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25 May 2012 Edition

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GERARD MAGEE

Anything is possible and James McClean and the Twitter machine

The Manchester City fightback reminded me of Kerry v Cork

Anything is possible

SPORT is a great example of the power of self-belief and a never-say-die attitude – it constantly feeds us with examples of the underdog winning against the odds and of spectacular fightbacks.

The final day of the English Premiership title race is one example. Who would have thought that with the 90 minutes up and all the mathematical odds suddenly and dramatically swinging every which way in a see-saw two hours of action, Manchester City could score two goals in five minutes of injury time and snatch title victory from the jaws of defeat and the hands of Manchester United.

As was often repeated by the pundits later: “You just couldn’t write it.”

It’s another example of a ‘don’t give up/anything is possible’ mentality by teams or individual sportspeople.

Of course, this occurs in every walk of life but sport seems to accentuate it. It brought to mind for me another great fightback, when Kerry were leading Cork by seven points in the final minutes of the All-Ireland football semi-final in 2008. Cork looked dead and buried yet a marvellous rally that included two late goals saw them earn a replay. Probably the reason I remember it so well was that I had told my young lad anything is possible when he claimed there was no way back for ‘The Rebels’.

There have been loads of examples of teams and individuals battling against the odds to achieve spectacular victories. That is probably the reason so many people enjoy sport: it can be the stuff of dreams, miracles if you wish.

So that brings me to my summer wish list:-

  • Antrim’s footballers and hurlers play beyond themselves and give us a long summer of tramping round the country;
  • The Irish soccer team to win Euro 2012;
  • And our Olympics athletes to bring home some medals from ‘The Belly of the Beast’.

 You never know.

James McClean and the Twitter machine

I HAVE TO TOUCH on the James McClean row.

The Derryman has wisely packed in the oul Twitter machine after being deluged with sectarian and racist abuse after him telling people about his experience and feelings about playing for ‘Northern Ireland’, but I thought it was a bit rich of the North’s soccer rulers at the Irish Football Association to put out a statement criticising him. To quote from the IFA statement:

“The Association has a very successful ‘Football For All’ programme where the main objective of the programme is to make sure that the sport of football is welcoming and inclusive to all members of our society in Northern Ireland.”

I would say they have failed in their main objective – and failed miserably. As I said in my piece in the March edition of An Phoblacht, the football authorities in the North have long been part of the problem.

One national allegiance is displayed at the North’s games even though you can see nationalist players are uncomfortable with this.

Maybe the Northern soccer bosses know that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they did actually, sincerely, cut the crap, try and make Windsor Park welcoming to Northern nationalists then that too could lead to an all-Ireland team.

If that were to happen, what would be the point of not joining up with the 26 Counties and forming one team? With no sectarianism, and with neutral symbols and anthems that both unionists and nationalists can accept, soccer would become like rugby and one team could represent the island of Ireland.

There WILL be an all-Ireland soccer team one day, just as sure as there will be a united Ireland. Now what shape that team takes is a debate that needs to happen just the same as a debate on what shape a united Ireland will take.

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