Often left thinking of Les Miserables

“I dreamed a dream of times gone by, when hope was high and life worth living” – so go the opening lines of the beautiful song, so beautifully sung by Neil Diamond, from the famed musical. They often tend to be at the forefront of thoughts here. In the last year or so, they have been – to the cause of much heartache – applicable close to home.

However, in a sporting context, one is often left thinking of the lyrics from Les Miserables too. People who follow sport tend to dream a lot. At differing times of the year, different dreams are manifest. In the course of the one week recently, that point was reinforced in contrasting ways.

One aspect thereof involved yet another cherished trip to Thomond Park as Munster continued their quest for what would be a quite remarkable and wholly fitting conclusion to their season. Thanks, yet again, to the kindness of James McCarthy and the outstanding service afforded to disabled spectators by the staff of Munster Rugby.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Fairy tales very seldom come through. Even Axel couldn’t from afar turn the wheels to recover an apocalyptic implosion early on against Scarlets. The great escape artists were finally snared. Beforehand, the bookies odds looked bizarre, disrespectful even.

Liam Williams et al defeating Leinster wasn’t some sort of an abomination. Rather, a clinical display by a damn good team. Notwithstanding a feeling that had Sean O’Brien been available, Leo Cullen’s charges may not have been so badly outgunned at the breakdown. Then again, it’s worth noting that the Welsh outfit turned around a big deficit to defeat Munster earlier in the season.

………………………………………………………………………………………………. As is often the case with sport, as one journey winds towards conclusion, another’s just began. At times, what all the – often justified – negativity which envelopes the tedium of the early part of the football championship does is enhance the appreciation of getting back to basics.

Now, there’s nothing basic about the Munster hurling championship – to my mind the greatest competition in the world – but we’ll get back to that another day. For now, the mind is consumed by the commencement of the local club championships. Which is why the musical number was to the foremost of thoughts. Clubs everywhere dream a dream in such circumstances. To Win Just Once as that other lovely number goes.

On a personal level, the start of the ‘summer journey’ is always a special and treasured time. How much of it will be seen in person cannot be speculated, but we’ll cross that ditch when it appears. The beginning of every odyssey is filled with hope. When the first station of the cross happens to be a local derby it is all the more enticing.

I said it before and I’ll say it again – friendship runs deeper than anything on a football field. And, when one is playing into the wind, the value of such things are inestimable. Primal tribalism has its values too, though. Thus, getting off to a good start is uplifting in any circumstances is uplifting, via a local derby even more so.

But on the most recent occasion there was an even greater garnish of excited anticipation. Aside from success for our club, nothing lifts the spirits more or imbues one with more pride than to see our own take their place on county teams. Indeed, in Dunboyne we have an extra strand of fine tradition – that of supplying managers of county teams as well.

The greatest of them all scarcely needs elaboration, but there have been many, across all codes and grades of GAA. One is forever fearful of leaving somebody out when rhyming off names, but, at this point in time, greatest uplift is being attained from a few of our own simultaneously guiding different Meath teams in Leinster Championship action.

Last August, the possibilities and challenges pertaining to Andy McEntee’s appointment – and what said development meant to yours truly – were broadly outlined. So far, it would have to be said things are going well. That is not to disguise the atrocious performance against Down which, ultimately, cost them promotion. However, it would be ventured that the results garnered against Galway and Cork would not have materialised not all that long ago.

Even if it could be construed that the latter result could be deemed to have been at least partially devalued by Cork’s lacklustre efforts in disposing of lowly Waterford. It’s beyond argument, too, that the acid tests still awaits. Especially given the momentum which currently bolsters Louth football. Still, it’s the time of year when everything seems possible. Forward propulsion until the eighth month still appears a realistic aim.

Without wanting to appear presumptuous, it seems likely that Andy will have a few members of our club going into battle with him. Whether these wheels will be able to park at any such events remains to be seen. Even if not, though, pride at their being there is always immense.

As it is also, presently, at seeing Conor O’Donoghue and Ger Robinson involved in guiding the Meath Junior footballers. Temptation is to think that Ger could still make a valuable contribution on the playing field at that level. Having said that, what appears to be a policy of deploying players around the fringes of the senior panel in the grade – a development squad, if you like.

Whether many of them make the jump is neither here nor there. However, the intentions appear good and it’s good to see the much maligned grand old competition being taken seriously by some at least. It being so gives rise to unique situations such as the one outlined above. There was a time the grade acted as an avenue for those who would otherwise not experience inter county fair even though their presence thence would be merited.

Perhaps if more counties took the approach to the competition which Meath appear to be, it would be assured of a viable future. Yet, even in the other guise for which the grade is known, there lies a little story – the type which only the GAA can throw up.

Among those lining out for Meath against Kildare in the opening round of the Leinster JFC was Niall Jones. Niall’s father Billy is a former Sligo player whose other son, Ronan, is, of course, part of the county senior panel while daughter Alison has also been featuring in green and gold. It takes a bit to keep up with our Jones’, but, following their progress and that of all those representing club and county is what keeps the wheels turning!

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