I must always be so careful when I opine on tennis, football, rugby and golf because I am in danger of exposing my ignorance not just to you but to members of my family and that can be even more painful.
There are times however when I feel compelled to make observations on sport which don’t challenge my knowledge on the science of the particular sport.
The Ryder Cup at the weekend was a case in point. What I loved about this event was the unbridled joy derived by Olazábal and his men in triumphing over the US.
I am not anti American, au contraire, but the boys nearer home were tugging at my heart strings.
Irish Major winners Clarke, McIllroy, Harrington and McDowell have in the manner of the great Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh managed to localise and universalise their brand of Irish golf in a tangible accessible way for all of us.
These guys are of us, McIllroy the son of a barman, McDowell from the artisans club in Portrush and Harrington without a trace of prostitution in his flat southern Ireland accent.
In other words, these guys have remained readily accessible in our minds and are now challenging and emulating countries with populations multiple times bigger than ours.
Our golfers on a world stage are now Ireland’s new race horse champions.
The success of the Irish horse was put down to the soil, turf etc on this island.
To what one ascribes our golfing prowess is not clear to me when set beside our failure to impact in another sport like tennis.
Coming back to the Ryder Cup I loved it particularly because it knocked the stuffing out of so much of the usual old stuffiness of golf competitions.
We were there. It was intimate.
On Saturday we saw exquisite golf by the US young pups Bradley, Watson and Simpson.
Bubba had the audacity to whip up the crowd simultaneously while teeing off. Unheard of as far as I had known up until then. Out the window with décorum and archaic rules of straitjacketness.
One sensed the blood coursing through the American veins… The US team was whooping, skipping, hopping – exchanging fives and fifty fives as putt after putt rolled in with insouciance on Saturday.
As play drew to a close ‘Poults’ (to you and me) opened the door to the ‘impossible’ dream. ‘Impossible’ seemed the apt adjective at the time.
McIllroy keeping Irish time only served to add to the sense of theatre arriving in the nick of time to tee off on Sunday morning.
Gradually the tide started to turn. We heard talk of a US win with predictions of three and half points…
Jack Nicklaus even questioned how McIllroy came “onto the ball so quickly” and “moved the club away so quickly” – Dutch to me.
Nicklaus had another poke at the Donalds and Westwoods of the golfing fraternity, both of whom have recently achieved number one status in the world rankings yet failed to land one of the’ big ones’ (a major championship). He also indirectly landed a punch on ‘Monty’ (his co-commentator) on this sensitive issue.
The Europeans were now lining up ball after ball and the swagger was back in the local players with Westwood leading the charge and the none too attractive Poulter sinking critical shots.
“It is going to the wire” they cried at home and in the studio.
“This could be Wood’s redemption” said another.
Olazábal appeared to open a direct line of communication to his old friend Seve in heaven as he buried his head in reverence to someone beyond the earthly Estate of Medinah.
The big German won the Transatlantic war in a single Merkel move for Europe.
I still know very little about golf but what a day.
The new Irish Joyce has another odyssey about which to write.
Eamonn, and what’s important about all of this is that the kids don’t know all that much about the mechanics of this game, but they see someone they want to be like. McIlroy is sprinkling his magic, making this sport attractive again. You just have to look at the number of young players at his home town club in Holywood – a club that this year has the Irish Girls Under 18 Champion and Ulster Boys Under 15 winner. Sunday was sporting theatre, and in my opinion even bigger than the best days of the Olympics. I was looking the other day at my notes as I reported on McIlroy winning an inter-pro match against Simon Ward of Leinster at Ballyliffin. That was six years ago, and what a journey since – Two Major Championships, two winning Ryder Cup teams, top of the US and European money lists and World Number One.