Adding some mass to the skills: Five heavyweight legends of their game.

Adding some mass to the skills: Five heavyweight legends of their game.
Dublin forward Jimmy Keaveney was so skilfull on the ball. Picture Ray McManus/Sportsfile

UNLESS you are one of those driven individuals willing to leave a sweaty outline of their body on the bedroom carpet after working out to the interminably optimistic tones of Joe Wicks, you have probably put on a kilo or two as the lockdown consumption slips into a third month.

So, join with me, another happy tub of lard, as we explore the gravitationally challenged sportsmen of the world that showed that packing on some ham does not necessarily exclude you from a sporting life.

Dublin forward Jimmy Keaveney was so skilfull on the ball. 	Picture Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin forward Jimmy Keaveney was so skilfull on the ball. Picture Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Gaelic Football - Jimmy Keaveney 

On first look, it's understandable why some may have discounted the threat of the Dublin footballer. His shirt usually hung lose over his belly and he had unkempt hair (which was the style of the day to be fair) that was quickly drenched in sweat as soon as he took to the pitch. But any preconceptions, especially by those marking him, were quickly banished as Keaveney's skills, honed as a soccer player in his youth, made up for any lack of pace. His languid style often lulled defenders into a false sense of security only for his keen footballing mind and ability to kick off either boot left them marking shadows.

The records speak for themselves. Keaveney picked up 10 Dublin SFC medals with St Vincent's, as well as seven Leinster titles and three All-Ireland crowns with the Dubs. His and Dublin's misfortune being the growing dominance of the great Kerry side of the late 70s and early 80s, otherwise, he may have added a few more Celtic crosses to the collection. Still, his scoring record with the Dubs stands up to anyone's, as he struck 15-182 in his 42 matches for his county. Rightly claiming three All-Stars along the way.

Seánie O'Leary celebrates a goal for Cork against Offaly in the Centenary All-Ireland Hurling final in 1984. The stocky forward was deceptively agile, and one of the most exciting players to watch.
Seánie O'Leary celebrates a goal for Cork against Offaly in the Centenary All-Ireland Hurling final in 1984. The stocky forward was deceptively agile, and one of the most exciting players to watch.

Hurling - Seánie O'Leary 

Seánie was one of the most capable and exciting players ever to wear the red and white of Cork and was the scourge of defenders up and down the land for over a decade.

And part of that success was down to his short and stocky build that beguiled his marker into a false sense of security before the Youghal dynamo would suddenly turn on a penny and skip past the defence with a surprise burst of speed, to bury the ball in the back of the net.

Socks down around his ankles and a ball of sweat, he ran his heart out for the Rebels and had an uncanny eye for goal that saw him slam the sliotar into the back of the net on 30 occasions in his 36 appearances for Cork. Throw in 33 points to the total it is no wonder he pocketed nine Munster and four All-Ireland medals in his playing career and was also recognised for his efforts with three All-Star awards. Video of his exploits still puts a smile on every Cork face to this day.

France's Mathieu Bastareaud goes around Wales's Richard Hibbard during  the RBS Six Nations Championship, in the  Stade de France, Paris, back in 2013. The huge centre uniquely mixed speed with mass.	 Picture:NPHO/Billy Stickland
France's Mathieu Bastareaud goes around Wales's Richard Hibbard during  the RBS Six Nations Championship, in the  Stade de France, Paris, back in 2013. The huge centre uniquely mixed speed with mass. Picture:NPHO/Billy Stickland

Rugby - Mathieu Bastareaud 

Rugby, to be fair, is a generous sport concerning the heavy lad. Still, this body shape usually confines one to the prop and forward positions. The light, nippy guys on the backline do the running. That was so until the arrival of Mathieu Bastareaud. The French human house was too fast to stay with the forwards. Despite having a weight that ranges between 16 to 18 stone, Bastareaud mostly played in the pivotal backline role at centre. Right in the fulcrum of attack, because he could run a 100m in just over 11 seconds. All the while, carrying the mass to blow away anyone foolish enough to get in his way. Mathieu scored 26 points in his 54 tests with France and because of his shape was a handy utility player that, at the drop of hat, could see him join the forwards at Number 8 to back up the scrum.

Defensive tackle William 'The Refrigerator' Perry of the Chicago Bears. 	Picture: NPHO/Allsport
Defensive tackle William 'The Refrigerator' Perry of the Chicago Bears. Picture: NPHO/Allsport

American football - William Perry 

Rugby's American cousin in the NFL has an even more pronounced role for the big man than its European counterpart. There are too many huge linebackers and defencemen to mention. But one defensive tackle of unusual athleticism springs to mind despite making his name over 30 years ago. None else than William 'The Refrigerator' Perry of the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears.

As the name implies, William was just shy of 350lbs at his peak (25 stone), yet his mass never limited him to the stereotypical role he was hired for. His main job was to protect his quarterback but was willing to turn his hand to anything if needed. This included once picking up a player with the ball and carrying them both over the touchdown line when the running back came up short of a score by a yard.

He was not limited to feats of brawn either, during his rookie season with the Bears, Perry rushed for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another one. And in Super Bowl XX, against the Patriots, he attempted his first NFL pass of his career when no one was expecting it. Unfortunately, it resulted in a one-yard loss but his enthusiasm was not dented as in the next play he scored a touchdown, running over Patriots linebacker Larry McGrew on the way to the whitewash.

Perry's Super Bowl ring-size holds the record for the largest of any professional football player in the history of the sport. A size 25 compared to an average man's ring size of 12.

Diego Maradona being introduced to the Napoli crowd when he signed for the Italian side from Barcelona. Always battling the belly, he still was the most celebrated player of any era.
Diego Maradona being introduced to the Napoli crowd when he signed for the Italian side from Barcelona. Always battling the belly, he still was the most celebrated player of any era.

Soccer - Diego Maradona

Maradona battled his belly for most of his playing career and devil knows what else he put into his body. But few will deny that he still managed to be the very best he could be in the circumstances of his life and lifestyle.

Like Seánie O'Leary, his stocky, low centre of gravity made him almost unknockable. His spinning turns out of a crunching tackle, that would leave most mortals paralysed while maintaining his balance, became his trademark. Then there is the question of how did a little tubby forward outjump a 6ft goalkeeper? Amazing, with or without the 'Hand of God'.

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