Woulda, coulda, shoulda

IF Christmas is for the kids, today is mainly for winners. A cruel, elitist time of year when we look back and pick our best, our favourite, our most memorable.

As if our best and favourite and most memorable hadn’t enough going for them.

All the while, the vast majority of us are keener to see the old year out than the new one in, reflecting on another 12 months of might’ve-beens, missed opportunities and bad breaks. And we’ve made plenty of excuses along the way.

40. Blow out: A few gusts of wind at Sandwich and Rory McIlroy didn’t just slip off the Open pace, he lost all interest in winning golf tournaments where “the outcome is predicted so much by the weather”.

39. Give me glasses: After 15 World Championship wins, Phil Taylor was never going to accept defeat as the natural revolution of swings and roundabouts. “My eyesight’s gone or it’s not half of what it used to be.”

38. Form was too good: Whisper it, but there’s a few in Tipp wondering if Lar really needed to go to town on Waterford. In all, seven seeds of complacency were sown in Clinton Hennessy’s net.

37. Woe is us: Cork footballers bowed out without fuss, but will insist, privately, that this was a crown conceded due to the sheer volume of injuries in their forward division.

36. Judge this: Of the many reasons his backers have put forward for the narrowness of his win over Juan Manuel Márquez, we prefer the theory that Manny Pacquiao’s longer hair flops around more, drawing attention to punches landed. Easily solved, Manny.

35. We told ye so: Wexford will forever wave Ian Ryan’s point wide and bemoan the tardiness of Hawk Eye’s arrival.

34. Deja vu: Some delayed karma for the Royals perhaps, but Graham Geraghty’s disallowed goal against Kildare was the first of a series of square ball controversies.

33. We were robbed: However comprehensively they were outclassed in the Nou Camp, Arsenal will point out they were ahead in the tie when Robin van Persie was sent off for doing what became quite natural to him in 2011: shooting into the goal.

32. Spear me the details: The letter, spirit and application of the spear tackle law were teased out in detail as Wales worked themselves into a lather of indignation over Sam Warburton’s sending off.

31. Don’t push me: A costly shove saw Amir Kahn deducted the two points that swung his title fight Lamont Peterson’s way and left his pocket €20m lighter. “When you come to someone’s home town you start off two points down anyway before the first bell goes.”

30. Gone in six days: The killer GAA turnaround. This year, after defeat by Kildare followed Ulster final heartbreak, Derry were the ones “not using it as an excuse, but…”

29. Locked out of their own stadium: A bit of respect at home would surely have given Offaly hurlers the extra needed to make up that one-point deficit on Cork.

28. Injuries: Adrian Gonzalez had an easy excuse for the big-spending Red Sox’s September collapse; “Any time a team that doesn’t make the playoffs and is supposed to is because of injuries. Plain and simple.”

27. Lacking ambition: With the Villa carrot dangling overhead, Mark Hughes left Fulham because the club “lacked ambition”. That job disappeared, along with Stuart Downing, Ashley Young and Villa’s ambition too.

26. Rugby kicks: Cesc Fabregas learned a thing or two in eight years working with Arsene Wenger. Of Carling Cup defeat at Ipswich, he explained: “I don’t know it if it is long ball or it is a rugby kick, but it worked for them.”

25. Bite the hand that throws the darts: Co Stompe’s exit from the PDC World Darts was inevitable from the day he visited Aron Winter’s house and took a bite on the hand from his American bull terrier. “It wasn’t ideal preparation.”

24. Time to leave: John Daly explained away his walkout from the Australian Open. “When you run out of balls, you run out of balls.”

23. Robot wars: Louisville Cardinals coach Charlie Strong blamed defeat to Pittsburgh on the untimely release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. “They got called to duty. There’s something new and they want to try it and it just engulfs them.”

22. Blame your team: Robert Allenby didn’t feel the load was being shared at the Presidents Cup. “Everyone’s making me look like I’m playing like shit and then it starts wearing on your mind a little bit, maybe you are.”

21. Long plan: Steve Kean lost to Cardiff in order to better concentrate on losing to Sunderland, West Brom and Bolton. “We are in a position where we have forfeited going through and having the chance to reach a cup final.”

20. Throwing in the towel: If Jose Mourinho has made the compilation of Clasico excuses his new life’s work, this didn’t rank among his better efforts; “There were no ball-boys in the second half, something typical of small teams experiencing difficulties.”

19. Jeerleaders: As Crystal Palace flirted with relegation last spring, some fans insisted the scantily-clad “Crystals” were distracting players with their dancing before games.

18. Kerry collapse: Without asserting it publicly, they’ve somehow let everyone know the seven-minute final would never have got started if Declan O’Sullivan hadn’t got the knock off Ger Brennan and been so dazed he simply waved Kevin McManamon through on goal.

17. While they’re at it: Soft free to win it. And that was a foul on Colm Cooper up in the corner all day long.

16. Dark forces: Richard Keys blamed a Sky conspiracy for his sexism implosion and claimed “the studio is our dressing room”.

15. Odd-shaped balls: “You feel like you’re smashing it,” claimed Jonny Wilkinson, in what sounded like a reprise of Keysy’s difficulties. But this time it was the Rugby World Cup balls rather than an open mic that saw Jonny come undone.

14. Trevelyan’s revenge: It was all going so well for Conor Niland until the Fields of Athenry rang around Court 17. Soon 4-1 in the fifth became 4-6 and Adrian Mannarino had stolen the corn.

13. Snookered: Anthony Hamilton suffered a personal China crisis after exiting the Shanghai Masters. “The cameraman was moving on every shot. It was hard to concentrate and it did my head in.”

12. Contador’s Spanish steak: The dinner that keeps repeating.

11. Out of pocket: An 8-2 defeat doesn’t make it easy, but it’s not beyond Arsene. “It’s difficult to find excuses after a game like that, but wages-wise, of course we are behind the other teams.”

10. Fed Vexed: Perhaps the year’s biggest disappointment: Roger Federer’s churlish reaction to Novak Djokovic’s winner at match-point in the US Open. “I had it. There’s no more I could do. Just gets the lucky shot at the end and off you go…”

9. Strife of Reilly: Who knew the rules of Gaelic football could be applied as zealously in the last minute of a Leinster semi-final as the first? Certainly not Kildare or Aindriu MacLochlainn.

8. Ronaldo v Messi: Has someone so consistently impressive ever been more persistently overshadowed? Frustration got to Ronnie “He was very good, but against 10 it is easy. I wish I’d the opportunity to play against 10.”

7. Gone in Movember: Every drug test failure is invariably packaged with a creative line in anguished innocence. In the case of Japanese fly-half Ryohei Yamanaka, the overwhelming desire for a bushy moustache made that mystery cream irresistible.

6. Don’t Mackem me laugh: Steve Bruce left it to allies like Fergie to spread the word: he was sacked because he is a Geordie.

5. Culture clubbed: The excuse that he can be as racist as he likes back home just didn’t wash for Luis Suarez.

4. Insane bolt: Defeat to the US at the Women’s World Cup saw North Korea coach Kim Kwang-min underline his nation’s reputation for outlandish excuses. He said five players were struck by lightning in training.

3. Diet of champions: Does my bum look big in this? Kolo Toure apparently asked his missus of the unflattering City togs. I’ve just the thing, she said. Cue six months sitting on his well-upholstered.

2. Toenailed: When David Haye pulled off his shoe at the end of his weak effort against Vladimir Klitschko and shoved his toe in the face of every unfortunate nearby; the stench that already rises off heavyweight boxing grew even more pungent.

1. Wallabies drowned: We have Matt Williams to thank for our favourite excuse of the sporting year. Robbie Deans’ tyros floundered against Ireland in the well-watered garden of Eden Park because they’d never seen a shower of rain before. “This is the Australian drought generation. They, and other Australians of this age, have no concept of wet-weather tactics.”

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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