The Passion and the Glory

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Latimer: I’m not a sporty person in the slightest, but I think I had a weirdly profound experience at a rugby match last weekend.

Thinking back on it now, I’m feel like – ‘wow, I learned so much – about winning… about losing, and sportsmanship! Yet, I’m kind of freaking myself out about how philosophical I got about it!’  – let me take you on a journey of my weird thought process as I watched Ireland face down the mighty All Blacks!

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A cheeky photo of NZ supports - it's a long way to travel so they were rare and kind of exotic!!
A cheeky photo of NZ supporters – it’s a long way to travel so they were rare and kind of exotic!!

The All Blacks are the national rugby team of New Zealand… and considered the best team in the world. I was overjoyed to get tickets to this match. And I couldn’t wait to see the All Blacks do the Haka live! (it’s an amazing Maori tribal display they do before all their matches – it’s spine-chilling – here is the one displayed at the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ9Rs_2EiRg

The atmosphere at the match was electric.

I’m not a person that gets invested in sports (hardly ever) – I don’t jump up on my feet screaming until I’m hoarse –

I thought I would be like this:

giphy

But I was actually like this:

sport fan

I felt so swept up in the emotion of being proud of the Irish team on the pitch.

But okay, in the end, even though we ALMOST won, Ireland lost. And so it goes – in sport, it doesn’t always work out that the team that deserves to win, actually wins. Here’s where I learn about the bitter reality of losing.

And Ireland has NEVER, ever, beaten the All Blacks – nope, not once. This match we came the closest we ever had before – it was our best chance, we ALMOST had it.

The clock had ticked right down to the end… we were winning (22 to 17) when the game entered it’s final play! Then BOOM – swift and sleek, like a giant panther over the line, the All Blacks scored a TRY! Now, we were even, 22 a piece… Then they converted a kick and bang, it was all over for us – All Blacks won 24 to 22.

seriously

We came so close and we lost.

It made me sad, sure, but (this is where I learned about the nature of sports and sportsmanship, and got kind of zen about the whole experience) – the whole experience, coming that close to winning something, having tried so very hard – it’s life isn’t it?

sad

I never thought I’d say this, but sports is like an analogy for life (come with me on this) – you play the game, you win or you don’t, but you keep trying and that’s the key. It’s not about accepting that you lost, it’s about believing that you’ll win next time.

Rob Kearney, one of the Irish players said that the game isn’t over until the very last moment. You need to keep your head in the game. You need to keep focus until the absolute end – because if you don’t you can lose in a split second (as we had).

In a way that’s a good thing – it means that nothing is done, hopeless or final, until the very, very, very last moment. Someday Ireland will be the ones that swoop in at the very last breath and win – we all have our day!

And, even though it still hurts me to think about how we almost won (it honestly, bizarrely squeezes my heart a little) – I think the way people in sports handle defeat is something to be admired!

Thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson!

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Gold! Always Believe in Your Soul!

Ridley: I’ve been wrapped up in the Olympics the last little while. I have to say London has absolutely out done itself. Britain should be so proud!

Now of events, I’ve been watching the rowers, the swimmers, the runners and of course, the boxers. I just spend the time marvelling at their athletic feats while I snack on crisps and lull on the couch.

One thing I have noticed; the games really bring out the patriot in you, don’t they? So many countries and the people within them surely think this? There is absolutely nothing like watching one of your Olympians stepping up to the podium. 

At the moment, here in Ireland, there is one person’s name on all our lips, Katie Taylor. While I’ll be the first to say we have fantastic sports people, Katie really is the woman of the hour. When she received her gold medal around her neck, there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium or in the country.

Shivers shot through me to hear our nations song, ‘Aran na bhFiann’ song by thousands in a completely different country, there were so many of us there it was a like a GAA (football or hurling) final in Dublin!  (Or the Euros in Poland this year!)

For the week or so of her three big fights, the country, the people of Ireland forgot their worries and joined together. We speculated, we hoped, we debated and we prayed for a great result. We all love to support our teams and our people. We get behind our heroes and we cheer them on. Even now, one of our most popular songs that we sing at nearly every event harks back to the 1990s during the World Cup in Italy when our football team got through and played in them. Their coach was Jack Charlton and the song: ‘We’re all part of Jackie’s Army’.

Granted we didn’t win the World Cup of course, but it’s all part of the craic to be involved somehow, to get swept up in the tension, the fun and the ‘what if’. I remember it well, I would have only been nine or ten, but we watched every one of the matches with our team playing on a small fuzzy television. We did it while wearing knitted Ireland scarves and floppy green top hats! It’s this absolute support that we show any sport or person, no matter if you’ve never watched or followed it before, that really makes me proud to be Irish.

During Katie’s final match yesterday, 1.5 million people tuned in to watch it. Some business closed for it, others brought televisions and radios in to watch or hear it in work. In Bray, Katie’s home town thousands turned out to watch it on the big screens there. I loved this video of them all going mad and celebrating at the result.

The ESB (electricity company) has said the demand for electricity dropped by 6% for the duration of the match (and then jumped back up afterwards, as we all turned on the kettle for a cuppa, no doubt! Haha.)

Everything stopped when that first bell rang, the streets and roads were empty. Seriously. Total silence descended over the country as people watched the fight, and when she won, the screaming and the singing and the hollering began. Life restarted again, people flooded the streets, cars were back in traffic jams and all anyone could talk about was, ‘did you see the fight?’

(Here’s a brilliant video of Thai Tims singing about Katie, so cute and fantastic that a country so far away has people celebrating her. The tune is originally ‘The Wild Rover.’)

Even if you weren’t a fan of boxing before this, you’d end up at least being a fan of Katie Taylor’s, who is unbelievably hard working, modest and generous in her praise to her fellow fighters. She’s done more than win the country’s first gold medal, she’s given it’s people hope and happiness. To cap it all off, the summer seems to have come at last! We’ve had absolutely fantastic weather the last two days to coincide with the win. People are wandering round laughing, smiling and getting sunburned. For this weekend at least, we’re all glancing at each other with raised eyebrows and saying, ‘Recession? What recession!’

Long may it last!