Re-affirming the value of sport in life


It would be impossible to know where to begin to quantify the impediments which living with a disability presents. There are some areas upon which comment will never be uttered openly. However, there are certain aspects of life’s journey which regular visitors to this space will know cause great angst. Maybe not to the extent pertaining to the areas which tend not to be discussed openly, but it doesn’t make them any less heart breaking to deal with.

Farming and sport have always been – and hopefully will always be – the two central tenets of life here. With the latter, I have been blessed to have an avenue to involvement therein due to writing about it. Indeed, such is the way matters in agriculture are gone that a sizable role can be played on the administration side of things.

Yet, the common thread running through both beloved interests is that one is always observing at a bit of a remove. Whether, in the case of one that means not being able to drive a tractor or tend to stock or, in the case of sport, not being able to actually partake therein. The pang of so near and yet so far never wanes. Even in terms of folks known to me who partake in sport by rotary conveyance.

Their doing so, though, is nothing short of inspirational to me. And many others too, I suspect. It is for those reasons, and more, that James McClean’s recent gesture of engaging with and playing against the Oxford Bulls football team – all of the members of which live with Downs Syndrome – was so profoundly moving.

Comment has often been passed before on how far removed from reality many of those involved in top level professional sport tend to be. The gesture by the West Brom winger, though, went a long way towards re-affirming the real value of sport in life. What goes on within the lines of competitive action tends to be only part of the story.

Such re-assurances as McClean’s thoughtfulness provided were badly needed, mind you. Not least after some of what has gone on in and around the Irish team of which he is becoming an ever more central part. Obviously, the grotesque injury sustained by Seamus Coleman against Wales has been to the forefront of all thoughts and commentary.

Now, some might say Neil Taylor didn’t intend to injure the Everton fullback. However, with gut feeling being that there was absolutely no need for the Swansea player to make the tackle in the first place, it’s impossible to feel that there wasn’t malicious intent. Whether there was or not is immaterial in one way anyway. Nothing can excuse what befell the Donegal defender. Furthermore, no matter what sanctions are administered to the perpetrator, the greatest fear would be for the future of Coleman’s career.

Which of course would be a grave concern to Martin O’Neill and anyone with even a passing interest in the Irish team. Inclination is to think that the team captain will make his way back to the fray in due course. It must be remembered that, while in Ireland greatest angst would centre on the impact being shorn of the former Sligo Rovers player would have, he would also be a considerable loss to his club, Everton.

This corner’s loyalties lie in the red half Manchester in terms of keeping a bit of an interest in soccer affairs across the water. However, for whatever reason, the fortunes of those in the blue half of Liverpool have always been followed pretty closely as well. Maintaining such interest, for all that, is becoming ever more arduous due to the bickering ignorance of the Goodison Park boss, Ronald Koeman.

Given the Dutch man’s ludicrous running battles with O’Neill and Roy Keane regarding the availability of James McCarthy, you shudder to think what the former Barcelona captain’s response was when informed of Coleman’s plight. Then again, it might be best not to pay too much heed to his utterances as he’s been spouting nonsense for months.

Notwithstanding the fact that clubs naturally have first call on a player as they pay the wages, Koeman’s protestations that the midfielder is continually injured whilst with the national team are as laughable as they are getting tiresome. For, as the Ireland manager rightly pointed out, the player came through Ireland’s Euro 2016 journey unscathed. Which can only infer that the ailments continually mitigating against the midfielder are being acquired in and/or because of his club’s training regime.

Then again, those in control on Merseyside have enough on their plate as the talented but obviously petulant Romelu Lukaku displays the sort of behaviour which is the complete antithesis to the manner in which Derry’s McClean has carried himself of late. The Belgian striker is indeed a very good one and his loss to his current employer would be immense, but, given the choice of him or McClean, I know who’d be going in my team every week.

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