Wednesday 21 February 2018

The Last Word: The flawed genius of Carberry defines him

Paul Carberry. Photo: PA
Paul Carberry. Photo: PA

The flawed genius of Carberry defines him

Shakespeare got it right when he had Mark Antony say, "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones". 'Evil' is too strong a word for it but it's striking that the ride the brilliant Paul Carberry, a winner of so many big races, will best be remembered for is one he didn't win.

When Harchibald cruised alongside Hardy Eustace on the run-in to the 2005 Champion Hurdle, the exchanges were going 1-10 Harchibald, 4-1 the reigning champion. Carberry seemed set for the crowning glory of his career but, wary of how Harchibald would stay going up the hill, waited an age before asking the horse for a big effort. When he did, it wasn't forthcoming and Hardy Eustace hung on to win by a neck.

His most famous winner was probably Bobbyjo in the 1999 Grand National but in a strange way that 2005 ride seemed to sum up Paul Carberry. There was a genius about him at his best.

He was all intuition and intelligence. But when that didn't work out he left himself wide open to criticism from those who'd prefer something a little more prosaic. Genius has its pitfalls as well as its consolations.

GAA's new plans are all about bottom line

It's striking how many emails this column has received over the years suggesting new structures for the football championships. Obviously intelligent folk have gone to great lengths to try and devise a system which they felt would breathe new life into the country's most popular competition.

Not a single one suggested that what the championship really needed was a quarter-finals group stage. The galling thing about the GAA's new bright idea is that not only does it not address two of the Association's biggest problems, the lack of serious matches for weaker counties and the disruptive nature of inter-county football on the club calendar, it makes the latter worse. As is the case with the ludicrous Sky deal, the only justification for this one is money.

Phelps is one of the wonders of the world

What a wonder is Michael Phelps. Two years ago his life looked to be in danger of unravelling. Convicted of drink-driving and beset by rumours of casual drug use, Phelps seemed to be a post-retirement crisis story waiting to happen.

Then he got back in the pool. So inevitable did Phelps' victory in the 200m butterfly seem, once it had happened that it's worth remembering he wasn't the favourite for the race. Both Chad LeClos and Lazslo Cseh were fancied to overcome their aging rival but they both finished out of the medals while Phelps became the oldest swimming gold medallist in history at the age of 31.

But his most remarkable swim of all came in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay where he produced his best ever Olympic relay split time and enabled the USA to shock France. There has never been anyone quite like Phelps in any sport. The Ancient Greeks who founded the Olympics would probably have disqualified him for being a demi-god.

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