Many will be aware that the avid interest in farming here has prospered for as long as the wheels have turned. Long before matters reached levels a few years back that would once have only been dreamt of. Back in the day, such was the familiarity with tractors, one could be heard approaching – and the make and in some cases model thereof identified – long before it came into view.
Machinery has modified a lot since then, but as the senses have become properly attuned to agricultural activity once more, predictions of what’s forthcoming have surfaced again. In certain areas of the sporting world, it’s been fairly easy to predict what’s been afoot as well.
Until most recently, that is. There was a certain inevitability to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots pulling off what seemed a most unlikely retrieval mission in this season’s Super Bowl. Likewise, even allowing for Ireland’s shortcomings during the Six Nations, it was hard to see England not retaining the Championship. Notwithstanding Joe Schmidt’s charges thwarting the presumed coronation of consecutive Grand Slams.
Then, there’s what was presumed to be the greatest certainty in Irish sport – or maybe anywhere – of recent times. Namely, Dublin’s steamrolling of everybody and anything on their procession towards utter greatness. Now, apart from the indisputable and maybe incomparable pool of talent available to Jim Gavin, there’s also, like it or not, been a dearth of sufficient challenges to them.
Kerry are included in that inefficiency. Indeed, maybe they’ve been the most glaring. They hadn’t gone away, though, you know. So, they were always the most likely to halt – or at least temporarily derail – the runaway freight train. Especially given the amplitude of underage talent where the pale moon was rising after their three consecutive All Ireland MFC wins.
While it’s unlikely the Dubs will be hit by insomnia over their 36 games unbeaten run being grounded, their usurpation was further stark illustration that in sport – and maybe most things in life – the good and the not so good eventually comes to an end. What was ironic was that, on the same day, an end to another long-running saga brought unconfined joy to many.
One of the great topics to infiltrate GAA discourse through the ages – and there’s no right or wrong answer to it – is that concerning who was the best player not to win an All Ireland medal in either hurling or football. For what it’s worth, during my lifetime, Tony Browne of Waterford tops any such list in hurling while Dublin’s Ciaran Whelan would be entitled to similar unpleasant accreditation.
Mind you, it’s probable that such debates are prevalent in all sports. Who is the best players not to win a World Championship in darts or snooker? As for golf, the comparable conundrum would be an identification of the best player never to win one of the four Majors. Again, one will endeavour to stick to those observed during the years I’ve been about (and aware of golf).
He seems to be a character who kind of divides opinion in the game, but, Colin Montgomerie would have to figure prominently in any such collection. So to Lee Westwood. More recently, however, until the day the wheels were at least loosened on the Dublin wagon, Sergio Garcia would have been the most prominent on that unwanted list.
Many questions have surfaced about his character over the years (and Padraig Harrington could’ve been far more gracious when the Spaniard’s breakthrough did materialise) but that he possessed the talent to win one has surely always been evident.
That said, even during what was an exhilarating conclusion to the US Masters – an enthralling encounter between Garcia and Justin Rose, so often Ryder Cup allies – the sense was that the former would, somehow, contrive to mitigate against his own ambitions. Horrendous, if out of character for the week that was in it, back-to-back bogeys seemed to endorse that Doubting Thomas would again be on the money.
But then, you thought of the sort of day it was. The photo which surfaced of the young Kerry man alongside Rory McIlroy. The mock caption which did the rounds of the youngster regaling the Down man with the tale of how the mighty had fallen (or at least tripped up!) in Croker. More pertinently to the case in hand though, it happened to be what would have been the 60th birthday of the late Seve Ballesteros.
Sometimes the stars just align. Thus, even though catastrophe did lurk over the dream for a while – even down to the eventual victor missing the boat after Rose had presented him with a boarding pass at the end of regulation play, something, somewhere implanted the sense that this conquistador was, this day, not to be undone.
Again, you consider the acrimony between himself and Harrington. What started it scarcely matters. Why it persists is more troubling. Maybe, though, it’s a case of two people being so alike they just can’t get on. That’s not uncommon. Now reflect on Harrington’s most recent win on the PGA Tour. How he seemingly sought every conceivable way not to win the Honda Classic before eventually surpassing Daniel Berger.
There were similar shades to golf’s latest headline moment. Stereotyped failings began to make their ground up the inside rails. Sometimes, however, there’s something stronger at work. Much of the conjecture in the aftermath of the dramatic conclusion focussed on how the influence of Garcia’s wife-to-be in underpinning the transformation in his form.
That she has had a positive impact on his life on and off the course is beyond question – some of us long for exactly that in life. However, anyone who attains success at the highest level possible for them, in sport or otherwise, has something deep within themselves which eventually bubbles to the surface.
AP McCoy had it. Brian O’Driscoll had. Colm Cooper had it. Garcia’s always had it. Now he’s proven it.