Two seconds from heartache – when sport hurts

The match was level at 2-2, with two seconds left to play and a goal is conceded. One team is not going to compete at the greatest show of all, the Olympics Games in London.

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On most other weekends the exploits of the Ireland Men’s hockey team would have caused emotional turmoil and devastation because of the injustice of the way they lost in the final of the Olympic qualifier, shattering dreams of playing at the highest level of sport on offer.

What happened to Fabrice Muamba puts things into perspective. The 23-year-old footballer collapsed on the field during a game after suffering a cardiac arrest. He remains in a critical condition in the London Heart Hospital.

Flag of the field hockey team of Ireland (Four...

Although this is true it would be unfair to dismiss the exploits of the men in green who put every ounce of energy, passion and drive they had into achieving success for themselves and the people who helped get them there. This includes the thousands of wayward, jotter wearing enthusiastic wannabes who line out for their club sixth elevens on a cold, drippy Saturday afternoon from Raphoe to Rochestown.

These boys didn’t just turn up in Dublin on Sunday and give it a go. They have put in hours of training, travelling and analyzing to contribute in the most effective way they possibly could. They missed family events, nights outs and watching their own club mates create and break records for the number of swings and misses in front of goal (or equivalent legendary horlicks around the country). They deserve recognition for the effort they put in.

Bill Shankly wasn’t often wrong but we were reminded this weekend that sport isn’t a matter of life and death. The heartache the boys in green will be feeling today is testament to the dedication and talent they possess. On paper they weren’t supposed to beat Korea who are ranked ten places above them in the FIH world rankings but the calculations gone into creating this hierarchy don’t account for the blood, sweat and tears given by every member of the Ireland squad. With two seconds left on the clock, it was a cruel way to lose but any result other than winning would have felt just as tragic. Sportsmen and women want to finish on top and although the result wasn’t what Ireland wanted they did themselves proud, their peers are looking up at them and they live to fight another day.

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Sachin Tendulkar: The Little Master in command again

The rest of the Cricket world remain studious pupils as the Little Master shows how it is done.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar (Photo credit: R@VITH)

Fans, TMS commentators, photographers and opponents had to wait patiently as Tendulkar reached the gleaming milestone of scoring one hundred runs one hundred times in his professional career. His last century was compiled last March so writers of encylcopedias, Sunday sports supplements and pub quizzes all over the world have been willing the Indian playmaker to break through the nervous nineties to finally get the accolades his illustrious career deserves. In the One day match against Bangladesh in Dhaka, part of the Asia Cup, the 38 year-old finished on 114 off 147 to put his team in a commanding position for the umpteenth time in his 23 years representing his country.

This is guy is a wizard with the bat and many a glittering eulogy has been heartedly declared in his honour, all of which are massively deserving given the records he has achieved and broken. All any Cricket fan wants however, is more of the same.

Has Olympic patriotism sidetracked the FA’s appointment of a new manager?

Every country would want their national sport teams to be coached by someone from home, they would also want all the best athletes and players in the world to be from their own country but this doesn’t happen. The best exponents of a game/sport are found in all four corners of the world. It’s true that some countries tend to breed a class that is better suited to certain disciplines than others – Kenyans in distance running, Cubans in boxing and English in dwarf throwing contests, but, concentrating on these isles for now, Great Britain and Northern Ireland is too small to have homespun world beaters in all the sports we want. The mission should then be to find the best person for the job, wherever they hail from.

Association crest

The Football Association’s insistence on hiring an English manager to take control of the football team was a panic reaction to an immature act on their behalf of extending the contract of Fabio Capello before the World Cup in 2010. They forked out big dough for a man who hadn’t proved himself in the role, so to deflect blame away from the organization they concluded that this case came about because Capello had the wrong type of passport.

Although the media have savagely stuck to this point of nationality the FA have been name dropping foreign coaches with impressive pedigree that have been added to their long list (or is it short list?) of possible men to approach in the future but we aren’t rushing it, we want to consider our options, there is no hurry timeframe they are dealing in. Is this

Louise Redknapp interviews her father-in-law H...

Redknapp to oversee England on the pitch?

because the candidate seemingly preferred by everyman and his British bulldog, Harry Redknapp has been offered an improved contract in his existing job? It might finally be dawning on the FA that they have taken so much time to decide on the decisions they are decisively taking that Spurs won’t hang on any longer (and who can blame them?) and have put words into actions by attempting to keep ‘Arry at White Hart Lane. From the moment Capello resigned the public have been waiting for the press conference to remove the transparent veil over Redknapp’s head and officially welcome him to Wembley way.  But what if he turns them down and choses to stay in club management, live in Dorset, walk his dogs on the beach and win the Champions league instead? Which well-worn quasi pensioner who speaks a colloquial version of the Queen’s English would step into the spotlight then? Of the twenty clubs in the Premier League this season, foreign managers head five. How many of the fifteen others have credentials lofty enough to coach the sixth ranked team in the world (reads somewhat more flattering than it appears in the flesh) who’s greatest achievement in the last decade has been a quarter final appearance in the 2002 world cup where they lost to eventual winners Brazil, (that and Peter Crouch’s goal scoring record)?

Back to the point – the best man should get the job so why limit the possibilities? England has some great coaches, the majority of which are included in 15 currently employed by PL clubs; that is why they have those jobs. The patriotic aura unavoidably escaping from all things Olympic is penetrating into other sports. Football is included in the Games, but not football as we know it. The Olympic version of the sport is generally overshadowed by the dozens of other games that wholeheartedly consider the competition to be the pinnacle rather than a useful exercise for the younger generation. On the drawing board at FA HQ should be names such as Bento, Scolari, Sabella or Laudrup, failing that, apparently Glenn Hoddle is available.

And I haven’t even got started on Lancaster, the RFU, or plastic Brits…..

Golf got interesting again thanks to the Celtic Tiger

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For what seems longer than his record-breaking grip on the top spot of golf, Tiger Woods

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy - Number One (Photo credit: Ed (supergolfdude))

has been absent from the competitive edge of the sport he almost single-handily revitalized. Since his personal life imploded in 2010 Woods hid from the spotlight of the world’s media, not just the golfing purists. His impact barely lessened though in the time he wasn’t playing the game. Every winner of a Major or a significant title had to battle with the suggestion that they weren’t a worthy champion because they didn’t defeat an in-form Woods along the way; proper recognition it seemed demanded a wounded Tiger along the way. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald managed to steadily inch their way to the top of the world rankings without winning a Major which left many golf enthusiasts feeling lack-lustre. Golf might promote itself as a gentleman’s game but supporters want authority, a touch of the spectacular than encourages the notion of elitism. A respectable looking Englishman who politely plays his way around golf courses, not being bold enough to disturb the leaders of the event, hasn’t proved to live up to the standards of the golfing fraternity.

Rory McIlroy started the change. A young gun with bags of potential very publically crashed and burned at the 2011 Masters. The pain and disappointment of the 21 year-old was evident on his face and in the minds of the millions watching on television around the world. His positive response in light of such a catastrophic downfall at Augusta was welcomed but so many wondered if these were brave but empty words. The actual response to the situation was the U.S. Open. No-one would have believed the plot he conjured up on the greens of Congressional winning by eight shots, posting the lowest score in tournament history to blow everyone away; it was difficult not to exude admiration for the guy. He sorted his head and believed in his own abilities, then he proved himself to all. The only mention of Tiger Woods came in the form of how McIlroy had obliterated several records previously held by the American.

However, now things really get interesting. McIlroy triumphed at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida allowing him to take the small step up to world number one.  He won the tournament by two shots with his nearest rival being Tiger Woods who posted an impressive 62 in his final round. If the McIlroy factor wasn’t present hacks would surely have been writing about the form of Woods and the charge he put in which was definitely close to the Tiger of old.

Golf has a superstar in Rory McIlroy – Major winner, world number one, all round top guy, young and with the right amount of charm that makes him extremely likeable but not phony. But Tiger Woods has won 14 majors, was world number one for 623 weeks and has attitude, self-importance and focus that elevated the game to new standards that other players are striving to maintain, if they can get close in the first place.

McIlroy has reached the top, but Woods never enjoyed finishing second. Bring on the battle of the Celtic Tiger.

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