It always means something

There are several words and phrases often deployed in this trade to which yours truly has an intense dislike. The word ‘veteran’ being one of them. If a competitor in any sport has something to offer, it shouldn’t matter whether they are 16 or 36 or even beyond that.

Neither Sean Boylan nor Sir Alex Ferguson got much wrong during their management careers and were proven to be correct in their quick elevation of players like Kevin Reilly and Ryan Giggs respectively. In contrast, those who came after them let Joe Sheridan, Brian Farrell, Cian Ward and Giggs depart the scene with far too much haste. Now read on…

Yes, the current Wales manager had himself called time on his glittering playing career at the age of 38, but Jose Mourinho or whoever else were in a position to do so should’ve done more to keep him at the club following the departure of Louis Van Gaal. In fact, they might have been far better served to leave the former winger and Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt at the helm than getting Mourinho at all.

Likewise, in the GAA case mentioned above, not only was the culling of the three players concerned – and others like Peadar Byrne and Ciaran Lenehan whom I’d forgotten – detrimental to the prospects of the team, it was an insult to some of the finest players the county had produces in recent decades. Did nobody notice how pivotal Andy Moran had been for Mayo up to the ‘old’ age of 35. Or that he still have played a role? Not to mention the other raft of green and red warrior who headed for the sunset long before they might have.

In all the GAA cases, you tend to hear the same rehearsed, tiresome reasons – “Work commitments/family” etc. Well, if the Association just went ahead and turned professional at inter-county level it’d solve that. And secondly, as the mother of one former county player said to me once “She (player’s wife) knew he was a footballer when they met and he will be for a good while yet”.

This corner would find it very difficult to disagree with the mammy in that instance. Top level sporting careers are but fleeting things in the context of a lifetime. There are decades to do other things after the sporting star fades.

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The other thing that grinds my gears is that ghastly way of describing certain events as “Dead Rubbers”. Inference being that there are games which mean nothing. That very notion makes my blood boil. Even if in terms of the competition the fixture is taking place in, there’s always something to be gained from every game. It always means something. There were several examples of same in most recent days.

Both Leinster and Munster have qualified for the PRO14 Final with lengths to spare. Yet in their final games of the regulation season there were happenings of the utmost significance therein. In the blue corner, you had Devin Toner equaling Gordon D’Arcy’s appearance record with the province while in the red zone down south you had Tom Ahearne giving the first indication of what he may offer the red army going forward as they concluded the league part of their campaign with the expected comfortable win over their Italian opponents.

Record Maker: Devin Toner

Then, even allowing for patriotic blood running through the veins, materially speaking, there was nothing at stake in Ireland’s overdue overcoming of the nation’s greatest foes. Aside, that is, from affording C.J. Stander the send-off his immense contribution in the green jersey wholly merited. On that, hearing mention that the Brains Trust within the IRFU were aware of the back-row forward’s plans to depart before they were made public, one wonders what if any attempts were made to dissuade the South African from bidding farewell. Simply in view of the fact that, at 31, he surely had more to offer. Especially when placed against the backdrop of the likes of Toner and Cian Healy rolling on in the even more taxing front row and second row berths respectively.

Keith Earls is still going strong

Or, for that matter, the evergreen Keith Earls. Though it may seem statistically and logically impossible, it appears the 34-year-old winger is getting better with age. He now looks and acts like one of the leaders of the Irish team. As does the terrific Tadhg Furlong.

The Wexford farmer’s herculean obliteration of an English scrum was exemplary of not only his and the entire team’s display but also the role which he will undoubtedly playing in the next phase of the team’s development in the years ahead. As first impressions go, they don’t get much better than this one.

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