Irish women in Gothenburg make sense of Kiernan's rant
Derval O'Rourke: just edged out of medal win
Athletics: Thursday morning, and I can see Jerry Kiernan sitting down for his regular double espresso, his regular broadsheet spread out before him, reading in spiteful anger through the GAA’s central financial accounts for 2012.
With annual income up 13 per cent, to just under €53 million, no wonder Kiernan feels so disturbed about Gaelic players taking even their shrunken, negligible grant from the Irish Sports Council’s coffers, when so many Irish athletes still don’t get a single cent. Sure doesn’t that work out at about €1 million a week, far more than all Irish athletes combined would get – in grants, or otherwise – over the entire year?
Fear not the obvious: this is not some slow response to Kiernan’s self-confessed bias. “Difficult to ignore, but worth the effort,” as Con Houlihan liked to say, when some people got under his skin, and unfortunately so much of what Kiernan said at the time made no sense at all.
That’s not saying there weren’t moments during last weekend’s European Indoor championships in Gothenburg when everything Kiernan said about the fitness of elite Irish athletes made perfect sense – that they do train exceptionally hard, make enormous sacrifices for very little reward, and yes, probably would make a lot of Gaelic players think twice about the meaning of the pain barrier.
And it’s actually the Irish women running in Gothenburg who come to mind here, more so than the Irish men.
Not many people gave Derval O’Rourke a chance of medalling in the 60 metres hurdles (especially if they were listening to me). Just a couple of months shy of 32, which for a sprint hurdler usually equates to a rapid decline, O’Rourke put herself through three races in the one day, and saved the best until last, just edged out of the medal positions by the slightest of permissible margins.
Her time of 7.95 seconds was O’Rourke’s fastest in seven years, when she ran 7.84 to win the World Indoor title. She was the proverbial width of the vest from women several years younger, with 27 year-old Nevin Yanit – the reigning two-time outdoor champion – striking gold, her 7.89 seconds a Turkish record, with Alina Talay (23) of Belarus and the Italian Veronica Borsi (25) both credited with 7.94, separated only by the photo finish.
When O’Rourke explained she’d had a sinus infection in October, losing 4kg and missing three weeks’ training, then required an injection in her Achilles’ tendon, missing another two weeks, her powers of pure athleticism and competitive spirit seemed even greater. O’Rourke has always been well funded, yet that hasn’t diluted the essence of what made her so good in the first place – this unquenchable thirst to be the best in her game.