It’s all opinion – there’s no right and wrong

#JoseMourinho can attest more than most to the fickle nature of those in control of and supporting top level sport. #JurgenKlopp might learn quickly when the honeymoon winds up too. Undoubtedly, the Portuguese certainly hasn’t aided his own cause with a litany of nefarious emanations. Yet, the temptation is to balk at the rapidity with which glorious deliverance can be obliterated from memory.

Mind you, it works the other way around as well. That is to say, the alacrity with which bandwagons are mounted, support flourishes and experts emerge whenever somebody – individual or team – experience an upturn of fortune in their area of expertise. Look no further than Conor McGregor.

Were it not for a family connection to Neil Seery, I’d openly admit that my knowledge of and interest in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) would’ve been negligible at best. From such ties are interest born however. When the radar did flicker though, it made it easier to pick up the nuances of the craft.

Neil has been involved in MMA for a long time, considerably longer than it has enjoyed its current status. Said profile has undoubtedly accrued owing to the thus far glorious deeds of McGregor. Achievements which have proven extremely – and deservedly – lucrative, not only for the sport’s flagship operator but equally so for others competing at a high level.

Personally, I must say that, relative to GAA and horse racing and rugby and golf, MMA isn’t likely to peak in terms of points of most interest. However, there’s something admirably appealing in seeing someone excel in their chosen field of interest. Whether that be politics, pool or pantomime.

And as the numbers of sceptics continue to dwindle, realisation that McGregor is indeed exceptionally talented in the sphere where Dana White is what Don King once was to boxing becomes unavoidable. But there has always been the sense that he still had to prove himself. It probably transcends all sports – the ‘He’s good, but is he as good as…’ stuff.

In McGregor’s case, Jose Aldo has long been that elephant in the room. When the former overcame Chad Mendez during the summer to become the belittlingly titled ‘interim’ World Champion – after Aldo had for possibly questionable reasons pulled out – the cry was that judgement on the Irishman should be reserved until he tackled the Brazilian.

The thing is, for all of us that have been won over by his endeavours, there are those who’ll never make the leap. Those who contend MMA is not a sport at all. Depicting it as uncontrolled, outright violence to justify their stance. Well, for one thing, every sport is policed, so that quashes any such propagating. And for another, such wild and whirling assertions are unsustainable when it’s considered that the activity in which McGregor and his ilk are engaged comprises three martial arts which – in their own right – nobody has any problem with. Go figure.

Then again, MMA is not the only discipline to be degraded with the ‘It’s not a sport’ guff. Step up darts, though I’ll come back to that particular chestnut in due course. More unsettling, whilst in conversation (admittedly on Twitter) with boxing writer Kevin Byrne recently, a naysayer was encountered who mercilessly assassinated the unique, inspirational accomplishments of Katie Taylor with the equally dubious ‘minority sport’, ‘no competition’ dross.

Needless to say, we championing Taylor’s greatness counter punched that she was arguably the finest pugilist this country has ever had. It’s all opinion, of course. In one way there’s no right or wrong. Each to their own and all that. Even allowing for that, no matter what anyone is ‘into’ , to be successful at it, one must surely be possessed of a talent and the willing to deploy the necessary sacrifice and dedication.

Pointing out that Taylor can only defeat those enlisted to compete against her inadvertently adds credence to the prattling of the doomsayers. What it cannot do is diminish the dedication and effort the Bray lady has had to employ in order to become and remain the inspirational sporting champion she is. Similar observations are surely applicable to McGregor as well.

Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but, certain sporting successes are noticeably more lauded than others. Thankfully, there tend to be plenty of them to cheer as – in sporting terms at least – we are a country that definitely punch above our weight. Now consider the career of Andy Lee.

The Limerick boxer became a World Champion around this time last year. A title he unfortunately lost when defeated in Manchester by Billy Joe Saunders. Just ponder, now, did Lee’s achievement in reaching the pinnacle of his chosen profession receive the coverage or acclaim it deserved?

In my view, the term ‘minority sport’ should be dropped. It all goes back to opinion – what’s minor in one person’s life could be major in that of another. Ireland has always been lucky to have been able to compete with distinction on the international stage. With rugby fortunes in a noticeable decline, the onus now falls on our soccer team and McGregor to fly the flag in that sense.

And still gut feeling is that flamboyant combatant may never be as warmly received as it merited. We should appreciate him while we have him.


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