If you ever need evidence of the fickle nature of predicting the outcomes of sporting events, Google Gaelic football and specifically the 1982 All Ireland Football Final.
Kerry, who were then rightly hailed as the greatest team the game had seen, against Offaly, a county with some classy players – indeed arguably the greatest of them all Matt Connor. For 69 and a bit minutes, things went exactly to script. That being the coronation of Mick O’Dwyer’s side with a fifth straight All Ireland title. It had never be done.
So sure were the general populas that t-shirts emblazoned with Kerry Five In A Row Champions were not only produced but freely available before the game was played at all. And then there was the song. The chorus of which went ” Five in a row, five in a row, it’s hard to believe we’ve done five in a row”.
In one minute, the script was only fit for a furnace. One speculative long ball, a bit of individual ingenuity from Seamus Darby and a shot into immortality for the same player. Thereafter, the chorus had to be re-written “Five in a row, five in a row, Christ we were close to five in a row”.
It’s probable that there are numerous editors of sporting publications re-drafting headlines tonight after the shock usurpation of Fallon Sherrock by the ageless Steve Beaton. As with the GAA story, it began along expected lines with the sport’s leading lady racing into a 2-0 lead in the first set.
You don’t last as long at the highest level as ‘The Bronzed Addonis’ has without having a fair back catalogue of survival instincts and very quickly tonight it became clear that the man making his 31st appearance at the World Championships was well able to utllise them when required.
The 1996 winner reeled off three consecutive legs to take the first set. Undaunted, however, his trailblazing opponent then upped her output by several gears, claiming two qiickly completed sets and you wondered was the Bronzed one headed for the sunset.
However, a few points then became worth analysing a little closer. At no stage did Sherrock’s style change. Not her preamble, throwing style or pace. Though how often has it been said momentum can be the biggest deciding factor in sport. For Fallon, the break after the third set couldn’t have come at a worse time. She had all the impetus and the crowd behind her.
Having seen and done it all before, Beaton certainly wasn’t about to panic. That said, in a mirror image of something which occured in the match which followed, she who smashed the glass ceiling appeared to tire quite quickly. In contrast, the 57-year-old just kept plugging away. Producing, if it’s possible, the darting equivalent of ‘take your points and the goals will come’.
Even for those of us simply watching on television, such was the mesmeric quality produced by the two tungsten gladiators, it was doubtful had we the energy to sit through another nine-plus stanzas of arrow flinging brilliance. Yet summon it we had to.
For not only was there an Irish competitor in the last contest of the fifth day’s action, for us sports mad, very proud people in Co Meath, it was our latest local sporting hero, Duleek’s Keane Barry. You know, as far as this writer can decipher, the career paths of both Keane and Fallon appear very similar.
Both made their breakthrough to the highest level of their sport at the London venue two years ago but didn’t appear last season. Tonight, both made quick, very positive starts to their matches tonight but ultimately came up short against vastly more exprrienced opponents.
Two thoughts continue to ruminate ln the mind tonight – both wlll be back in the Christmas cracker for years to come and Barry had the misfortune to encounter the most improved player on the darting circuit of late, Jonny Clayton of Wales.
In the humble opinion of yours truly, the young man from Meath East may in fact have run aground against the champion in waiting.