The Toy Show is the All-Ire­land of tele­vi­sion, and Scott, Grace and Michael are the MVPs

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT -

SCOTT LOWE and Michael O’Brien are my play­ers of the week. No-one else comes near. Scott is a nine-year-old from Athlone who gave a bone mar­row trans­plant to his six-yearold cousin Grace who was bat­tling leukaemia be­cause, in his own words, “I wanted to save her life.” Michael O’Brien is a vis­ually im­paired 11-yearold from Kerry with the dap­per dress sense and laid-back wit of a young Frank Si­na­tra.

The na­tion en­coun­tered both of them on Fri­day night’s Late Late Toy

Show and it’s a meet­ing we won’t for­get for a long time. I felt proud to share a coun­try with Scott, Grace, Michael and every­one be­long­ing to them.

So what’s the sport­ing con­nec­tion? Well, both of these won­derkids got to meet their sport­ing he­roes. Tadhg Fur­long, Seán O’Brien and Rob Kear­ney popped in to meet Scott. We get lots of praise for win­ning matches, Kear­ney told the kid, but you’re the real hero here. Then they gave him a jersey au­to­graphed by the

Ir­ish team and in­vited him to meet the team be­fore next year’s Six Na­tions match against France.

They’re very proud of the Lowes in Athlone where Scott was mini-mar­shal of this year’s St Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade and the lo­cal com­mu­nity has got­ten be­hind fundrais­ing ef­forts for the girl who’s be­come known as Amaz­ing Grace.

Young Michael’s sport­ing hero is Davy Fitzger­ald. So Davy ar­rived to the child’s ob­vi­ous de­light, bring­ing a Wex­ford jersey with him and ask­ing Michael if he’d ad­dress the team be­fore their Na­tional Hurl­ing League games. The young­ster’s joy was com­plete when Ryan Tubridy of­fered him two tick­ets for next year’s All-Ire­land fi­nal. “How can you get them? It’s not even 2019, it’s more than nine months like. I will en­joy that, boy. Trust me I will.” Michael also in­formed the host that the King­dom were go­ing to take the Sam Maguire from Dublin next year. Ker­ry­men gonna be Ker­ry­men, as they say.

Look­ing at how much these meet­ings meant to those re­mark­able kids, it struck me what an enor­mous part sports stars play in chil­dren’s lives. Adults in gen­eral and sports­writers in par­tic­u­lar prob­a­bly shouldn’t wor­ship them in the same way, but nei­ther should we lose sight of the emo­tional con­nec­tion so many peo­ple feel with them and the way these stars touch so many lives with a bit of magic.

Nei­ther should we for­get how de­cent most of these stars are. Young men and young women for the most part, they are al­ways ready to lend sup­port to a good cause. More and more of them use their fame as a plat­form to do good in their com­mu­ni­ties and help out those who need it most. They do a lot more in this re­spect than many of their most vo­cif­er­ous crit­ics.

For many chil­dren, lead­ing sports­peo­ple are the clos­est thing to real-life su­per­heroes. Given that this is so, it’s no harm for those stars to bear in mind the fa­mous dic­tum from Spi­derman, “with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity.” But by and large the dreams and il­lu­sions of our chil­dren are in good hands.

Maybe you think I’m be­ing a bit sen­ti­men­tal. But we’re all sen­ti­men­tal about some­thing. The cynic is the most sen­ti­men­tal soul of all. He’s deeply sen­ti­men­tal about his own sense of self-right­eous­ness.

Slag­ging off Ryan Tubridy is nearly a na­tional sport, but when I watch the man do­ing his thing on the Toy Show I feel the ad­mi­ra­tion I al­ways feel when watch­ing a sea­soned pro­fes­sional mak­ing a dif­fi­cult task look very easy.

Watch­ing the Toy Show with my twin daugh­ters, I was con­scious of my kin­ship with every­one else all over the coun­try watch­ing at the same time. At a time of global turmoil and con­tention we’re lucky to live in a place where a quiet de­cency is the pre­vail­ing note of ev­ery­day life.

It seemed a fa­mil­iar feel­ing, this sense of a rapt na­tion glued to the box, of one big com­mu­nity united in en­joy­ment of what was go­ing on and cu­rios­ity about what was go­ing to hap­pen next. And then it hit me. The

Late Late Show is the All-Ire­land fi­nal of light en­ter­tain­ment.

Hope you en­joyed it. I wasn’t cry­ing, you were cry­ing.

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