Picking the ‘greatest’ is total waste of time
I TUNED in to the first instalment of ‘Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Moment’ last Thursday evening knowing full well that I’d come out on the other side feeling underwhelmed, and the show went pretty much along expected lines.
These sort of projects are almost always a complete and utter waste of time.
Whether it be searching for the country’s finest sports star or trying to select players worthy of a place on the best teams of all time, it’s futile and ultimately pointless.
You might as well be asking somebody what their favourite colour is, or what ghastly grub you prefer to gorge yourself with in the chipper after a feed of pints.
Of course, opting for your personal number one sporting moment is completely subjective, depending on your preferred code of choice, your age, what memories it evokes etc.
Thursday’s first offering, where they focused on the five stand-out moments of the 1980s, was a case in point, where you might as well be asking a doting dad to single out his favourite child.
The public got to choose from Eamonn Coghlan winning world championship gold in the 5,000 metres in 1983; Barry McGuigan’s WBA world featherweight title triumph in 1985; Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net in 1988; Offaly’s Seamus Darby denying Kerry the five-in-a-row in 1982, or Stephen Roche winning the Tour de France in 1987.
All admirable achievements, no doubt, but there was no place on the shortlist for Dennis Taylor’s late night black ball final win over Steve Davis in 1985, Ireland’s Triple Crowns in ’82 and ’85, Dawn Run’s Gold Cup win in 1986, or John Fenton’s piledriver against Limerick in 1987.
That said, there’s some out there that would refuse to see snooker or even horse racing as a sport and many could say the likes of Seamus Darby or John Fenton have no place in such a list, given that primarily they brought joy to a county rather than the whole nation.
Given my own heritage, my favourite sporting moment would be being in Croke Park in 1996 when George O’Connor dropped to his knees with his hands clasped in prayer when Wexford finally ended years of hurt by winning the All-Ireland, but I wouldn’t be foolish enough to think it could hold such resonance countrywide.
There’s plenty of folk of a more recent vintage who would argue that Conor McGregor becoming a two-weight world champion should be up there with the nation’s proudest moments, whereas others would be horrified to have his name even mentioned in such exalted company. As I said, each to their own.
The most pointless thing about the programme is having ‘experts’ giving their tuppence worth on the merits of each of the shortlisted moments, basically giving Joe Brolly, Eamon Dunphy and Sonia O’Sullivan, who were the guests on the first show, a licence to wax lyrical about their own favourites and ruthlessly tear the others’ achievements apart piece by piece.
Before the opening credits rolled, it was obvious that Houghton’s goal against England in ’88, Packie Bonner saving Daniel Timofte’s penalty in Italia ’90, Ireland’s Grand Slam win in 2009, their win over the All Blacks, Katie Taylor’s Olympic gold or, possibly one of Pádraig Harrington’s Major wins, will, wrongly or rightly, be vying for the top spot.
We’ll all have our own preference, but it doesn’t matter one jot who comes out on top because these types of polls are meaningless.
The powers-that-be will argue that they’re great for sparking debate among sports fans, but in reality if two fellas were sitting at a bar the conversation would go something like this.
‘Definitely Houghton sticking the ball in the English net Tommy.’
‘No way Johnny, has to be Ireland winning the Grand Slam in 2009.’ ‘Sure you’re a soccer man Johnny.’ ‘Aye, and you’re a rugby man.’ ‘Fair enough.’ ‘Fair enough.’
As a small nation that sometime punches above its weight, we don’t have World Cup successes to celebrate or a plethora of triumphs on a global stage, but we do have some wonderful moments that are frozen in time that genuinely lifted the nation.
It’s probably best to keep them that way instead of dissecting them, nitpicking and diluting the achievements.
Will I tune into the show again this week? Probably. Will I engage in a full-blown back and forth debate about the merits of who should be in and out? No chance.
Life’s too short and there’s more important things to be arguing about. Like which are better: Roses or Quality Street?
Packie Bonner saving Daniel Timofte’s penalty in Italia ’90. Is this Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Moment? Do we really care?