Wednesday 17 January 2018

Beginning to fear our love affair with sport may never be consummated

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

So there you are heartbroken. With your chin resting on the pew in front of you. A tear trickles down the curve of your nose and rests on the corner of the lips she once kissed.

'She' was the love of your life. You wooed her and courted her but another man wowed her and now he's marrying her.

You loosen out your tie to give the Adam's apple a chance to cater for a hard swallow . In with a deep breath and you exhale the subsequent sigh for several seconds longer than a Pavarotti long note. For such are the symptoms of a broken heart.

He's up there at the altar where you should have been but for the life events which so alter fate and faith. Then after the 'I dos' you shake hands and wish him well. And the bitterness corrodes your insides like cheap, canned supermarket lager.

He smiles a 'pity on you loser' smile, as if you've caught a delicate body part in a zip, and she gives you a sisterly peck on the cheek. Later that night you know the marriage will be consummated while you sleep alone all alone in the valley of Slievenamon, or wherever it is you come from. The story is universal and ever poignant. Yes it's the consummation as in I love you, you love me and sure you know the rest yourself.

I might jack in this sports writing lark and apply for a post with Mills and Boon.

There's even more heartbreak at the sports writing. I'm beginning to think nothing ever works out the way we want it in sport.

So at Listowel Races we stop Paul Carberry and ask if it's true he's retiring. There are more rumours circulating in racing than in Leinster House.

Carberry is one of the best we have ever seen. We love watching him sneak up from way off the pace and win with horses who are fooled in to thinking they are better than they really are. "No," he laughs. "I have no notion of it."

Two hours later he breaks his leg, and we're hoping Paul will be back for Cheltenham.

Jonathan Sexton was certain he would be able to play against Argentina but his leg gives out to him at the end of a last training session. He has waited and built his life around these weeks.

He has shown enough in the World Cup to prove he is the best in the world. Jonathan knows this was his time and this was his place.

Only very seldom do our teams win a big prize. Still, though, when we do win, the waiting is forgotten faster than the location of a losers' medal. No-one ever puts money in a St Anthony's Box to help find a losers' medal. We lost and it's tough.

At least the jilted man and the groom will be spared a grilling from the high performance coach.

David Nucifora, our quality control man, might ask why it was we were playing France in our last pool game when Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa finished off their groups with relatively easy games.

Nucifora is well respected in the game. He fixed our prop crisis.

Maybe he could take a look at our boxing officials. The officials are trying to knock out Billy Walsh, an alchemist who changes ring ropes into gold. The madness of it all and the lack of logic is a boxing bonfire of vanities.

French coach Philippe Saint Andre is no saint either. The French think and open door is a trompe l'oeil. They are prone to taking short cuts through walls.

The good news, though, is Pascal Pape has retired from international rugby. The bad news is we have to play the French in Paris next year.

Most of the Argentinian team had a ten-day break between their last pool match and the Irish game. There was enough time to get back home to the Pampas, count the cattle, check the mail and give the neighbours a break from the cat.

Nucifora must find out who decides the playing schedule and how can Ireland fight their corner?

And yes Argentina are a very good side. They are great value to beat Australia. And they might even win this out.

The timing of the tournament itself must be looked at. The September start means that the Southern Hemisphere teams have a huge advantage. They come in to the World Cup fully match fit after their championship season.

We are always short of tough games. Ireland are as good as all of the Southern Hemisphere teams, bar the All Blacks. But we need to have a full team or near enough to a full team.

We all know about the injury crisis. We were very, very unlucky but Ireland need more Munster forwards with fire in the belly. Dave Foley, a fast, up-and-coming second-row, was overlooked when Paul O'Connell was injured. Can't figure that one out. Ireland could also do with a speedy back-row player who can get out to the wings.

Leinster have been criticised and rightly so by Brian O'Driscoll for picking big men for their academy. It's like the fish - if they fit through a hoop of a certain dimension, they are thrown out. We will be left with bulky men who are able to lift bullocks but can't run, and when teams like Argentina go wide we will be found wanting.

Reviews of a team performance are like book editing. Only the errors are highlighted.

We shouldn't forget that Joe Schmidt has done so much for Irish rugby and his team have given us so many great days. We gave the French bullies a right hammering.

Joe must build a new team with the World Cup in mind but there was so much joy to be taken from the back-to-back Six Nations titles. I wouldn't get too hung up over the World Cup.

The All Blacks have always had the best team but didn't always win the World Cup. The World Cup is every four years. You can have a bad week and that's it for four years.

Whereas the Six Nations comes around every year and the standard is well up there with the Southern Hemisphere, as was proven by Scotland and Wales. This is no junior championship.

And if you didn't marry the girl of your dreams, well then there's always another out there waiting for someone like you. There will be glory days ahead for Ireland too. Joe Schmidt is an excellent matchmaker.

Irish Independent

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