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