To opine that roads are important to life might amount to an extreme case of stating the obvious. If you look upon life as a journey, though, it’s easier to add flesh to the theory in ways that might diverge from the obvious. Now read on…
Regular attendees of this space will be familiarly acquainted with what makes the trip through life easier for this writer. Thus, pursuance of said interests means that certain highways take on greater importance and are therefore frequented more often than others. Until occurrences which blessedly altered life’s road map, a venture out one way in particular was considered to be more therapeutic than all others.
That said, even with the amendment of circumstances, links with and fondness for the original place of peace will never be broken. Anyway, the way things currently sit, at this time of year, the one stretch of tarmac enables conveyance for observational purposes to the two shining lights, sport and farming.
One day not so long ago, the opportunity arose to take in both within hours of each other. However, it was seeing the throngs of people attending another sporting event – the county Cross Country Championships in The Cowpark, Loughsallagh, Clonee that prompted production of what you are now reading.
Now, thankfully, seeing the car park of the local train station humming with life during the week is a regular thing. Observing it heaving with occupants and both sides of the road lined with vehicles on a Sunday morning, though, is always a fair indicator locally that something major was afoot.
Notwithstanding long held family connections to athletics, perhaps it’s the love of all things to do with the land that accentuates a fondness for cross country fare. Yet, it was the realisation that, no matter what the code may be, it’s at grassroots level the real heart of any sport lies.
Seeing the crowds assemble at Loughsallagh was extremely reassuring in its own way at a time when scepticism, cynicism and the sort of negativity which the mismanagement of cycling enabled the thrusting thereof upon affairs of the peloton appears to have found itself a similarly cosy bedfellow in athletics.
Undoubtedly, yet again, thanks to the intrepid journalism of David Walsh and others, the nefarious goings on within athletics have fully justified the wave of opprobrium visited upon the sport. And, also akin to what transpired within UCI, newly installed IAAF Seb Coe’s response to the systemic sullying of what he’s supposed to be in charge of has been indifferent to say the least.
If anything, Coe’s antics are even more reprehensible than the incompetence displayed by those in charge of cycling during that sport’s darkest hour given that the former athlete was number two within the IAAF – and therefore party to all that was going on – while the skulduggery which tarnished some major events in the sphere proceeded unabated. Also, in line with the shortcomings which befell cycling, rather than accept culpability and/or go about instigating meaningful reform, Coe’s riposte has been to attempt to apportion blame to all and sundry – most gallingly, upstanding media outlets – while the integrity of others, including the most admirable ex athlete Paula Radcliffe was called in question, instead of dealing with that which he’s supposed to be governing and those he works in conjunction with.
The blame game achieves nothing, save leading to generalisation and devaluation of endeavour. Put simply, tarring an entire sport. Yet, the most powerful antidote to all such negativity and scepticism is to bask in the achievements of somebody such as Dunboyne AC’s Sean Hughes or the masses who descended upon Clonee in vile wintry conditions for the cross country event to see the real heartbeat of the sport and what it means to those involved in and supporting it.
However, even that doesn’t take in the full width of how far removed from all that is good about athletics is from the wrongdoing which was wilfully or at least recklessly allowed continue unchecked. And, like lots of other sporting events, untold and often unseen good can accrue thence as well.
One need only look at something like the Women’s Mini Marathon. Yes, it’s a serious event for some. What’s more notable, mind you, is the amount raised for innumerable charities on the day. While the best story of all relating to the June Bank Holiday Monday showpiece (for yours truly anyway) is surely that of Dunboyne lady Ciara Ebbs who overcame serious injuries and setbacks to complete the course and in so doing raise funds for the Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater Hospital.
Mind you, the ‘main’ marathon isn’t without its local connections either. Seamus Dunne – maintaining his record of having completed every incarnation of the Dublin City Marathon – was part of what was to date the biggest Dunboyne AC contingent therein. Of them all, though, special mention must be afforded to Stephen Douglas.
Having overcome Meningitis some years ago, Douglas this year completed three marathons – in Waterford, Dublin and Germany – raising funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation. And he’s already planning for next year in Berlin. His story has miles to run yet!