Images emerging from Afghanistan contrast vastly with weekend sporting euphoria

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

As I am compiling this column, I’ve just heard on the radio the huge numbers that tuned in last Saturday night to look at the Dublin-Mayo match in Croke Park. Astonishing numbers, but of course completely understandable.

So what did we get? We got a terrific match, the first half all the way for Dublin and the second half a complete resurgence by Mayo who found strength and endeavour they never thought they had, and a gradual winding down of the tired bodies and limbs of the Dublin team. I want to shout and shout “Maigh Eo Abú!” and why not?

I had often railed in the lines of this column over the last few years at how Dublin and the supporters just kept shouting “Four more years”, “Five more years”, “Six more years” – as if there was to be no end to the wins of Dublin and the rest of the country could just suck it up. I don’t mean the Dublin team felt like that, but the supporters were so vociferous and so noisy about their team that I think there were very few people in Ireland, even including in Dublin, who could not get a sense of joy out of the win of Mayo.

I’m sure many readers noticed that on RTÉ there was a trio of commentators including Colm O’Rourke of Meath. We all feel we know him; he is often in the papers and on RTÉ commentating on this or that game.

But what did he say at half time? He said “We may all pack up and go home, because Dublin have it won.” At that stage, Dublin were six points ahead of Mayo. I was just horrified at his lack of professionalism. He was there in his role as a commentator on the match before him, and to arbitrarily state “The game is over, we might as well all go home” was to me a complete transgression from his role.

When the match was over, I telephoned a Mayo friend of mine living in Athlone for many years. To hear what he said about Colm O’Rourke would make the hair stand on your head. Oddly enough, it was the comment that elicited responses from so many people. I suppose Colm O’Rourke thought it would be forgotten about and that he would be forgiven and forgotten. But not so; people will always remember his nonchalant remark, so soundly put down by Mayo’s victory.

To me, the hero of the day was James Horan, the manager of the Mayo team. He was right before us, taking everything in on the pitch, making decisions such as asking the captain Aidan O’Shea to leave the pitch. Aidan O’Shea as captain and player was just having a bad day. Other strong decisions he took as the second half of the game went on left Mayo in great standing.

Another very important point was that the subs bench was every bit as good as the team on the pitch, and that stood to Mayo. Each time James Horan replaced those who were going off with equally forceful new players with fresh energy. The opposite was the effect in the subs Dublin put on who proved one by one to be below par. So all in all, a great game and a great win, and watching it on my own I cheered and cheered and felt I was part of it all.

Not so good the next day for Roscommon versus Offaly in the under 20 All-Ireland final shown on TG4. St Brigid’s, the local club in Kiltoom outside Athlone, had five players between the pitch and the bench, so there was great excitement locally. Aengus and Lisa took the whole family up to Croke Park and they all enjoyed it enormously. Roscommon played really well, as of course did Offaly. In fact commentators, both on the day and the following day in the newspapers, said the game was played like one at senior level. It was as if the spirit of the day before had permeated the pitch and infected Roscommon and Offaly.

The weekend saw a huge surge in marvellous sporting achievements. In the women’s All-Ireland football semi-final, Meath, with their two goals in the last few minutes of the game, defeated Cork. Now they face Dublin in the final.

At the Henley Regatta in the UK, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy repeated their Tokyo success with great acclaim. They surely showed their Tokyo gold was not at all a one-off, and they brought that lustre to the fore at Henley. Playing golf for Ireland at the women’s Scottish Open in Fife in Scotland, Leona Maguire played a great game and got a fine cheque for her endeavours.

So all in all, for Ireland, it was a great weekend of sport. I enjoyed it immensely and I hope the readers got to savour as much as they could on TV and radio.

Of course after all that sporting euphoria, we are faced with the terrible events unfolding in Afghanistan, where the Taliban appear to have effortlessly overrun the country again, establishing their power and reign. The news is relayed on the hour on the radio and it makes for such horrific hearing.

The Taliban are quite determined to banish women from all parts of life in Afghanistan. They went into banks and ordered the women working there to go home and to send out their brothers or sons or fathers to work in their stead. They have stopped almost all education for women at every level, and forbidden women from going on the streets without being covered head to toe, with their face almost completely covered. And to think that Afghanistan’s women had made great strides in their drive for equality. They are back to the dark ages now with a vengeance.

The American president Joe Biden had in the last few weeks ordered the American troops out of Afghanistan, believing (foolishly ) that they had left everything in order with the Afghan government and the Afghan troops. Not so; the president fled Afghanistan when he got a chance and the Afghan troops quickly downed their tools and left the presidential palace and the government rooms wide open for the Taliban to enter and go where they wished.

It is just terrible and there is no idea how it is all going to fare out, particularly with the attempts to get the Irish citizens and citizens of other countries safely out of Kabul. To see people clinging to the undercarriages of planes leaving the airport at Kabul was a horrific sight, and also to see the Taliban roaming the streets with their guns cocked at the ready.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

 

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