ON SUNDAY night I’m going to binge on mustard-doused hot dogs, red hot chicken wings and a cold American beverage or two and shout for Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they face off against reigning champions Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV in Tampa.
I could claim to be a Buccaneers fan, but that would be a lie. I could also pretend that I am a Brady fan due to his Cork connections, but that would be a lie too.
She was born and raised in Cork, before her and her husband, John Brady from Cavan, left the country in the years after the famine to start a new life in America; a story that mirrors thousands of Irish emigrants of the time.
No, my reasons are entirely selfish, as this could well be the last chance I will ever have to witness an athlete plying their trade at the highest level of their chosen sport who is actually older than me.
Tom Brady is playing in his 10th Super Bowl, a record by some distance, and he is going for his seventh winners ring, also a record, but what is possibly most impressive of all is that he is 43 years of age and has just led his new team, the Buccaneers, to their first NFC Championship in 18 years.
Forty-three-year-olds are not supposed to do such things, and certainly not in the form of new challenges. Brady had won everything with the New England Patriots, and when the Patriots lost last season’s play-off tie to the Tennessee Titans, his two options appeared to be to give the Patriots one more year or to retire.
Instead, the greatest American Football player of all time engineered an unlikely new challenge, by switching allegiances to the unfashionable and unheralded Buccaneers and, quelle surprise, he has only gone and prospered.
Tampa Bay have had losing seasons in the NFC South Division in nine of the last 11 campaigns, and yet along comes one 43-year-old and in the space of a few months, he gets them out of the Division and into the play-offs for the first time since 2007. Not only that, he manages to drive them through the play-offs to the NFC Championship, and the Super Bowl itself.
The fact that there is still someone out there, not only competing at the highest level, but winning at the highest level, and who is still older than me creates a brittle illusion that all is not lost and perhaps there is still hope that someday I might still achieve something of note in a sporting context.
This is all Walter Mitty type thinking, of course, but Brady is still so good at 43 that it is easy to forget just how abnormal he is.
O’Gara, who like Brady was born in California in 1977, played his last game for Munster on the April 27, 2013, when Munster lost the Heineken Cup semi-final to Clermont Auvergne, 16-10. He had just turned 36 years of age and decided that his road was run, and duly bowed out of the game, at least as a player, a few weeks later.
Naomh Abán’s Anthony Lynch enjoyed a long and distinguished career as Cork football’s main stopper from his debut in 1999 until his retirement in 2011. As inter-county careers go it was a long one, with him finishing with an All-Ireland title, five Munster championships, three league titles and two All-Stars in a glittering career.
Seán Óg’s career lasted even longer, from his debut in the heavy defeat to Limerick in 1996 all the way to the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Galway in 2012, with three All-Irelands and three All-Stars among his list of achievements in this time.
The three players mentioned above were model ‘professionals’ who looked after themselves as much as possible and were wonderful role models to young players coming through, but all three are long gone from their respective sports at this stage.
The idea of ROG receiving a pass from 21-year-old Craig Casey for Munster or Ireland in the year 2021 is laughable, just as is the thought of Lynch man-marking David Clifford, or Seán Óg being detailed to mark Gearóid Hegarty in the coming months.
But that is effectively what Brady is doing.
And tonight he is going directly up against the best young talent in the whole of American Football in the form of his opposite number, last year’s Super Bowl MVP, the Kansas City Chief’s ultra-talented quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes is, at 25, young enough to be Brady’s son. He is faster than Brady, he is quicker, and he is more athletic. He brings a dynamic style to the role that Brady could not even contemplate attempting to replicate.
Yet if the scores are close in that final quarter, with the attacking side needing some big first downs in order to bring home the big prize then it is the old man with the Cork connections that you would choose to close the deal.