Surviving on winter sports!

At precisely this time three years ago – that is to say, Senior Football Championship Final day in Meath – yours truly keyboarded a piece stating that Pairc Tailteann would be the last place on earth I’d want to be on the day in question. Out of a sense of profound regret that our own lads weren’t present. As it happened, in both the main event itself and the curtain-raising Minor decider. It would, as the headline used suggested, have felt like the loneliest place on earth.

The only thing negating upset at the time was the fact that, whoever won, close friends would be enjoying success. Sean Kelly and Sean Barry being in charge of Donaghmore/Ashbourne and the Tormey family giving an even closer connection thereto while Shane O’Rourke – somewhat miraculously – had made a return for Simonstown Gaels.

Now, the following is not meant in an egotistical way at all, but, over the years, this corner has been fortunate to have made friends all over Meath and far beyond through GAA. So, while, again, there’s no way I’d have been able to handle being present for the meeting of Ratoath and Summerhill emotionally – but for very different reasons this time – it was a case of those known to me enjoying success regardless of who won.

From very early in the season I’d said to dad that if our own lads were to relinquish the Keegan Cup – something that was all too obvious from a long way out – that it would most likely be to Ratoath or Gaeil Colmcille. Furthermore, the emotions doubtless currently reverberating around Summerhill can be identified with all too readily as it has often been felt there must be no club more adept at losing finals than us. Something unfortunately franked when our minor footballers succumbed to Dunshaughlin the day after the county final.

Still, as is always said in these situations, that our underage teams are at least competing strongly surely bodes well for the future. Summerhill and St Colmcille’s are two other units with bright futures and it was the presence of Adam Byrne with the former that afforded a very tenuous link for the occupant of this seat when the clubs faced off in the MFC Div. 1 decider – which is now the traditional and very fitting appetiser for the annual football showpiece.

In the end it must have felt like one that got away on the blue and gold. Having led by 1-08 to 0-04 approaching half time, the appear to have been completely swamped by the men from beside the sea. However, in Eoghan Frayne the undoubtedly have a star of the future, while the blue and navy trio of Endy and Godfrey Ehichoya and, in particular, David Bell, seem destined for great careers.

Anyway, National Hunt racing notwithstanding, the year’s outings to see sport in the flesh have more or less concluded for these wheels. Which means, for the remaining weeks and indeed the early part of 2020, it will a case of surviving on winter sports – on television, that is.

Obviously, soccer across the water will take care of a lot of it. So too Pro 14 and Champions Cup rugby. There was a time a cursory glance could’ve been cast at domestic football around now too before their season was turned upside down. Then again, there was also a point where League Of Ireland leanings here would’ve been towards Bohemians. However, as with anything, a personal connection can change everything. So, even though through Martin Reilly and John Ryan and Club President Tom O’Mahony there has always been an indelible connection between Dunboyne and St Patrick’s Athletic – indeed I believe it goes back decades – it wasn’t until my nephew Ian Byrne signed for the Inchicore outfit that loyalties were completely transferred.

Ian Byrne enjoyed a great first season with St Patrick’s Athletic

It’s not very often the following would be done, but, I must say, it’s been a major lift and a source of immense pride to see him begin to fulfil the potential it was always felt he had. Hand on heart, yes, part of me would love to see him lining out for the Meath U-16 hurlers and footballers but he’s pursuing his dream and all too well is it known what it’s like not to be able to do that.

Things have got off to an outstanding start for him with the Richmond Park outfit as their U-15s recently captured their league title – as did the reds’ U-13 and U-17 teams, the latter with Dunboyne’s Josh Keeley in goal – while at the time of typing Ian’s bunch still have a Cup Final to look forward to. It must be admitted that I didn’t see any of the games but it was that which prompted this production.

For it gave the spirits a much-needed lift. Other than that, and aside from racing, there are a few ‘winter’ pursuits to which this corner turns (the television) to negotiate the time of year that’s guaranteed to be tricky. Sticky patches can crop up at any time, and do, but the back end of the year definitely makes them more likely.

Mention was made not all that long ago of how darts becomes an essential part of the viewing menu at this time of year, to the extent that, most recently, some of the BDO Masters was even taken in on EuroSport. There’s no doubting that the fare is nowhere near as good as in the PDC – as best evidenced by the ‘transfer’ of the likes of Stephen Bunting and Glen Durrant to the bigger arena.

Be that as it may, it did help fill a gap at a time when distractions were badly needed. Top of any such list at this time of year, though, will always be basketball. Having said that, it appears for now at least as if a cure for – or at least an aid with – the curse that is insomnia has meant even more utilisation of the ‘record’ button than is normally the case.

Coverage of the NBA is now provided by Sky instead of ESPN and their promotion thereof whetted the appetite still further for one of the better parts of winter. Particularly their play on the idea of a transfer window. With that in mind, temptation might be to say that wherever LeBron James goes, success will follow. Such has previously been the case with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Expecting similar dividends with the LA Lakers might seem a bit fanciful – even with exceptional talents of Anthony Davis also aboard. If there has been one surprising thing – to this observer at least – it’s been the volume of movement that occurs during ‘Trade’ season.

Not to mention a few highly surprising transfers, namely, Kawhi Leonard leaving the defending champion Toronto Raptors in favour of the LA Clippers and the seemingly restless Kyrie Irving making an even more puzzling move to the Brooklyn Nets.

Kawhi Leonard is now part of an impressive looking LA Clippers team.

Most surprising of all, though, has been the sense of upheaval at the Golden State Warriors. Between the departure of some of those who have been key components of their successes in recent seasons and the unavailability – seemingly for the entire term – of Klay Thompson due to injury, even with Stephen Curry at his most efficient and the addition of D’Angelo Russell, it’s hard to see them maintaining the excellence with which they’ve been synonymous in recent years.

At the time of typing, gut instinct is that the Clippers may look the most likely victors – admittedly at this very early stage of the season. Cognisance of the fact that it takes over 100 games to generate outright victory makes odds of 3/1 look ridiculous. From a punting perspective, either the Houston Rockets (7/1) or even the depleted Warriors at 12s represent far better value.

Watching it all unfold will be one of a few special things keeping me afloat during the toughest time of the year.

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