Tuesday 23 January 2018

A journeyman returns

By Dave Devereux

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Stuart Bingham lifts the trophy after beating Shaun Murphy in the final of the 2015 Betfred World Snooker Championship at Crucible Theatre on May 4, 2015 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Stuart Bingham lifts the trophy after beating Shaun Murphy in the final of the 2015 Betfred World Snooker Championship at Crucible Theatre on May 4, 2015 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

When Gene Autry belted out in his distinctive country drawl 'I'm back in the saddle again' it's doubtful that he would have envisaged a small-time sports columnist using the words he warbled to illustrate their return to the fold.

After my previous incarnation as 'Inside Right' I'm riding the range once more after a sabbatical of a few years.

I've been biding my time on the sideline, warming the ice-cold dugout with my rotund posterior, waiting patiently to get the nod from the boss, sitting in the wings like a coiled spring and now that I'm released I'm in danger of taking an eye out, like the 19-stone, beer-bellied substitute that's been thrown in at full-forward for the last ten minutes to do bit of damage and shake things up a little.

Yes, the ultimate journeyman is back.

Speaking of those who supposedly should be past their prime but reach for the stars, Stuart Bingham winning the World Snooker Championship was a real shot in the arm for the triers and dreamers.

At only a few weeks short of 39 it would be somewhat of an understatement to describe his triumph as a surprise given that he only made it past the second round twice in 15 years.

Okay it may be snooker which doesn't require tip-top fitness and Greek God-like physique, so it's not exactly akin to some random 43-year-old sprinting past Usain Bolt to win the 100 metres Olympic gold, but a shocker nonetheless.

You hear about the odd 71-year-old lining out at corner-forward in a Junior 'B' hurling match but given that the fella he's marking is usually three stone overweight and weighed down by 15 pints, a taco chips and a doner kebab from the night before the auld lad probably should have the upper hand.

Bingham's seismic success was the equivalent of yours truly scooping the Pulitzer Prize for some earth-shattering expose after years of spouting shite in the regional press.

Speaking of late bloomers, Wes Hoolohan's polevault into the international limelight after years of being ignored like a fart in a lift comes into that category.

If Eamon Dunphy is to be believed he's our greatest attacking midfielder since 'Chippy' Brady so it must have come as a real shock to the contrary pundit when wonder Wes couldn't make the Norwich team for the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against local rivals Ipswich.

Hoolohan is a decent enough player and should always be pushing for a starting place in the Irish team but the over-the-top salivating about his dribbling and passing skills is more than a tad ridiculous.

The Andy Reid rumblings all over again.

Age may be just a number but try telling that to my chiropractor after a weekend of trying to keep up with the kids in the playground, but if the Juventus players can strut their stuff in the latter stages of the Champions League with an average age of 52 or so yours truly can easily throw out a few words of wisdom on a weekly basis.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao showed it's never too late to rumble, although a decade ago the 'contest' may have been a few degrees more palatable.

I saw a far better scrap when I witnessed two pensioners going toe to toe, trying to beat seven shades of shite out of each other leaving a match in Tullamore a few years back, but that's a tale for another day.

I'm hoping to become the ultimate journeyman, although maybe lacking the class of Nicolas Anelka, the killer instinct of Marcus Bent, the determination of Steve Claridge or the longevity of goalkeeper John Burridge, who had more clubs than Rory McIlroy.

In the week David Beckham celebrated his 40th birthday (now that does make me feel old) I'm returning to the coalface, knowing that my own milestone of four decades on the planet is only a matter of months away.

However, all is not lost. Many artists produced some of their finest work in their advancing years so the dream is to become the Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash of sports columnists.

The most important aspect of returning to these weekly ramblings is that I have regained my ready-made, number one excuse for viewing all sorts of sport on the box.

'I have to watch the soccer, darts or bog snorkelling darling, I need inspiration for my column.' It never fails (unless she reads this, but I think I'm safe enough).

Anyway folks, get ready for one hell of a rollercoaster ride. It's sure to be thrilling and exhillarating with plenty of ups and downs, but most of all it's going to leave you feeling more than a little bit queasy.

Wexford People

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