The advert is right but technology fills the void


There’s something special about the FA Cup. A lair of insulating reassurance in a soccer world where reasons to become disillusioned are numerous. It’s often been mentioned before but worth another gallop now – even in terms of coverage (or maybe especially due to same) football has moved to another world in the last three decades.

The first soccer I can recall watching live on television dates back to when RTE used to show a game from the old First Division every Saturday. Many of which were taken in on the old Bush black and white set in the ancestral family home. After that, the next big thing was a ‘goggle box’ being brought into school for Irish soccer matches during the Charlton era.

Getting Sky Sports – and all the ‘other’ stations – in at home was the real game changer. It actually left yours truly ahead of the pack for a while. Life has changed almost beyond recognition from those days. Not all for the better either. Without question, the most difficult development to take has been the reduction in events that are able to be taken in ‘in person’.

The advert is right – “Nothing beats being there” – but, given the way things are on the home front, technology has been of incalculable value in filling the void felt by not being able to attend events, sporting and otherwise, in person. Lately, that has been most prevalent in terms of keeping up to speed with the fortunes of Meath and – at the cost of much heartache – in some instances Dunboyne teams.

However, most recently, the advances in modern ‘machinery’ were seen in an altogether different light. Some may or may not be aware that, for some time, Boylan Talks Sport has been very proudly providing a bit of sponsorship for the Belvedere FC U-13 team, which features four young Meath men, including my nephew Ian Byrne.

It was thinking of their exploits that prompted mention of the famous knock-out competition earlier. The trophy of which Manchester United are currently the holders is one of the few things which restore a bit of faith in a soccer world gone mad. Things like Plymouth garnering a draw against the highly vaunted – if flattering to deceive – Liverpool.

Even more reassuring, though, is the action which takes place at grassroots level (the same can apply to many sports) and in particular underage fare. At this juncture, it must be admitted that I’ve yet to make it to a Belvedere game. Were things aligned differently than is currently the case, their latest port of call would’ve been out of reach anyway. As they were taking part in the prestigious Riga Cup tournament in Latvia.

Over the course of that weekend, it was the source of much wonder and entertainment to me, and my parents in particular, to be able to see the action with clarity that it may as well have been down at the end of the garden. When being there – whether ‘there’ is in Latvia or local – isn’t an option, it’s great to be able to retain some degree of connection with what’s going on.

Now, with plummeting attendance figures a hot topic in some places this may not go down well, but, the hope would be that the notion of streaming action live online will be standard rather than a luxury. Indeed, in recent times contemplation has been engaged in as to how might get around to taking video recording equipment, or whatever it’s called in more modern terms, along to venues that do get to be graced these days. Maybe watch this space in that regard. Anyway, in terms of the action which ensued during their excursion, the famed Dublin based producers of underage talent acquitted themselves with great credit, coming in seventh in an event which featured 16 of the top underage sides in Europe. Many of the clubs we are used to seeing on our screens these days owing to the money driven mass coverage of European football (I’m not complaining) were represented while some even fielded national sides in the grade.

In an instance like that – and in any sport at this time of year – the possibilities are endless. Anyone can dream. It can’t be overstated, either, the value to spirits close to home that’s derived from seeing those with whom a link is retained attaining success in what they do. No matter what sphere it be in.

Not that long ago, it was mentioned that, to utmost regret, a handle can’t be given on how much activity one will be in a position to take in at venues. And, while technology does indeed keep one at least feeling close to what’s going on, seeing those in whom an interest is retained making progress actually serves as the greatest spur to at least try to get back out and about again.

Don’t ask me how or when, but I’ll be back!

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