Thursday 27 July 2017

Merry Sports Awards, everyone

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

CHANNEL HOPPER

RTÉ SPORTS AWARDS

RTÉ One, SATURDAY, 9pm

So, are you nearly there yet?

Have you begun to get the warm and fuzzies?

Or are you standing alone, looking at all the other people get into the festive spirit?

It's a strange time of the year, for sure.

Paradoxically, the more the shops insist on starting Christmas as soon as the Halloween pumpkins are taken down, the more we resist such enforced jollity.

As much as I love Christmas - and I really do enjoy it - my Yuletide triggers don't come from the first time I hear Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens piped through the local shopping centre.

No, I know that Christmas is truly around the corner when the sports awards programmes start turning up on the telly.

That's because there was a time back in the dim and distant past of, oh about 10 years ago, when we didn't have wall-to-wall sports stars and it was a genuine treat to see them outside their normal habitat.

Tomorrow night's RTÉ Sports Awards has already been mired in a quite wonderfully daft controversy over the shortlist.

The O'Donovan brothers certainly stole the nation's affections during their Olympic odyssey, and the decision to only include one of them, Paul, at the expense of his brother Gary is certainly enough to cause a raised eyebrow.

As the likes of Paul Kimmage and the two Eamons, Sweeney and Dunphy, stuck the boot into that decision, RTÉ's head of sport Ryle Nugent felt compelled to issue a stinging rebuke to the naysayers and the whole thing developed into a most entertaining hissy fight.

If the controversy is amusing, it's only because 2016 was the year of not-very-amusing controversies, most of them stemming from the Rio Olympics, which will surely go down as the most fractious Irish sporting away trip since Saipan.

For every individual success, there seemed another scandal just around the corner - from oddly sourced tickets to rampant entitlement, to put it mildly, - and, of course, the disastrous performance of the boxers, which seemed to sum up a pretty rotten year.

Don't be expecting too much analysis of those kerfuffles tomorrow night - apart from the fact that it's meant to be a celebration of our local heroes, you just know the legal eagles will be keeping their beady little eyes on the proceedings.

So, while there might be an air of rancour and gloom hovering around this year's event, it still means something - Christmas is now breathing it's eggnoggy breath down our backs.

My God - does that mean that the host, the always reliable Darragh Maloney, is the new Santa Claus?

Now there's a thought that should make us all shudder.

Irish Independent

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