when Rodgers has, not unreasonably, been using him sparingly.

Certain things in life – sporting or otherwise – are unthinkable. Steven Gerrard playing for anybody but Liverpool is foremost among them. Those currently engaging in the production of his sporting obituary or at the very least questioning the noteworthiness of his current contributions should be careful what they wish for. Were he to drive out of town, the chorus from Big Yellow Taxi might seem very apt indeed!

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