The sorry tale of the year of the apology



Gabh mo leithsceal.

No offence meant.

Do forgive me.

Just getting in the mood with the above, if you don’t mind.

Have you noticed that this has been a year of apologies in sport? It’s everywhere.

Only a couple of weeks ago someone pointed out to this column that Conor Niland had apologised to his followers on Twitter for his display at Wimbledon earlier this summer (“Lads so sorry I couldn’t get the win for us yesterday. The support has been incredible, pleasure to be a part of it. Next time...”).

Turns out that, that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Going back to July, John Mullane of the Waterford hurling team apologised to his county’s supporters for the team’s display in the Munster hurling final against Tipperary: “I’d like to personally apologise and on behalf of the team to all the people of Waterford who travelled to Cork this afternoon,” said Mullane on that occasion. “We’ve been down this road before three years ago. At least, unlike 2008, we’ve only got two weeks to think about this, and move on.”

Two weeks later, Mullane and his apologists had inflicted a surprise 10-point defeat on the Galway hurlers, leading their manager, John McIntyre, to beat his breast...

“I’d like to apologise on behalf of myself, the team management and the Galway players to the Galway supporters that were here,” said McIntyre after that game. “That’s not a true reflection of the team.”

(McIntyre should have known: Mullane has previous when it comes to provoking apologies — only two years ago he received an apology for being put out of a field at a club game in Waterford; the county board issued a statement on the matter accepting that: “an error was made in asking Mullane to leave the playing field and for that, and for any embarrassment the incident may have caused the player and his family, the board deeply regrets and apologises...”) .

It’s not just GAA and tennis. Recent events in the world of rugby — Ireland’s four consecutive defeats in the World Cup warm-up games — may have overshadowed the controversial defeat Ireland suffered in the Six Nations in Wales this year.

Remember? Mike Philips of Wales scored a try which was wrongly awarded, and while in years past the International Rugby Board would have laughed uproariously at the prospect of hanging its head, on March 11 Paddy O’Brien, the IRB’s referee manager, duly apologised to Ireland for the officiating mix-up in Cardiff.

The guilty touch judge also apologised to Declan Kidney for the mix-up, which occurred when Welsh hooker Matthew Rees was given a ball for a quick throw-in which was different to the one which had been booted into touch.

(Ireland reportedly accepted the apologies, by the way. What else can you do? It shows the nice rearing but you don’t really have an alternative. Say ‘No I don’t accept’ and you come across like a little girl holding her breath until Mummy changes her mind, basically).

Mind you, life has a way of extracting some form of revenge. Welsh star Phillips would later find himself in one of those situations which Welsh players have practically registered as an artistic expression peculiar to them (getting pinned to the ground by a bouncer at a branch of McDonald’s, in the scrum-half’s case).

How did Mike react? “I have formally and sincerely apologised to my teammates and the coaching staff in the Welsh rugby squad and would like to take this opportunity to do exactly the same to the Welsh rugby public and anyone else who has been offended by this or other episodes... I deeply regret...”

Mike made it back into the World Cup squad, as did Australian wing James O’Connor, who faced expulsion when he didn’t show up for a team photo shoot. Can you guess young James’ response? (“I just want to express my regret as this is such an important event for the Wallabies and I would like to apologise to all the fans and my team-mates,” O’Connor said. “I let myself down.”)

If you think the Beautiful Game has been proof against this trend, I give you the Colombian star who may have begun the whole trend. Earlier this year Luis Moreno of Deportivo Pereira had to face the music not for on-field skullduggery, or shenanigans off the pitch, but because of what happened when he met an owl on the field of play.

He killed it, not knowing it was the mascot of opponents Athletico Junior.

How did he respond? “I want to apologise to the fans...”

Elton John, you’re full of it: sorry seems to be the easiest word these days.

* Contact: Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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