Whether this is exclusively an Irish custom or otherwise cannot be vouched for, but, weddings and funerals tend to be settings for people whose acquaintance may have drifted to bridge the gaps in their respective stories since their last encounter.
Recently, I happened upon the company of former Dunboyne and Meath footballer Ger McGovern after one such sombre occasion. Ger was one of a plethora of lads to make the step up from the St Peter’s U-21 side of 1997 that contested the Championship final in that grade to be part of the club’s senior panel that garnered a maiden Keegan Cup the following year. On foot of which Ger was called into the Meath panel for the following National League, making his debut against Derry.
When our paths cross, two things are odds on to crop up, farming – which got its usual airing with it being the midst of calving and lambing season – and the goal he scored against Kilmainhamwood during the ’98 campaign. Which, along with inspiration in several forms from Brendan Reilly as Ollie Murphy had been both conductor and lead musician for Carnaross in the previous round, was the other most pivotal pit-stop on that glorious journey.
Made all the more memorable by the fact that the man who essayed the ball over Ronan Finnegan’s head and into his net – and several other Dunboyne players – thought it was a point until informed otherwise by our late, much loved Club President Pat ‘Spoggy’ Kelly. When things like that begin to occur, perhaps it’s a sign destiny is on your side.
Now, yours truly was lampooned for making the observation at the time, though from the time Tom Yourell – founding member, Secretary, benefactor and mainstay of the club – slipped to the stadium in the sky on my birthday a decade ago, it was earnestly felt that destiny would decree the most coveted prize in Meath football would reside hence that winter. Thus it proved.
Not all talk of destiny is folly. Which is why it was decided to act upon the inclinations of JP McManus and punt on Jordan Spieth in the US Masters. When the opportunity arose to meet the great man some time back, quite the gaggle gathered to see what nuggets of wisdom could be dug from the former JCB driver. Sensing that, this corner pitched in a curve ball and directed his attention to Augusta!
JP hasn’t reached his current standing in society – that of the greatest esteem in my view – by making too many bad decisions. So it would pay not to go too far out of bounds from his thinking. That said, betting on golf is a bit like staring awestruck at a menu board in a chipper. Whereas with racing, temptation is always to lean towards the favourites, in the game of metal, iron and wood, the popular snackbox tends to be shunned for some of the less glamorous delectable offerings further down the board.
Reason being that while in racing the form book is of the utmost importance, to maintain optimum productivity spanning four consecutive days is such a demanding expectation that quite often a competitor springs from the pack to harvest the glory. Which is why, you suspect, it’s not uncommon to see the favourite for a golf tournament at about 12/1 and bookies paying on the first six places.
Honestly, had Limerick’s finest not blessedly been encountered, the token Masters wager would’ve resided whence golf bets often do – on Phil Mickelson. The world’s greatest southpaw golfer being available at 40/1 before anyone drove down Magnolia Lane or up a fairway.
Leanings in that direction undoubtedly heightened by a sense that the odds on the pre tournament favourite were extensively cramped by unfortunate – if wholly inevitable – obsession with Rory McIlroy’s quest to complete the Grand Slam of Majors. Were a theory of horses for courses to be applied to the green jacket event, there would be an opportunity to be casually dismissive of the world’s top player – according to the official rankings – actually achieving the feat given his past travails in Georgia.
However, for all that a plausible argument for Spieth meriting accreditation as the best performer in the game at present could be presented, only a fickle mind would fail to notice or acknowledge that the brilliance repeatedly produced by McIlroy away from Rae’s Creek in recent years comfortably outweighs the malaise which has afflicted him close to the midnight train over the years.
Besides that, it’d be hoped that twaddle regarding the player’s discomfort in the first Major can now be allayed after he overcame a serious rut midway through the tournament to finish with exceptional momentum to record his best finish thus far in the Spring Major.
Yet, in the case of Spieth, if one was to simply study recent results, the Texan was the obvious start point. What differentiates between good and great is the ability to move from routine to box office so seamlessly. He is likely to be the latter for decades to come.