Rebels now righteous brothers

They pile up, inspiring us, enthralling us, exhausting us; those sublime sporting moments of ecstasy and vindication.

Rebels now righteous brothers

Rafa dropping to his knees, the ninth in the bag. Katie, turning glory into a habit. Neymar scuffing one through the daisies to hoist a nation off his shoulders. The Cavan lads, at the Athletic Grounds, securing the outside lane in the parade.

The man who begins to find causes too petty has let his standards slip. “Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument.” That was the day Hamlet knew what it would take to come out of Ulster.

Confucius knew it too, when he say: “A superior man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything. He follows righteousness as the standard.”

That was it. Righteousness. When the dust settled and the handbags were reclasped and the Armagh lads, powered by their own righteousness, were defied once more when they went again up the outside; when all that was done, we saw on the Cavan faces that magical release of glee and rage and, yes, righteousness.

You knew then they’d be well beaten, no other victory could be as sweet that day. They won’t come out of Ulster this year. But they will always have the day they fought for the right to stand behind a flag. And fought harder to prevent that flag being shifted five yards sideways. Some day it might even stand to them.

“Oh, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”

It could only have been the righteousness, too, that sent Stephen O’Keeffe out to meet Anthony Nash last Sunday. A crazy manoeuvre that demanded battery on his own terms. The dash of a man fighting one of the great wrongs, the worst betrayals.

They don’t want us to personalise this; to make this about Anthony. And you hate to do it. A grand fellow, by all accounts. And you understand a man, who has spent time rooting on a sideline, perfecting a party trick for when the stage is his.

But still. A Cork man, of all things, going against the union? The goalkeepers’ union. How could he have done it to his people, stacked these odds against them? You could have accepted all of this, expected it even, from a cold-blooded sniper on the wing or in the corner. And sure enough, those lads have needed no invitation to replicate it.

Anthony knew, in his heart of hearts, advantage would be short. And yet his people’s persecution could be long and painful.

Even in the Premier League, where you won’t find much righteousness on an average Saturday, they know the score. That’s why Begovic of Stoke, when he smashed one the length of the field over Boruc of Southampton, kept his arms down and just gave thanks it wasn’t him betrayed by the gust or the bounce.

Dónal Óg explained it here lately, when he came back from Lisbon. “I wanted Atletico to win but I didn’t want Real Madrid to lose and for that loss to go into Casillas’s account.”

Anthony wanted a lodgement to rest in his own account a short while. But that dodge had to come from his people’s pockets.

So out dashed Stephen. “Exposing what is mortal and unsure. To all that fortune, death, and danger dare.”

He was doing it for Anthony as much as any of them, as he told him with the dunt after.

“When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” The always righteous, if not always right, Billy Graham had it this time.

So the chiefs straightened themselves out and found a way to fix things, or patch things. Maybe the wrong way, but the right thing to do.

In Cork, they will never accept they were wrong on this one. This is the year the rules were changed to thwart them. “I have cause and will and strength and means.” Right or wrong, Cork have righteousness on their side now. Like Cavan, that might be worth more to them in the long run.

Fearing the cynic again

Right as they were, the GAA top brass, it seems, neglected to tie up one loophole, unless they were up late last night baking more fudge.

The grossest profit might now lie with a tumble outside the 21 instead of the customary charge and collapse inside the square.

That needs fixing, clearly, but I’m too sure about the other hullabaloo to emerge from this week’s tinkering; the renewal of the great modern GAA fear of the cynic.

Ger Loughnane has noted some excuse-me hurling around the field alright, on certain days, but can we really point to many moments where defenders were opting to allow a man through unhindered on the basis that they would probably stick the penalty anyway?

Green light to yellow cards

Wisely playing down a rumble after his boys broke even on the fight, but lost the cause, Paul Grimley assured us it was only a bit of pushing and shoving anyway, last Sunday.

By traditional melee standards, true.

The usual World Cup warm-up this week took in the Battle of Santiago in 1962. The game David Coleman famously called “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football possibly in the history of the game”.

Righteousness drove men very wrong that day. The Italian papers had called the place a kip and the Chileans sought redress on the field. The Italians, in turn, didn’t stand back, and there was mayhem.

Lessons though. When we hear complaints now about referees from far-flung places, who mightn’t be up to speed, it is easy to forget how many World Cup fiascos have been adjudicated on by local men.

Ken Aston from Essex lost control of this one. Not that Ken took it lying down. A few years later, sitting at traffic lights, he thought up the idea of red and amber cards. His own back. Now all refs carry a small piece of Ken’s righteousness with them.

Charles redefining the odds

It might, for once, be worth a short detour from Brazil, if you can face slumming it at a dogfight while there is a festival on.

This morning, in Melbourne, The Ugly Game will produce a rare beautiful moment, when Nathan Charles makes his debut for Australia.

His parents were told, when Charles was three months old, that he had cystic fibrosis. They were warned he mightn’t live to his teens. You wonder how much they dared to dream for him. Probably not this much.

There will be tears, no doubt, in Melbourne and elsewhere, this morning. But not from Charles. He won’t be defined by his condition. Instead he is redefining it.

Heroes & villains


Oscar (above): Despite the officiating, the opening game was a gift. A commemorative Romario toe-poke tied a bow on it.

The 1,500: competing in Limerick this weekend and the 3,000 volunteers at the Special Olympics too. All redefining dreams as much as Nathan Charles.

San Antonio Spurs: Talked the talk, now walking the cakewalk. Getting it done to watch the football.


Oscar (above, still): Didn’t he have all the signs of a lad who had just taken six months off?

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