There’s more to life than sport

The above words do not emanate easily from yours truly. Thus, their appearance hence should underline the gravity of that which dominates the majority of the space hereafter. One day, several moons ago, these wheels were inching their way away from a Meath match – which they happened to have lost – when the following was heard being uttered, possibly for my benefit: “Sure how could you expect to win anything with X on team?”.

Now, the player in question was not only a close personal friend of mine but a member of my own club. One who, incidentally, six months later, kicked the winning point in the All Ireland Final. Whether palatable or not, criticism is part of sport. Those doling out what are excessive fees to attend games in some way feel vindicated in having a pop at the protagonists in same later.

All ok, to a point. However, people must realise that there is more to life than sport. Only three seasons ago, I happened to be in the company of the family of another footballer for whom things didn’t go well and the venom directed at the individual from the stands and terraces was horrendous. Terribly upsetting and indeed frightening for the family members present.

At the time, gut feeling – and forlorn hope – would’ve been that the latter incident was as low as things could degenerate. Sadly, the torrents of abuse directed at Meath goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke in the wake of the team’s loss to Westmeath by so called ‘supporters’ of his own county gives a worrying indication of the levels of degradation irate followers are willing to stoop to.

Look, we’ve all had opinions that should never have become public utterances – guilty as charged here on that count – but when it gets to the stage where people’s lives are being effected by public opinion, to the extent where they may feel threatened, it’s time to call a halt. No level of sporting endeavour is worth that.

Though it’s in many ways unquantifiable, these are amateur sports people. They live and in many cases work within their own communities. Despite what must have been an unimaginably distressing evening for Paddy and his family, the cows will still have had to be milked. That’s the human side of things some – particularly those spewing bilious abuse – don’t seem to think of.

It’s only a game, the outcome of which matters at miniscule levels in comparison to some of what’s gone on in the world. On the day of the Meath game, all in Croke Park stood in solemn solidarity with the families of the Harris brothers from Dublin and the Irish victims of the Tunisian atrocity – who included Mrs Lorna Carty from Dunderry, mother of Meath player Simon. Those are the things that matter in life. No what transpires on a football pitch.

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