Friday 20 July 2018

There's life in the old dog yet

Weird Wide World of Sport

Ronnie O’Sullivan lifts the Paul Hunter Trophy after beating Joe Perry in the final of The Masters
Ronnie O’Sullivan lifts the Paul Hunter Trophy after beating Joe Perry in the final of The Masters

Dave Devereux

We made the somewhat brave and some would say foolhardy decision to have a family day out in the big shmoke at the weekend.

There was a time in a previous, more frivolous, life, when a visit to the capital meant pubs and nightclubs and copious amounts of alcohol.

Now it's more a case of play areas, pizzas and toy shops with irritating sounds of 'can I buy this daddy?' ringing in my ears.

When you're sitting in front of the television on a Saturday evening feeling like a Junior B corner-forward well past his prime, suffering from aches and pains all over from being dragged around a shopping centre and from the journey home, you know you're getting old.

Being in your forties isn't all doom and gloom however.

After arriving back at base following our adventure, and once the kids were snoring like a rumble from Steve Bruce's belly, I flicked on the TV to see two veterans of the game, Joe Perry and Barry Hawkins, battling it out for the pleasure of trying to outfox 41-year-old Ronnie O'Sullivan, who beat Marco Fu, who happens to turn 40 next year, in his semi-final.

With Joe Perry 5-2 down and requiring a snooker to stay in the contest it looked like his hopes were shattered like my aching bones in the twilight stages of an excursion with the kids, but like myself he ploughed on manfully and came out on top through sheer doggedness and pig ignorance, while Hawkins was left with the deflated look of a man that has been left standing and waiting outside one too many ladies' clothes shops.

Obviously snooker is a sport where you can continue to mix it at the top level for longer than more physical sports, but you still often hear claims that it's a young man's game.

It used to move on pretty seamlessly from one generation to the next; Reardon to Davis, Davis to Hendry, Hendry to O'Sullivan, but now the ones going thin on top are hanging around and mixing it with the big boys like forty-somethings at a nightclub refusing to accept the inevitable and instead hitting the dancefloor at a nightclub for a burst of the funky chicken.

Sunday's final of The Masters did have all the hallmarks of two auld fellas going toe to toe for much of the tense encounter, with O'Sullivan in particular failing to hit the heights that we all know he can.

However, at least the more mature Ronnie is showing that with age comes wisdom.

A young O'Sullivan may have become frustrated with his inability to find top gear, but now he's willing to take stock and do what it takes to get over the line, grinding out a result that even Cliff Thorburn would be proud of.

Leading up to the tournament O'Sullivan said he wants to be the Lionel Messi of snooker and be the ultimate entertainer, but in the final he was more of a Javier Mascherano-type figure, showing that he's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work as he eventually saw off the stubborn resistance of a rejuvenated Joe Perry 10-7.

An out of sorts O'Sullivan fought back from a dodgy start, which saw him trailing 4-1, to claim a record seventh Masters crown, surpassing Stephen Hendry's tally of six.

Magnificent seven is a phrase that can be as overused as an old-fashioned cloth nappy, but there's only one word to describe the talent that is Ronnie O'Sullivan: magnificent.

Now where's the Deep Heat? My bloody back is killing me.

Wexford People

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