Sporting success is all about history and geography


One of the best: Niall McNamee is a great player but is hampered by geography. Photo: Sportsfile

One of the best: Niall McNamee is a great player but is hampered by geography. Photo: Sportsfile

If you are ever fortunate enough to bump into a good solid and really decent Galway man called Pat Comer – take some time out of your busy schedule to have a conversation with him. You will be well rewarded for doing so. Pat is one of those rare and special individuals that you always feel better for having been in their company.

In his current life Pat is a movie maker and has done some splendid work in the past few years. Thirty years ago he was a top quality goalkeeper playing with Galway for a decade or more and he also represented Ireland with distinction in the International Rules series. When “PC” was on the Galway panel in the 1990s some of us used to use the moniker “The Poet” for him - as he always had a philosophical and witty way of looking at things. Things were rarely black and white when Pat was around and that is as it should be.

Life and sporting life in particular is full of many other colours and characters, and boring people – if there are too many of them - suck the energy out of the group. I remember Pat chatting to a few of us over a full Irish breakfast one championship morning – before the dieticians had taken over - and he was explaining the difference between being involved and being committed to something.

Are you involved or committed?

He looked at his plate which as goalkeepers were prone to, was full of sausages, bacon and eggs and said: “See this breakfast. The hen was involved. But the pig — the pig was committed.” One other line that Pat used often in the 1998 and 2001 successes that Galway had that came back to me last Saturday evening watching Offaly beat Longford in O’Connor Park, was “Winning is all about history and geography.”

Being in the right place, at the right time. Why did I remember that quote? You see Offaly’s Niall McNamee was sensational last Saturday evening and gave a superb personal performance. He hit 0-4 from play and was by a country mile the best player on the park. And the Rhode man has been one of the best players in Ireland for a decade or more now. Back in 2006 or 2007 I was in Austin Park with Setanta for an Offaly and Kerry league game, and McNamee scored seen or eight points from play with Tom O’Sullivan and Mark Ó Sé hanging out of him.

Those men were All-Stars defenders back then and yet they could not stop McNamee being outrageously influential. Yet despite McNamee’s undeniable brilliance he will probably never even win a provincial medal, never mind a Celtic cross. Offaly’s last Delaney cup was back in 1997 – the year Princess Diana died – and their third All-Ireland success was back in 1982 – so the probability of either happening in the next five years is slim to none.

It is pity for him personally, from a collecting medals and individual awards point of view, that he is playing for Offaly at such a fallow time for the Faithful county. Had he been playing at the right time for national success with Offaly – back in the 1980s - he would have ended his career with at least one All-Ireland medal. Or from a geographical perspective – if he was from Dublin or Kerry or Mayo he would have at least three All-Stars and an All-Ireland medal or two garnered in the last decade. Or four or five All-Ireland medals if he was from the first two counties mentioned.

McNamee as good as Brogan

I would rate him in the same category as Bernard Brogan and Michael Murphy, and a better more clinical scorer by far than Dublin’s Paul Flynn or Diarmuid Connolly. The fact that Niall has been so genuinely open and honest about the challenges he has faced down with his gambling addiction over the past few years only highlights what a strong character he is, and it is wonderful to see him doing really well now both on the field of play and off it.

Offaly play Westmeath in the next round of the Leinster championship and could conceivably reach a Leinster title – the winners of that tie play either Kildare or Wexford in a semi-final. Hopefully Offaly get back to Croke Park in June and July as it would be great to see the Rhode man in action in the right place, at the right time in 2016. Perhaps, if he gets some decent exposure, he could get the All-Star his talent merits.


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