Saturday 18 November 2017

Deserved winners on emotional day

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Joe Canning embraces Shannon Keady, daughter of the late Tony, after Galway’s victory
Joe Canning embraces Shannon Keady, daughter of the late Tony, after Galway’s victory

The young lad threw on the club colours for his first-ever hurling match on Sunday.

It was a proud occasion for the snap-happy mammies and daddies of the eager under-sixes as they tucked the oversized jerseys into the shorts and plenty of photos were taken as reminders of the momentous day.

It's wonderful to watch children playing simply for the love of the game, and though they may all follow the ball like the Three Wise Men in pursuit of the Star of Bethlehem at times there's a beautiful wide-eyed innocence to it all.

My own little fella even managed to force the ball over the line for a goal, something that would keep the smile on a five-year-old's face all afternoon.

At that tender age, although they may have developed a slight competitive edge, thankfully it's not all about winning and losing.

The important thing is to garner as much enjoyment from the game as possible and everybody shakes hands at the end of it - an important life lesson.

A bit like kids' matches, the All-Ireland final was a contest I wanted neither side to lose. Galway have had more heartache in recent years than an Eastenders Christmas special, while luckless Waterford have spent more time in the wilderness than Grizzly Adams.

There were plenty of reasons for wanting both sides to triumph. Waterford have for so long lived in the shadow of their hurling aristocrat neighbours Kilkenny and after seeing them finally shake off the Cats earlier in the year it would have been nice to witness the Deise capture the All-Ireland the county crave and deserve.

However, Galway have endured plenty of tough days since their last memorable triumph in 1988 and maybe, after the suffering the indescribable hurt of the death of Tony Keady recently, it was just written in the stars.

Speaking of destiny, if any hurler deserved to get their hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup, it's Joe Canning.

A true great of the modern era, or any era for that matter, he has shone like a beacon on pitches the length and breadth of the country for years and it would have been a travesty had he gone through his inter-county career without winning the big one.

When he arrowed over a point with just seconds on the clock, you could sense this would be the day he'd finally do it, and although the Munster men battled bravely to the end, there's no doubting that it was the right result, and the team that have been a cut above the rest all year got their reward.

Hopefully Waterford will be back to win an All-Ireland crown soon, and with this year's showpiece throwing up a novel pairing, it would be great to see a break from the status quo and, like the mid-nineties, we might see one or two unheralded sides make the breakthrough.

Back to Tony Keady, who was surely smiling down as the west finally awoke from its slumber.

It was truly wonderful when every spectator stood up to honour the great man in the sixth minute of the game, but it was even more poignant when the Galway supporters instinctively chanted his name after they had finally got their hands on the prize.

As co-commentator Michael Duignan fought back the tears as he spoke about Keady, there was surely a lump in the throat of every viewer as the poignancy and raw emotion of the victory hit home.

To see his wife and daughter, Margaret and Shannon, on screen as David Burke made an emotional speech, illustrated perfectly that the sense of community that surrounds the game makes it even more special.

The G.A.A. is about friends, family and a pride of place, something which runs deep through the veins of the grassroots of the organisation, and both Galway and Waterford should be immensely proud of their efforts on Sunday, and all year, as they gave hope and joy to their respective counties.

Sadly there had to be a loser and, of course, when you get to that level, triumph or defeat is the bottom line, but sometimes, like a child excitedly running out for their first match, sport and the human spirit are the real winners.

Wexford People

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