A real ‘Lust for Life’ for Irish sports fans
ON SATURDAY night I re-familiarised myself with some characters from my college days as Channel 4 were showing ‘T2 Trainspotting’, a movie which I inexplicably was late to the party for, having been released over two years ago.
Anyhow, it’s better late than never and it transported me back to my carefree, sometimes crazy days living in Dublin in the mid-nineties, times when I had a lot more hair on my head and a hell of a lot less things to worry about.
They were halcyon days in sporting terms too, with the likes of Wexford, Clare and Offaly turning the status quo on its head by winning All-Ireland hurling crowns, while our international soccer team was a match for most, with players such as Paul McGrath and Roy Keane confidently strutting their stuff in the green jersey.
In hurling we had giants of the game like Martin Storey, Joe Dooley and Jamesie O’Connor lighting up our weekends, while on the big screen Mark Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie entertained us in an altogether different way in ‘Trainspotting’ in its original guise.
That said, the ultra-violent Begbie wouldn’t have been out of place in the infamous 1996 Meath versus Mayo All-Ireland football final, as the fisticuffs on show that day would have seamlessly fitted into the Danny Boyle-directed black comedy.
Despite the foreboding clouds overhead, there was certainly nothing black about Sunday on these shores, bar the odd card of that colour in Croke Park, and it was certainly a ‘Perfect Day’ for Irish sport.
Supporters, who couldn’t watch the action live, were surely glad they spent it in front of their television sets as, like his fellow county men before the turn of the millennium, it was an Offaly hero who was punching above his weight.
Shane Lowry certainly didn’t keep his fans hanging on though with his commanding final day performance at The Open in Portrush, in which he took the pressure in his stride, ensuring it was as easy as possible for his legion of followers to keep their heart rate in check.
His breath-taking 63 on Saturday may have seen him place one hand on the Claret Jug, but how the amiable Clara man kept his cool on Sunday to seal the deal without breaking sweat was every bit as impressive.
Lowry’s wonderful success wasn’t the only thing worth celebrating though, as what’s rare is wonderful and Kerry and Donegal proved that there’s life left in the ancient game of Gaelic football, rescuing it from the ‘Underworld’ and actually providing us with a decent game for once.
Despite the greasy conditions, there was no need for ‘Born Slippy’ to bellow out of the speakers around G.A.A. headquarters as the Munster and Ulster men breathed joy back into Croke Park after the life had been sucked out of it the previous day.
It was definitely a case of leaving the best until last as they finished level at 1-20 each after an absorbing encounter.
Just when it looked like the Super 8s could be shut down for being seriously in breach of the trade descriptions act, two heavyweights stepped up and went toe-to-toe, although neither could quite land a knockout blow as the intensity and pace never waned.
After the euphoria at The Open had begun to die down and the crowd had drifted from Croke Park, there was still the not-sosmall matter of the Irish Under-19s bidding to book their place in the semi-final of the European Championships.
Their 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic, coupled with Norway’s 1-0 loss to France, meant they sailed into the final four, where they will meet holders Portugal on Wednesday.
It’s a remarkable achievement for Tom Mohan’s young Boys in Green, considering a host of their better talent, which includes the likes of promising Spurs star Troy Parrott and Southampton’s Michael Obafemi, are missing from the tournament due to clubs not releasing players, forcing the manager to draft a number of Under-17s into the squad.
The young guns have certainly stepped up to the mark though, and there’s plenty in the Emerald Isle, of all ages, with a real pep in their step and a real ‘Lust for Life’ this morning.
If Irvine Welsh had a long-lost Irish cousin, with an equal flair for language and drama, he couldn’t have scripted Sunday any more beautifully.
Shane Lowry celebrates with caddy Brian Martin on the 18th green after winning The Open Championship.