Tuesday 12 December 2017

Searching for the secret of longevity

Dave Devereux

Ryan Giggs played at the highest level into his 40s
Ryan Giggs played at the highest level into his 40s

The mind is a tad cloudy and the body a little bit weary after a weekend of over-indulgence.

I should know better at my age, especially when you consider the reason for my inner and outer turmoil is the crazy celebration of a milestone birthday.

Yes, yours truly has reached the grand old age of 40 (there's no need to send me a birthday card). I've reluctantly accepted that my age (and lack of talent) have scuppered my chances of becoming a top flight footballer but I'm not quite ready to be put out to pasture just yet.

My best days may be light years behind me, left to wither away on some dusty dirt track like a torn up thistle, but it hasn't stopped me trying to party like some young buck half my age.

The main problem when you have an extra few miles on the clock is not the taking part in the debauchery but the ridiculous length of time it takes to recover afterwards.

I'm sure the same is true for sports men and women playing at the highest level, or any level for that matter.

You just have to look at soccer players like Paul McGrath or Roy Keane who had long-running battles with their own bodies to keep playing at the top level for as long as they could.

Or Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll, who had to adapt his style of play after a series of injuries before he ended his remarkable career on a high.

Most sports stars playing in the upper echelons of the game call it a day in their mid-30s when the sound of squeaking bed springs have been replaced with the ominous noise of creaking bones.

However, there are a few notable exceptions, remarkable members of the evergreen gang.

We've all heard of or seen the sprightly corner-forward in his 60s or 70s who takes to field to make up the numbers in a Junior B match but for the purpose of this column we'll stick to those in the professional realms.

Ryan Giggs is one that immediately springs to mind with the Manchester United man playing at the top level at the age of 40. Whether it was his passion for yoga or his extra curricular activities that was the secret to longevity I don't know but he remained fresher than a milkman's early morning delivery throughout a trophy-laden career.

Giggs was only in the ha'penny place in comparison to Stanley Matthews though with the Wizard of the Dribble holding the record as the oldest player to appear in England's top division in 1965, shortly after he turned 50.

Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton lined out between the posts until he was 47 but obviously a goalkeeper has a better chance of playing into their fifth decade on the planet.

A number of other outfield players have achieved the feat, the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Phillips, Stuart Pearce, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Roger Milla.

Current Scotland manager Gordon Strachan played for Coventry in the Premier League at the age of 40, claiming he kept on playing thanks to a diet of seaweed and bananas.

Of course participants can stay at the top of the game well into the autumns of their lives in other sports, darts maestro Phil Taylor being a prime example, but the lack of physical exertion in the likes of his chosen field and snooker makes it a whole lot easier to keep going.

In fact master of the green baize Fred Davis played in his final professional event at the ripe old age of 78.

I'm reminded of a story a friend told me after visiting his doctor complaining of fatigue and mild chest pains.

When the G.P. asked him if he played any sports he quipped 'Yes doctor, a bit of pool and darts'.

My dreams of lining out in the Premier League or standing to attention for the national anthem in the Aviva Stadium may be dead in the water but who knows I may yet get the chance to pit my wits against the best at the Crucible Theatre or even toe the oche at the Lakeside.

Good luck, I'm off to the pub to throw a few arrows.

Wexford People

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