Heroic victory tonic for all codes

IRELAND’S breathtaking win over England at Twickenham helped deflect attention from some of the less wholesome headlines in the sports pages.

It was all the more welcome because of that.

The manner of their success over the World Cup winners was the stuff of legends and will be remembered, no doubt, in verse and in song.

It is a truism to suggest that sport mirrors life and society in general. Never was that more graphically illustrated than in the past week.

On the one hand were the stories reflecting the less attractive elements of society; the issues raised in the horse racing world and the lurid tales swirling around the heads of Leicester City footballers in Spain.

Another constant thread running through the patchwork quilt of our existence was identified with particular sadness in Eglish, Co Tyrone.

Cormac McAnallen was laid to rest amid poignant scenes that were a particularly sad reminder of the heartache and sense of loss that all families inevitably experience.

The too early departure from this world of Tyrone’s young giant struck a chord that reverberated throughout the weekend’s sports activities.

A minute’s silence was observed in his memory before each of the Irish Senior Cup hockey semi-finals involving Cork Harlequins that I attended on Saturday in Belfast.

It was particularly appropriate, in my view, that the hockey players of Ulster and Munster should have stood to express their solidarity with a fellow sports person whose involvement with Tyrone matched their own honest commitment to their sport.

TALK OF amateurism in sport conjures up contradictory feelings in this observer for there are many different shades to that particular hue. There are many in sport who are amateurs in name only.

Hockey is one sport where there are no grey areas. Those who play senior hockey have to support their involvement with hard cash.

Harlequins’ men’s team travelled in cars to Belfast on the eve of their semi-final and drove home immediately after the game. Each of the players contributed 80 towards expenses.

Their ladies’ team opted to travel on the morning of the game, reserving seats on a charter flight that was organised by the club. They paid 120 each for the privilege.

The Munster hockey officials are determined to address this issue in the context of effecting change in a structure that seriously needs modernising.

They are seeking a programme for the top hockey players that will rejuvenate the sport, capture a higher profile for the participants and attract more support from the public and potential sponsors.

They are proposing the establishment of an All-Ireland League of 10 teams. Ulster and Leinster would automatically have three places, Munster two.

The other two places would be allocated after a round-robin qualifying tournament involving the fourth ranked teams in Ulster and Leinster, the third best in Munster.

Pat Dawson of the Munster Branch commented: “We are going to push for this because teams in Munster need more regular top-class matches to improve the standard.”

It is enlightening to reflect upon the fact that in this day and age there are players who are good enough to represent Ireland in international competition and yet have to pay out of their own pockets to play their games.

What possibility, I wonder, of the Minister for Finance offering them an opportunity to claim income tax relief on their contributions to their sport ?

It would be easy to rail against Government interference in sport as we know it and blame them for every inequity that exists in sport.

It would be just as easy to recall that when a National Lottery scheme was first proposed all those years ago by former Cork TD Donal Creed his proposal was that the proceeds should go to sport.

Far more positive is the attitude of Mr Dawson and the other Munster officials. They recognise that their best chance of improving their sport is to exercise their own initiative.

They should take confidence from the achievement of the rugby players who, through their own wit, imagination and exhilarating spirit, achieved a monumental victory.

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