Sunday 4 December 2016

Off the Ball: McGinley has power to restore integrity

Joe Molloy

Published 14/09/2016 | 02:30

Paul McGinley. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Paul McGinley. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

A few weeks ago an Irish Olympian turned to Paul McGinley in Rio. She was delighted, as she smiled: "Paul, aren't the clothes great. I won't have to buy anything now for two years."

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Suddenly he understood her meaning. A pang of guilt hit him. "Immediately my heart sank," he told us. "I thought of all the stuff we get at the Ryder Cup, all the sweaters and the cashmere, and we never wear it again."

By his admission, Rio left its mark on McGinley. He has walked away "a better person" and "with a deeper sense of what sport is about".

McGinley also spoke eloquently about the need to improve the funding for individual Irish athletes. He compared Irish funding unfavourably with that of the New Zealand team - a country of similar population.

In Rio he toured Team GB's accommodation, which had been renovated and came complete with seating, internet, a TV in every room, and plenty more besides. Team Ireland's accommodation was more of a beanbags haunt.

McGinley was at pains to point out that there was zero complaining from the Irish athletes but it didn't exactly feel like a marginal gains type set-up.

Read more: Off the ball: Canavan insight shines above waffle

And, as he learned, so many of the Irish athletes were working part-time while preparing for the Games. It didn't feel right.

McGinley is a darling of the corporate world, in demand to speak on a range of subjects. He has signed a new two-year extension with Sky Sports. Perhaps some outings on the senior tour beckon.

You suspect he wants to do more, though, perhaps to be a leader of Irish sport?

"Absolutely," he said. "I'd love to be involved in the support of my country down the road, not imminently, but going forward."

Of late, we've seen the GAA hop into bed with subscription television, Irish football fans were searched for flags not deemed appropriate in Belgrade and we can agree that Pat Hickey's position as president of the OCI is in a worse-than-precarious state.

Read more: O'Hanlon key man as Carton bid to make it home rule in Barton Cup

I asked McGinley about the quality of Irish sports administration and he said: "I think we could all do a whole lot better. For me, integrity is so important.

"We really need people at the very top end of professional and amateur sport in Ireland who are acting with the full-most integrity so that people can look at them as pillars of society. So many things can funnel down from that. Corporate Ireland will have a lot more buy in."

How novel to hear somebody talk about old-fashioned notions like integrity and leaders as "pillars of society".

McGinley recalled feeling emotional on the bus back to Rio airport. A seed has been sown. He has the goodwill of the public, intelligence and he empathises with elite athletes.

The sooner he is ready to get involved, the better.

Irish Independent

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