Friday 19 January 2018

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Trautmann's inspiring story

While present-day sports stars quite often lack backbone, the same could certainly not be said of a real sporting hero who passed away recently. Although in a way, what he was most famous for could, at least medically speaking, be described as spineless – a freak accident meant that he played the last 17 minutes of a cup final with a broken neck.

I refer of course to Bert Trautmann, Manchester City's magnificent goalkeeper, who played through the pain barrier in a 3-1 victory over Birmingham in the 1956 FA Cup final.

Trautmann was German and as a teenager enlisted in the German Luftwaffe. He was captured twice, by the Russians and the French resistance, but escaped both times. However, it was his third capture, by a British soldier, which was to shape his life.

He was released from the POW camp and started to play football for non-league St Helen's Town. He impressed so much in a friendly that Manchester City signed him up. Given that the war was still a recent memory, he was subjected to the anti-German taunts of opposing (and initially his own) fans, but he played through it and won over the begrudgers with his talent.

As a child, I remember my uncle telling me the story of Bert Trautmann and giving me a book about him. Trautmann's death caused me to go back to that dog-eared copy and marvel once again at the bravery of this special man.

His skills between the sticks were recognised with the award of the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year prize, just before the 1956 final, the first goalkeeper to receive the honour.

Trautmann's career had an Irish dimension, as he captained an English league selection against the Irish League in 1960 but there was also a more distant connection as the Cup final collision which caused his injury was with Birmingham's Peter 'Spud' Murphy, born in Hartlepool to a family of Irish extraction.

Rumour of his prowess spread to his native Germany, with Schalke 04 tabling a £1,000 transfer bid in 1952. It is refreshing to see that the Manchester City of 1952 refused, saying that "they wouldn't sell Trautmann for 20 times that amount". Oh that such loyalty persisted today.

Mark Lawler

Seeing red over Kildare

Damian Lawlor noted that Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill got "yellow, not red". In fact, both O'Neill and Kildare's Peter Kelly should have seen yellow. Even the RTÉ commentator thought O'Neill's yellow was harsh and wondered aloud how the referee saw fit to ignore what had gone on prior to O'Neill's feeble retaliation.

As for the "harsh" second yellow for Kelly near the end of the game, by my count it was about his fifth yellow – the ref had indulged him on about three previous occasions and finally ran out of patience. Two limited teams, but at least Tyrone tried to play football. Kildare's main tactic seemed to be badly-executed rugby take-downs.

Seán Mac Cann

Jeering of Lar lets Cats down

Much attention has been drawn to the topsy-turvy nature of this year's hurling and football championships that has led to some surprising results and enthusiastic post-match on-field celebrations.

The players have rightly received plaudits for their wonderful achievements. Credit is also due to the wonderful supporters who celebrated enthusiastically the provincial final wins of Limerick, Dublin and Monaghan without being in any way disrespectful towards their opponents.

The unfortunate exception was, however, the jeering of Lar Corbett by a sizeable proportion of the Kilkenny supporters when he pulled up with a hamstring injury during the recent hurling qualifier. The incident received a brief mention on The Sunday Game and was in marked contrast to the standing ovation accorded to Henry Shefflin by Tipperary supporters when he limped off during the 2010 All-Ireland final.

Hopefully the unprecedented success Kilkenny supporters have enjoyed over the past decade hasn't made them oblivious to the importance of good manners.

Peter Ryan

Davies had earned place

The only mistake Warren Gatland made was not selecting Brian O'Driscoll as a substitute in the final Lions Test. Throughout the tour, Jonathan Davies was a better centre. He also had the advantage of being left-footed. In Ireland terms, the days of O'Driscoll, Darcy, O'Gara and O'Connell are numbered. More of the Ireland Under 20 side should be introduced into the Provincial teams; otherwise, the above-named will still be playing when they are 40.

Derek Williams

Sunday Independent

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