It’s the end of the year, and hopefully says you, the end of the end of year awards.
Here’s an alternative view of who deserves what.
The Davy Fitz Award forUnintentional Services to Sportswriters - Winner: Joe Schmidt
One always got the impression recently departed Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was rather uneasy with any praise that came his way during the glory days of his tenure.
Funnily enough, he seemed just as uncomfortable about any criticism that dropped on his lap, too, particularly when the graph started its irreversible curve south 11 months ago.
If nothing else this shows a level of consistency in his general disdain for public opinion being expressed one way or the other.
For all the rugby press corps maligned his unwillingness to engage, they should now be thanking him.
Schmidt’s hard-headed decision to self-write his autobiography Ordinary Joe has ensured no player or coach will likely ever do so again, such was the reaction to his offering.
Never has one poorly judged inspirational quote from a major telecommunications company, meant so much, to so many would-be ghost writers.
The Tony McTeague Award for Making Free Taking Cool again - Winner: Sean O’ Shea
A little over a year ago, at Congress, the GAA chose to invigorate high fielding via the offensive mark, as if re-releasing the golden eagle into the hills of Donegal.
It divided opinion, but few argued that the art form was not worth saving.
What was never on the table, but arguably should have been, was an initiative to preserve and reward the sacred science of free taking from the ground.
Once a skill practiced by filthy corner-backs and crafty corner-forwards alike, its relevance had declined due in part to the painstaking discipline required to perfect it.
So far had it fallen, that we all had to suffer a couple of seasons of the indignity of impatiently watching goalkeepers trudging forward to inevitably miss long range frees we never believed they’d score in the first place.
Step forward Seán O’Shea, and a young cohort of footballing hipsters who are making dead ball striking cool again.
O’Shea’s mastery of the craft — in particular over two All-Ireland finals last summer — only added to the immense skill level on show and boosted the already unbearable tension over those unforgettable Sundays.
The Rudi Giuliani Award for Inadvertently Taking the Heat off Manchester United - Winner: Arsenal
In any other season, you might think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have gone the way of the dodo, such has been Man United’s utter devotion to inconsistency.
Every good result is waved as evidence the project is working. Their match day squad is collectively younger than the Dublin minor team, etc.
But, for every step forward, they seem to tumble down a mountain backwards immediately. Ole goes from looking 16 to 61 in 90 minutes.
Possibly his only saving grace has been the travails of Arsenal.
The Wenger Out campaign became the Emery Out campaign, with even poor old Robbie Lyle of Arsenal Fan TV — once the popular voice of the Gunners plebiscite — getting thrown to the lions.
They now have their man in Mikel Arteta, but the princely Spaniard is already a couple of defensive collapses away from sweating under his designer turtleneck.
The Mayo GAA Award for Taking Unnecessary Offence - Winner: The Irish Rugby Family
At least one award for the Team of Us this year, and one they were odds on to win this since last November.
There was a time this decade, that the Mayo football tale vied with the rise and rise of Irish rugby as being the Sporting Story of the Decade.
So tenuous was the premise for this makey-uppy award, it could have culminated in an hour-long special presented by Vernon Kay on E4 with contributions from long forgotten Hollyoaks actors and Ireland Fittest Family contestants.
Familiarity, however, breeds contempt.
Mayo were first to fall this summer, as their decade ended as it began, that is without a much coveted All-Ireland title.
This drew quite a bit of mockery from certain quarters.
Likewise, Rugby Country, who had their day on the carpet with a memorable victory on home soil against the All Blacks, only for the balloon to not so much burst but slowly and quite inevitably deflate by a year so bad it made the last season of Game of Thrones look quite good.
People scoffed. Things were said. Thin skins broken.
The good news?
Just another month until it starts again.
Don't miss Examiner Sport's latest GAA inter-county broadcast. Join Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Tony Leen and Colm O'Connor live from Austin Stack Park for Sunday's McGrath Cup clash between Kerry and Cork. pic.twitter.com/D0BzEF0hCo— Irish Examiner Sport (@ExaminerSport) December 27, 2019
The Cristiano Ronaldo award for the Greatest Underpants in World Sport - Winner: Faf de Klerk
Once it became apparent the Irish rugby team were only marking time in Japan, it was a bit of a stretch to find a cause to root for.
So much so, many saw something to admire in England.
That was regrettable, and as deniable as the frosted tips many boys got in the early 2000’s.
There was much to admire about South Africa’s eventual victory — not least the remarkable backstories of both their captain Siya Kolisi (who slept on a floor until his mid-teens and counted an actual brick as his favourite toy), and Makazole Mapimpi, but the most visceral image of their triumph may well be that of diminutive scrum-half Faf de Klerk, standing in his rainbow underpants, potbellied, all beach blonde hair, with a not a care in the world smile, celebrating with his team-mates.
The diminutive De Klerk was dynamic and defiant in the closing stages in the tournament, a cracking antidote to a game beset by obsession with size and power.
The Charles Stuart Parnell “Resign, Remarry, Return” Award - Winner: Gary Brennan
We love labels in sports and ‘best player to never win a (insert title here)’ is a staple of the genre.
Impossible to adjudicate, the subjective nature of opining such hypotheticals once lead to near punch ups in snugs the world over.
Now, the donnybrooks are of the more virtual kind, with pistols drawn on twitter whenever opinions collide.
Where unanimity may reign, however, is on the topic of Clare’s Gary Brennan, and his stature of one of Gaelic Games most outstanding footballers of the decade.
The Clondegad man has over his time in the Clare jersey become a generational midfielder — his range of skills from free taking to high fielding to point-kicking would see him rival David Moran as the almost complete player.
He has, at times, singlehandedly carried Clare, which only amplifies the blow his decision to take a break from inter-county football is to the Banner county.
He has earned his break. Let’s hope for the game’s sake, it’s not a permanent one.
The Emmeline Pankhurst Award for Sticking it to the literal Man - Winner: Fallon Sherrock
It is seen as the most blue-collar amphitheater in British sports.
The preserve of the lager swilling good-time lad who just wants to down some pints and enjoy some darts.
For Fallon Sherrok, a 25-year-old from Milton Keynes, it was the place she chose to make history, beating an admirably magnanimous Ted Evetts to become the first woman to win a match at the PDC World Championship.
It’s easy make fun of the darts, especially given the jovial mood of the baying mob, but, if you’ve ever tried to hit a triple top on demand, you can appreciate the skill level required.
For Sherrock to go the lion’s den and emerge triumphant is a truly an act of sporting suffrage.
The David Brent Award for Staggering Inability to Read a Room - Winner: Shane Ross
No end of anything list is complete without mention of either the FAI or Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, Shane Ross.
For most of his tenure, Ross has appeared in the background of every positive Irish sporting story, like the lad in the parade ring at Ballybrit, tucked in behind Willie Mullins, pretending not to know he’s on camera, while moving perfectly in synch with the camera.
The FAI fiasco has required a lot more of Ross than hijacking photo calls, and of all the things he could be accused of lacking in his handling of matters, tact is the trait he seems most devoid of.
That could just be recency bias, however.
His decision to tweet out a picture of himself holding a cooked bird with the accompanying gag “Guess who cooked my goose? The FAI? The Judges? The Vintners?” was as poor in taste as it was just a really bad joke.
Bad as in, not very good.
Two hundred plus people in the FAI’s employ spent the Christmas worrying about their jobs, while only last week we learned the orgainsation has debts of €62m.
Ross’s tweet put him in Charvet shirts territory.
Representatives for the roasted bird in question have distanced themselves from the tweet, explaining he had no say in the matter.