Sunday 18 August 2019

St. Sebastian plays a part in restoring our sporting faith

Billy Dodd's football analysis

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was easily able to discover that the patron saint of sports and sports people is a man called St. Sebastian.

I was convinced his feast day would be in August but it's January 20, although I am sure he must have been born in August as there must have been some sort of divine intervention in sport over the last two weekends.

Firstly we had a rip-roaring semi-final between Galway and Tipperary, a game that was tense, thrilling and had everyone enthralled right up to the final whistle.

It showed how great hurling is as a spectacle and rescued a fairly ordinary summer of hurling where there were a lot more bad games than good games broadcast.

I can hear the outcry already: what does Dodd know about hurling? Well, I can put you straight right now...Tom Dempsey told me that nugget of information and he knows a little bit more than me.

Over the last few weeks the world of athletics has been running for cover as medallists from major championships over the last twelve years face exposure as drug cheats due to retrospective testing.

On Sunday morning in Beijing the sport received a major boost when the people's champion, Usain Bolt, beat the twice-suspended drugs cheat and pantomime villain Justin Gatlin in the 100m final of the world championship.

Gatlin came to the final on the back of 28 consecutive victories, while Bolt showed indifferent form over the past few months. Thankfully his class showed as Gatlin cracked when the pressure was on and Bolt won his third gold in this discipline.

While all of athletics celebrated, there are still question marks over the whole sport. Three other finalists were also former drug cheats so the credibility of the entire sport has been brought in to question.

Athletics has been tarnished in the same way as cycling was, and we won't know if the greatest athlete or the greatest scientist is responsible for world class performances.

Sebastian Coe has been elected as president of the I.A.A.F. and has made the usual promises about cleaning up the sport. We will wait and see.

Recently I read an interview with the son of his old nemesis, Steve Ovett. Freddy Ovett was a promising athlete himself who has switched to professional cycling in France.

He stated in the interview that doping in athletics is worse than in his new sport. Looks like Freddy is a chip off the old block.

The final piece of redemption occurred in Croke Park again last Sunday when Kerry and Tyrone battled it out in very testing conditions. The days of catch and kick football are long gone, so this game was indicative of modern day methods.

It showed the attributes of players from both sides, their extraordinary fitness levels, aggressive tackling, selfless workrate and some excellent scoretaking.

There was none of the play-acting we have seen in earlier games, which came back to bite Tyrone with the second penalty appeal for a foul on Pádraig McNulty.

Had it happened to Gooch or O'Donoghue at the opposite end I have no doubt it would have been awarded. The decision is a direct result of previous behaviour and I think it was very difficult for the referee to make the right call.

A couple of years ago I said that a video referee should be used for close calls in matches of this importance. Hawkeye takes seconds and has proven to be a major success, so why not use the technology when it is so close at hand?

From a football point of view the important thing is that we had an entertaining game played at tremendous pace and in the right spirit. I think the game next Sunday will be even better when Mayo take on Dublin in front of a sell-out crowd.

The game has been sold out for over two weeks, so it just shows football is still a little bit popular and is not totally dead.

Wexford People

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