Category Archives: Sports

Andy Murray and the Value of Persistence.

Last night I had the pleasure of staying up late – again – to watch a sporting event taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.

Anyone who knows me well will know of my love for tennis. It’s not a game I’ve played, mind you, but I have memories of watching classic head-to-heads between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe (when he wasn’t having his own head-to-heads with match officials), Borg and Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, et al. These gladiatorial combats struck a chord with me. On the court, they were masters of their own destinies. It was just them and the other guy. The winner took the glory; the loser dusted themselves off and tried all the harder next time around.

Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in last night’s US Open Men’s Singles Championship. It was a tense, five set affair. But there was more than just the title (and the sizable cheque) at stake. For Murray it was about persistence. Had he lost to the five-time Grand Slam and defending US Open champion, Murray would have held a record no one in their right mind. He would have been the only player to lose their first five Grand Slam finals. I know, right?

From two sets to love up, the match went to a fifth and deciding set. And it was here that the Scot stepped up the plate/baseline and claimed victory from the jaws of what would have been, last year, an inevitable victory. You see, Murray learned from his defeats. (I won’t call them failures, because to rise to No. 4 in the world, and to reach the number of finals he had, is not the mark of failure.) From not winning a single set in each of his first three finals, he eventually took one off the current No.1 and Wimbledon champion, the legend that is Roger Federer (my idol, my sporting hero). He lost the 2012 Wimbledon final, but he learned from that bitter defeat. Enough to beat the same man a month later, in the Gold Medal match at London 2012.

Murray never gave up hope, even when the rest of us might have written him off as another Tim Henman (sorry, Tim) or golf’s Colin Montgomery (sorry, Colin). The best player never to have won a Major. In Murray’s eyes, this was never going to be an option. The tears he cried last night, winning one of the biggest prizes the sport has to offer, are in marked contrast to those he cried at Wimbledon that fateful Sunday in July. For to be a true champion, to really understand what it is like to win, you must know what it feels like to lose. You have to learn from your defeats. Well done, Andy.

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100 Words, 100 Days: Day 63. On a Sense of Community.

Dublin supporters on Hill 16 at Croke Park.

Nothing brings a community together better than a sporting occasion. And nothing unites a community more uniquely than a victory. In much the same way a country can celebrate a major win in competition (Ireland beating England in this year’s Cricket World Cup springs to mind), Dublin’s All-Ireland success over their arch-rivals Kerry last Sunday has brought a smile to the brow-beaten face of Dubliners.

Whether your a fan of GAA or not (I’m ambivalent most of the time), it’s hard not to get caught up in the euphoria a victory can bring. Already we’re looking forward to next year.

 

All-Ireland Mayhem: God Help Us All.

For all but a few of you reading this post, the All-Ireland series means very little. But if you’re Irish, like your GAA, and your county winning the Sam Maguire Cup means more to you than life itself, then the All-Ireland is where it’s at this weekend.

It’s the Battle Royale: The Dubs versus the Kingdom; Dublin against Kerry. The Blues are searching for their first title since 1995, while Kerry are the reigning champions. (Stay awake at the back there, I’ll be asking questions later.) If the Capital City triumph this Sunday, then 16 years of hurt will disappear like cider down a football supporter’s gullet. If they lose, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

You're not a Dub if you don't drink cider.

For me – and for the rest of my workmates – it will be a day that will go down in infamy. Throngs of supporters will convene at Croke Park and its surroundings like Muslims at Mecca. They will be excited, nervous, full of hopes and anticipation, and they will have throats drier than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm. Which is where we bartenders come in. For most of the morning, afternoon and evening (all bloody day actually) we will pump out enough booze to fill the Grand Canyon ten times over: these Dubs are a thirsty lot, let me tell you.

We will be busier than St. Peter on Judgement Day. We’ll be working flat out to ensure that no thirst goes unquenched because this is what we bartenders do. We will listen to the crap that drunks come out with when one too many has been consumed; we will mop up vomit that’s had the indecency to spew out at importune times; we will smile when we’re abused – because that’s what we bartenders do. We will take money and give out correct change, as well as making sure there’s plenty of ice and bandages, because accidents may happen.

We will open early and close late. We don’t expect to be thanked for our endeavours because we know the boss will look after us after he’s lodged the day’s takings with Brinks Allied.

The Girls in Blue

We will listen patiently to the hundred-and-first rendition of “Come On Ye Boys In Blue” and not complain when another glass is smashed against the wall. We will not laugh when security escort an unruly supporter off the premises (usually head first) and into a waiting police car. We will hope the judge goes easy on him the next morning. We will say prayers when we go to bed that night.

If we make it to bed, that is.

We look forward to doing an honest day’s trade when Dublin win the All-Ireland (which we hope they do). But we hope the supporters make life easy for us and not start any fights. Because we bartenders don’t like fights. We like the simple life. Here’s your pint, there’s your change, now fuck off and leave us alone.

Dublin for Sam!

Kilkenny vs. Tipperary: The 2011 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final by Numbers

The Liam McCarthy Cup

The Liam McCarthy Cup was once again up for grabs today. For the third time in as many years, the Premier County of Tipperary played the Cats of Kilkenny for the coveted title of All-Ireland Senior Hurling Champions. It was the first time in the history of this competition that the same finalists have met three years in a row. Before a sliotar was pucked, this “best of three match series” was all square at one apiece. Tipp denied Kilkenny an unprecedented five-in-a-row last year with an impressive eight point at Croke Park. But as it turned out, there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded Cat.

The Numbers Game

4 – The points margin between Kilkenny and Tipperary at the end of 70+ pulsating minutes.

3 – The number of goals scored this year. Two by Kilkenny (Michael Fennelly, Richie Hogan), one by Tipperary (Pa Bourke).

81, 314 – The official attendance at Croke Park, some 400 down on last year. It’s not often that tickets are available on the day for a showpiece occasion such as this, but there were plenty floating around in the job today.

13 – The number of minutes it took for Tipperary to score once the game had begun. By that stage Kilkenny already had a five point lead.

0 – Last year’s hat-trick here, Lar Corbett, was virtually anonymous today. But he did supply the pass for Bourke’s goal. He’ll have better games in the future.

8 – The number of points scored by Eoin Kelly of Tipperary, the game’s top scorer.

Henry Sheflin lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup.

1 – The game’s solitary injury concern was the referee, Brian Gavin of Clara, Co. Offaly. The match was held up for five minutes while he received treatment on a bloodied nose, the result of an accidental collision with a wayward hurl. No doubt he’ll wear his war wounds with pride. He had a fine game.

33 – The number of All-Ireland titles Kilkenny now have.

8 – The number of medals Brian Cody (Kilkenny’s manager) and Henry Sheflin now have on their mantlepieces. Cody is the most successful manager in the game.

8 – months until we do it all again. What’s the betting that there’ll be a further installment in the Kilkenny/Tipperary saga? We can only wait and see.

All match photographs are courtesy of The Irish Times. Information is supplied by The Irish Times and the RTE website.

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 46.2 On Nationalism.

We love him despite his unique looks.

Wayne Rooney plays for Manchester United, a soccer team with plenty of Irish support. To us ManYoo fans, Rooney can do no wrong. He finds the net on a regular basis.

Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool player. To fans worldwide, he is the heart and soul of the team. Likewise with John Terry and Frank Lampard. Irish supporters of Chelsea FC know their team depends heavily on these lions of football.

But put an England shirt on any of these players and Ireland bays for blood. It seems ironic that these men are both heroes and villains to the same set of supporters.

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 44. On Luck.

If you’ve heard the phrase “the luck of the Irish,” don’t believe a word of it.

We’re not known for our tennis stars (unlike Spain, Great Britain, the U.S. and even bloody Switzerland), but when one of our own qualifies for the main draw at the U.S. Open and earns a chance to play World No.1 Novak Djokovic, the makings of a David and Goliath story are clear and present.

Until, that is, a dose of food poisoning rather than a forehand lob fells poor Conor Niland. If it wasn’t for bad luck, some of us would have no luck at all.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 27. On Not Having Regrets.

Yesterday afternoon a defiant and sturdy Dublin hurling team gave as good as they got to the reigning All-Ireland Hurling champions, the Premier County, Tipperary.

Unheralded at the start of the season, Dublin took the Nation League title, beating Tipp along the way. But the Championship is meat and drink to all GAA players. Reaching their first final since 1948, Dublin came out with all guns blazing but lost a hard-fought match by four points.

They have the pleasure of looking each other in the eye in the dressing room, knowing they gave it their all. They can have no regrets.