Monday 21 October 2019

Billy Dodd's column

Sport's power to unite people is a vital rallying force

Billy Dodd.
Billy Dodd.

by Billy Dodd

In the last few weeks there have been plenty of incidents, proposed rule changes, managerial coups, resignations and loads of other items that could fill a column.

However, in light of what happened in Paris it would be futile to complain about such issues, as their importance pales into insignificance.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't revisit them in the future for a moan. Instead it might be prudent to highlight how sport has helped people recover from tragedy on a personal, community and national scale.

In Paris the death toll could have been much higher as the suicide bombers had attempted to get one 'martyr' into the Stade de France with the intention of detonating and forcing people to flee into the path of another bomber. Only the sickest people could hatch such a scheme.

It's not the first time thousands of innocents have been targeted and it won't be the last. Could you imagine the carnage if such an attack was attempted at the All-Ireland final or at a rugby international or at last week's play-off at the Aviva? It shows how defenceless spectators can be at sporting events.

A number of examples in recent years have shown the resilience of people and how sport is used as a form of defiance in times of adversity.

After the infamous 9/11 bombings, the world series baseball final between the Mets and Yankees was seen as a uniting force that rejuvenated spirits in the city.

The Spanish soccer team which won the 2006 European championship dedicated their victory to the victims of the Madrid bombings.

After the London bombings in 2005, the city began a period of revival that saw them host the Champions League final in 2011 and culminated in the greatest show on earth, the Olympics in 2012.

On the home front, Bloody Sunday in 1920, when Tipperary player Michael Hogan was shot, was the saddest day in G.A.A. history. Almost 10,000 people had gathered to watch a challenge match between Dublin and Tipperary.

Fifteen people never returned home from Croke Park that day as they were murdered, but this tragedy only galvanised the spirit in the association and it grew from strength to strength as a consequence.

It was very uplifting to see the 95th anniversary of that tragic event marked in such a moving and appropriate way in Croke Park on Saturday before the international rules game against Australia, with Tom Ryan from Glenbrien among the deceased who were remembered.

Thankfully not too many sporting occasions themselves have been targeted and hopefully it's not a tactic that will be used in future.

Whatever tragedies occur in future though, people will still use sport as their outlet to gather with their friends and comrades to display their passion, whether it's local, national or international.

Earlier this month marked the one hundredth anniversary of the first of the famous Wexford All-Ireland football four-in-a-row victories, which was hardly recognised or mentioned in G.A.A. circles.

People may forget that the amazing feat by this Seán O'Kennedy-captained team could have been even greater except for defeats by Kerry in the previous two finals also.

This historic achievement has only been matched once by the great Kerry team managed by Mick O'Dwyer, and probably will never be matched again.

Glynn-Barntown native Lorcan Doyle has often entertained the locals in Declan's in Killurin with stories of his ancestor, 'Tearing' Tom Doyle, a stalwart of that famous team.

I am assuming the 'Tearing' nickname was a reference to his turn of pace and speed as he raced up the field.

Having played against Lorcan and his brother, Barry, I can safely say that it was no mistake that they did not inherit his nickname.

Wexford People

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