Real heroes are far from sporting fields

Dave Devereux

Published 19/03/2016 | 00:00

Jockeys show immense bravery, yet punters are quick to criticise
Jockeys show immense bravery, yet punters are quick to criticise

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death; I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.'

Bill Shankly may have been an outstanding football manager and certainly knew how to captivate an audience, but his summation of the value of 22 players kicking the ball around a patch of grass is as over the top as a volley from an ungainly centre-half.

Okay, the canny Scot, who won all before him with Liverpool, might have had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek with his grandiose meanderings about the beautiful game but sport on any level doesn't surpass the traumas and troughs of real life.

You might be wondering, why I'm coming across all profound and insightful but after the four days of mental strain I've had I hope you'll agree it's understandable.

Like any other sports fan I would have loved to have spent the weekend watching rugby, soccer, GAA, horse racing and whatever else tickled my fancy but sadly my time was spent toing and froing between the doctor's surgery and the local hospital.

Our young fella picked up a viral infection, which manifested itself in a horribly shocking body rash, resulting in a stay in hospital and when you see your four-year-old looking all tiny and helpless in a bed in a ward it's hard not to get emotional.

After the illness had first raised its ugly head above the parapets on Thursday, the sporting headlines were grabbed by idiotic supporters trying to get a rise out of opposing fans with sickening chants of past tragedies.

Of course both Manchester United and Liverpool followers have been guilty of grotesque references to the Hillsborough and Munich disasters and stupidity is so commonplace on the terraces it just makes me roll my eyes to the heavens these days, rather than igniting any real anger.

Words like hero and legend are bandied about far too easily in sport, by over-eager journalists and wide-eyed fans alike, whether it be 'heroic' defeats or 'life-affirming' victories.

When a long-serving international retires from the game you'd swear they had done something worthy of a sainthood, such is the pontificating and salivating over their on-field achievements.

Of course someone who gave their all during a seismic career in the green of Ireland deserves fulsome praise to be lavished upon them, but the level we go to is more than a marathon beyond ridiculous and my suspicion is it's almost an embarrassment to the players themselves.

Let's be honest, professional Sports stars are paid handsomely for doing something they love - warriors maybe, but heroes, no. Amateur players may deserve greater praise as they do it chiefly for the cause and the love of their chosen game, but again labelling them heroes is pushing it.

If you want to see real heroes pop your head into an A&E anywhere in the country and watch the overworked and underpaid staff doing their utmost to help those in need, or spare a thought for the young boys and girls in the children's ward, proper little legends who show bravery miles beyond their tender years to battle head on whatever cruel illness has befallen them.

There's plenty of these young battlers who have to fight diseases so cruel that they're almost unimaginable and unthinkable for any parent. Some will win their biggest fight, but sadly some will lose.

We've been robbed of some great sporting stars through tragedy over the years - names like Ayrton Senna, Marc-Vivien Foe and Cormac McAnallen will be forever etched in our memories.

Bravery is another word that tends to get overused but one of the most courageous things you'll see in sport will be everywhere you look this week as jockeys battle it out to get that coveted Cheltenham Festival winner.

Riders like Kieran Kelly and Jack Tyner have paid the ultimate price, while others like J.T. McNamara and Robbie McNamara and have been left paralysed following falls.

Yet you have what can only be described as arsehole punters, that have a comfortable barstool for a saddle, who find it all too easy to criticise jockeys and dish out insults like complimentary peanuts.

Being a big fan of the Cheltenham Festival, as usual I'll scrawl the names of a good few horses (or ginnets as the case may be) on to betting slips over the course of the week but, win or lose, it doesn't really matter.

As long as the little lad is okay, that's the only winning docket in my back pocket that I need.

Wexford People

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