Joe Brolly

JOE BROLLY: Luke not so Littler

THE year ended with 16 year old Luke Littler humiliating ex-world champions and men three times his age at the World Darts Championship. He looks as though he was born with a beer belly and three kids, a laboratory baby made from Phil Taylor & the Crafty Cockney’s DNA. Like the very great ones, this is normal for him. He scored his first 180 when he was six years old. Like David Clifford or Maradona, he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. “I’ll probably win it now,” he said after the quarter final. Before his mother made him hot chocolate and tucked him into bed.

The year began with the curious affair of the Kilmacud 16. Enoch Burke’s head was soon superimposed on the footage of that notorious last play, chanting “Where is Dara Mullin?” US senator Bernie Sanders appeared on the Kilmacud goal line in his deck chair.

An authentic looking email did the rounds to clubs inviting them to participate in this year’s ‘Kilmacud 8s’.

Someone responded to an online advertisement from Kilmacud GAC for a table quiz for teams of four by asking if Glen could enter a team of five. They will get a chance to do it all over again this weekend. This time, Glen have retained a tallyman on the sideline. I am told has been practising on his abacus for the big day.

Pat Gilroy returned to the Dublin set up in March. As the Maor Uisce.

The GAA regulations state that “Official team personnel (Selectors/Coaches), may not act as Maoir Uisce. Maoir Uisce are not permitted to have/use Communications devices i.e. walkie talkies or communicate with team management. In the event that any official team personnel act as a Maoir Uisce, any breach of rule shall be considered as a Misconduct at Games by Team Officials infraction.”

Gilroy is the most over qualified water boy in the history of the game. Like a Michelin starred chef flipping burgers in McDonalds. Interestingly, although he spent most of his time on the pitch on his hunkers talking to players, and often forgot to bring the water bottle, his return electrified the Dubs. A team that had been boring themselves and their spectators to death, going backwards, sideways, tackling half heartedly, refusing to take their men on and generally squandering their great inheritance, was quickly brought back to life.

Who would have thought a waterboy could make such an impact? It is a lesson to other teams to choose wisely. If Pat remembers to bring the water bottle with him next season, the sky is surely the limit.

Meanwhile, the Irish rugby team flunked out again in the quarter final. They are the Mayo of the rugby world, except Mayo get to the final. They continue to be hero worshipped, which is a big part of the problem. Tomás Ó Sé said that when Kerry lose an All-Ireland the players don’t come out of the house for a month. When the All-Blacks or South Africa are not going well, their nations are in crisis. The players and management are not spared. This creates an honest, robust culture. With Ireland, they are heroes regardless.

This hero worship is unhealthy, exemplified in the manager of the losing quarter finalists being made RTE manager of the year. How could John Kiely compete with that?

Unlike Ireland, Limerick proved their brilliance (again) when it really mattered. Kilkenny went at them like savages in the final and at half time the game was in the balance. In the closing quarter (in boxing they call it the championship rounds) Limerick were simply awesome, blowing Kilkenny away. Like all the great champions, they revel in the game when everything is on the line. Pity they don’t have a decent manager.

In July I travelled to the US at the invitation of Joe Klecko for his inauguration into the NFL Hall of Fame. Joe is widely believed to be the strongest man ever to play American football. He once wrestled a 600 lb Grizzlie Bear at a fair ground…and beat it, throwing the bemused monster over his shoulder before pinning it. They showed the video at the Hall of Fame game to gasps from the crowd.

His doctor told me that once on a flight back from a game with the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets players were playing cards and Joe was on a losing streak. The captain announced there was turbulence and asked passengers to return to their seats. The Jets kept playing. A petite stewardess came over and asked them to go back to their seats. Joe said, “One more hand.” She put her hand on the cards. Joe picked her up and stowed her in the overhead locker until the hand was finished, then lifted her back down, hugged her and promised her VIP tickets for any Jets game. His nickname was president of the New York Sack Exchange. He recorded an extraordinary podcast with me which we are putting out in the New year. A real life superman.

Another superman, the great Bill Russell died last year. He captained the Boston Celtics from his arrival there in 1956 until 1969 during which time they won 11 NBA rings including one eight in a row stretch. Russell retired in 1969. The following season, the Celtics dropped back into the pack, like the Dubs when Stephen Cluxton retired in 2020.

Russell said, “My ego demands, for myself, the success of my team.” Like Gaelic football’s most famous captain, a reclusive goalkeeper who disappears off the face of the earth between championships, Russell disliked and distrusted the media and had no interest in fame. When the Celtics planned a public ceremony to retire his number 6 jersey, he refused to attend. “I never played for the fans,” he said. “I played for myself and for my team.” In 1975, when he was told he was going to be admitted to the NBA Hall of Fame, he said “I will not attend the ceremony and will not consider myself a member. For my own personal reasons, which I do not want to discuss, I do not want to be part of it.”

Stephen has nine All-Ireland medals now. If he stays for two more years, he will have 11. Then, like Bill Russell, he will retire and drop off the face of the earth for good. As Stephen would tell you (if he could be bothered), hero worship is for losers.

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