Thinking of Oliver Goldsmith – and not for good reasons

Dealing with the hand which life has bestowed, negotiation of things which to the masses are routine can be anything but. At the forefront of thoughts presently is going on holiday. No, I’m not about to, rather, thinking of one of the last occasions a trip away was taken.

It was around the time of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Vivid memories remain of getting up in a bed and breakfast in Tralee to see Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough navigate their early assignments. As far as can be recalled, by the time they had their gold and silver days, we had returned to home turf.

For as long as can be recalled, boxing has always been one of the disciplines in which Ireland harboured most genuine hopes of attaining medals in the said arena. Or at least that’s the way it was until the Rio games. Now, it would be easy to ascribe the entirety of Ireland’s shortcomings in Brazil to the defection of Billy Walsh to the US, but, the simplest answer isn’t always the correct one.

There’s no doubt that the loss of the revered coach was detrimental to Irish chances of success. However, to put all the eggs in one basket whilst seeking scapegoat people or circumstances would be to ignore several elephants hanging over the fence. That there have been problems afflicting certain portals of Irish sport for some time now hardly needs Einsteinian prowess to decipher. Not least that there has been no replacement for Gary Keegan as High Performance Director of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association since his departure from the role nine years ago.

Keegan’s erstwhile position remaining vacant for such a duration indicates that all may not be as it seems in certain places. Thus, you wonder does Bernard Dunne realise what he has let himself in for having most recently taken over the job. Indeed, the wrangling over governance around the time of Dunne’s appointment wouldn’t exactly fill a body with confidence.

However, countering such misgivings is an inkling that Dunne’s standing in his sport in itself could be the biggest fillip of all. Such are his CV and profile, you could easily see promising youngsters being inspired by being involved with him. Sources indicate that it would be foolhardy to underestimate his contribution to the success of the Dublin footballers in recent years.

At the back of the mind of course, there’s the realisation that talented performers do not necessarily make successful transitions into coaching. Various sports are littered with examples thereof. Maybe it’s a bit of yearning for sporting romance, but the sense is that this is one arrangement which could work out positively.

Lord knows it could do with doing so. With all the sceptical and often nefarious goings on that tend to crop up in sport, any positivity is welcome. Especially in terms of a maligned entity like the Olympics and, more specifically, as some of the showpiece codes in what is supposed to be a global celebration of sport become ever more mired in squaller.

One cannot help recalling those lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village: ‘And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew’. Not in a good sense either. Rather, wonder at how those in authority can continue to seemingly carry on regardless of what continues to ensue in certain places.

Whilst one is loathe to tar masses with the one brush, as time goes by it can be difficult to discern how much of what transpires in certain sporting disciplines is actually believable. Frankly, in terms of competitors from certain prominent places, none of it is. Yet, those in a position to do something about it do not seem of a mind to spring into action.

Cognisance of developments involving Fionnuala McCormack and Rob Heffernan – where both their career paths encountered diversions caused by doping athletes from other nations – offers and Irish context on such matters. That said, it would most likely be unwise for those in relevant positions to be even minutely blasé on such topics. Governance and at best shoddy workmanship have instigated enough kerfuffle at high levels of Irish sport as it is.

It is for that reason the nonsense ensuing around the time of Dunne’s appointment was so disheartening. I have no doubt that he can oversee improvement from what were below par efforts by Irish standards in Brazil. But he needs help to do so, not hindrance.

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