O’Callaghan deserved to be on the RTE shortlist at the very least but there's no point in getting too worried about annual sports awards

O’Callaghan deserved to be on the RTE shortlist at the very least but there's no point in getting too worried about annual sports awards
Cuala's Con O'Callaghan with Enda Grogan of Kilcormac-Killoughey. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

IN case you’re getting withdrawals because there has been no hurling or football since the culmination of the Dr Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí group stages and the finalisation of the provincial club championships, fear not.

The 2018 GAA season isn’t even going to wait until 2018 to start – the McGrath Cup and Co-Op Superstores Munster HL both start on December 30.

With only three teams in the McGrath Cup, Cork don’t play until January 7 but the hurlers are out on Saturday week, hosting Limerick in Mallow. The prospect throw-in time of 5pm doesn’t fill us with joy right now. Until then, sports fans have to find other ways to occupy themselves.

We’ll be honest – we didn’t watch the RTÉ Sports Awards on Saturday night. Not that there was an unavoidable clash, just that the ceremony held little in the way of interest. It’s difficult – or perhaps futile is a better word – to compare achievements across different sports, saying one sportsperson is better or worse than another who did something totally different.

The scale is a sliding one, as what is good enough to win one year may not be sufficient the next time. For example, in 1989 Nick Faldo won the BBC’s Sports Personality of The Year Award, primarily for his win in that year’s Masters. In 1990, he retained the Masters and also won the Open Championship, but he wasn’t even in the BBC’s top three, with Paul Gascoigne winning, Stephen Hendry second and Graham Gooch third.

Obviously, you can take the word ‘personality’ literally there and use it against Faldo, but the top RTE award is for the best ‘sportsperson’.

On Saturday, Ireland soccer player James McClean won, for being the most prominent player in a World Cup qualifying campaign which ultimately ended in failure. Obviously, the fact that the vote is open to the public provides a health warning (Aidan O’Mahony’s Dancing With The Stars win a notable example), but was McClean ‘better’ than, say, Rena Buckley, who won an 18th All-Ireland senior medal, or Paul O’Donovan, best in the world in his rowing class again, or any of the other non-Cork nominees?

It’s impossible to quantify, of course, and RTÉ don’t really care that people are giving out because the publicity is exactly what they want. The fact that the Irish show jumping team, European champions for the first time in 16 years, also drew quite the ire.

The primary cohort feeling wronged were Dublin football fans, with the Twitter account Hill 16 Army posting the following:

“Nothing for our three-in-a-row champions or the greatest Gaelic football manager of recent times, Jim Gavin. Not even a nomination for the greatest GAA year in living memory from an individual, Con O'Callaghan. And nothing for Noelle or our ladies. I give you the RTÉ Sports Awards.”

Now, we’ll ignore the fact that they put O’Callaghan on a higher pedestal than Teddy McCarthy’s 1990 achievements, as pointed out by Paul O’Brien (@WestCorkPaul), but it’s far from a clear-cut thing.

Dublin only won one national title – Cork City won two, does that make them better? We’re not being parochial, just giving an example, but it’s worth looking at the past winners of the team of the year prize.

Kilkenny, despite winning the All-Ireland hurling from 2005-09 inclusive and bouncing back with four out of the next five after losing to Tipperary in 2010, never won it. Clare, who won the only one of those five from 2011-15 that Kilkenny didn’t win, were the team honoured in 2013. The Cork ladies’ team had to win nine All-Irelands in 10 years before they took the prize. There’s no science to it, and, most importantly, no point in caring too much.

Would those Dublin fans be feeling a lot better about life on Sunday morning if they had won? Or would it have made a negligible difference, given that they have those three All-Irelands in a row and are favourites for a fourth, regardless of what anyone else says?

The bottom line is that we’re debating these things because there’s nothing of any real substance happening. The action won’t be long returning, though.

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