[dropcap]E[/dropcap]mlyn Mulligan’s abdication from the Leitrim setup, and indeed club football, is the cause of much sadness. That might seem a curious statement coming from these quarters, but, you see, there was a time when at least one Gaelic footballer on every team in Ireland – and London – could be reeled off the top of the head. With Gary Hurney having taken his leave after unstintingly faithful service to Waterford football, a look would have to be taken there now.
Still, there’s always been something almost heart-warming to see gifted players from success shy counties doing their thing. I recall Dessie Barry of Longford (and latterly the Barden brothers), the Hayden brothers from Carlow, Kevin Madden and Gearoid Adams of Antrim, Paul Brewster of Fermanagh – the list could be an endless one. Players who toiled for the love of game and county, where their class noticeably stood out. Often, however, for scant tangible reward.
In recent seasons, Mulligan has been the standout performer for Leitrim. During 2014 he captained his county – surely the greatest honour any GAA player can attain – to FBD League success. You’d hope, then, that his decision to emigrate wasn’t a rash one, and that captaining his county to win a competition wasn’t belittled.
People on pedestals – whether merited or illusory – are often quick to be snide about happenings at certain levels. Thus, while some might shamefully scoff at teams of lesser prominence achieving success, for those concerned, it is understandably a big deal. All things need to be taken in personal context.
All of which leads this offering to Rod Liddle. For those who may not know, Rod was the scribbler who Eamon Dunphy took extreme exception to during a certain debacle which engulfed Irish football over a decade ago and which bubbles under the surface to this day, awaiting utilisation as a negative reference point whenever something goes wrong.
Generally, Rod’s stuff makes for good reading. Mostly because he’s abrasive enough to call things as they are, unlike some others in the profession who prefer to cosy up to those in power and not rattle cages. However, recently the Sunday Times columnist was being – maybe justifiably – scathing in his assessment of England’s shortcomings in cricket.
Their fortunes in all forms of the game have been abysmal for some time. Though you wonder if the depth of analysis into these matters are in some driven by an inflated notions as to their actual overall standing in the realms of the sport. Be that as it may, the feeling that the columnist was being plainly little making towards Ireland’s cricketers was unavoidable.
Views on things will often differ and that’s no bad thing, but surely it should be a basic prerequisite of any analytical work that opinion must not betray respect. Put another way, a damning assessment of England’s failings was all well and good, but there was scarcely a need to be as derisory regarding Ireland’s achievement in usurping their more vaunted neighbours some years ago.
Any realistic appraisal of England’s current doldrums must, you feel, take cognisance of the fact that they have, to some degree at least, contributed handsomely to their own strife in jettisoning one of the best players the sport has around the globe in Kevin Pietersen. Regardless of what baggage accompanies the guy, if you want to be successful in anything you need those with the optimum of necessary expertise at your disposal. Shorn of Pietersen, they certainly don’t have that.
Yet, by way of extricating themselves from an elongated malaise, some – most notably the unendingly annoying Piers Morgan – have sought to unload the blame entirely at Eoin Morgan’s door. Granted, in cricket the captain has more influence than in some sports but attributing the poorness of happenings in a team sport to one participant seems a bit rich. Though not as cheap a shot as sniping at Morgan’s failure to sing the English anthem.
Whether Morgan should be playing for England at all has often been deferred as a question for a different day. Now, however, it may be more pertinent. Especially given the decimation in fortunes of those who plays with compared to the upward curve his native land appears to be on.
Mind you, it’s clear that while William Porterfield and his colleagues may be all the while closing the gap on the chariots, you feel that the development of Irish cricket towards the biggest stage is still very much a work in progress. A fact painfully underlined as the growing number backing green witnessed our boys comprehensively outplayed by South Africa.
No shame in that either, as the Proteas have been established at their particular level for a lot longer than Ireland have striven to get there. That said, Ireland have made incalculable progress in cricket in recent years, from beating South Africa and England – which included Kevin O’Brien racking up a historically fast century – to getting into a position where, at the time of typing, they’d put themselves in contention to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup.
For those reasons, such achievements should not be degraded as a means of highlighting the troubles of others.