John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer could take a leaf from Rory McIlroy’s book

Tipperary hurler should take criticism with a pinch of salt like world number three

TipperaryJohn O’Dwyer celebrates scoring against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

TipperaryJohn O’Dwyer celebrates scoring against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Rory McIlroy has had a fairly up and down year. But on Monday he captured his first PGA Tour win in 16 months, to go with his Irish Open win from earlier in the summer, and that win at the Deutsche Bank Championship could yet be the springboard for him to inspire Europe to Ryder Cup success, and a FedEx Cup win that could net him $10 million.

So there’s no doubt about it – last Monday evening was a pretty good moment for McIlroy, and a chance perhaps for him to strike back at the golf media, who haven’t spared him throughout this entire Major-less, Olympics-dodging year.

But when he was duly fed a question on his critics, he said the following:“I don’t know if any criticism is unfair. I think when people make judgments or criticisms without being educated on the subject – like me getting in the gym, for example. That’s my pet peeve, someone who says to me: ‘You’re in the gym too much.’ It’s a big part of who I am, it’s a big part of my success. That, I always feel, is an unfair criticism.

“But with my game, the critics and the analysts and everyone out there, they’re educated about golf so they for the most part know what they’re talking about.”

Those words came barely 24 hours after Tipperary had won the All-Ireland hurling final, where John O’Dwyer had talked about his critics too, in rather less magnanimous tones.

Second Captains

Adrenalin

After his on-pitch post-match interview, the F-bomb got all the attention, and maybe that’s to be expected. It was less than two minutes from the end of the game to the start of his interview, and really it’s a bit much to expect a player to gather his thoughts and let some of the adrenalin seep from his system in that short a space of time . . . but broadcasters do that for a reason.

When I worked the sideline beat in radio it was the same thing. Get them before they calm down, and you get honesty – I used to try and get to Anthony Daly before his selectors. In a situation like that, you might also get some colourful language, but that’s the risk you take.

And so Bubbles was right – Tipperary really are the champions of effin’ Ireland. But his comments just before that, on the ‘critics’ and the ‘doubters’ were far more instructive. I found it amazing, after scoring 1-5 and repaying the faith of his manager in such extraordinary style, that they would be so much to the forefront of his mind.

I’m sure that it’s tough to live in a county like Tipperary where there is such attention on the hurling team. But at the same time, is it really the first thing on your mind? “Everyone doubted us”, “we proved the doubters wrong” – it all just seems so . . . negative. This after the best team performance in an All-Ireland final I think I’ve ever seen.

It was a theme he returned to on Twitter on Monday morning when he apologised, unnecessarily I thought, for his on-screen inexactitude (as Bill O’Herlihy might have put it). As well as his apology, he tweeted: “to the people who sent me some lovely letters at the start of the year abusing me and my family I’d love to meet ye now . . . #VeryQuiet.”

The unfortunate thing is that they haven’t been very quiet since Sunday. They have, in fact, been the lads buying you pints in the Burlington all Sunday night, and all over Tipperary this week. The type of people who would write abusive letters to players (amateur or not, that makes no difference – it’s still disgusting), are exactly the type of back-slappers they need to stay away from as Tipp try to treat those two imposters of triumph and disaster just the same.

Slamming the critics

It was a deeply felt, instinctive reaction from O’Dwyer, so we must take it on its merits, forgive the air being turned blue, and really examine how keenly he felt that criticism. And of course, slamming the critics is as much part of the GAA day out as the pre-match parade, so Bubbles is hardly alone there. In fact, it’s hard to remember a recent hurling win where ‘the doubters’ haven’t been singled out for a special post-match mention.

But speaking on Monday morning, Padraic Maher said that he, Noel McGrath and Brendan Maher perhaps took the whole thing too seriously for a couple of years after 2010 – that the burden of responsibility weighed heavily on them. Criticism stings because the situation threatens to consume you. That’s the sort of experience that their younger team-mates, O’Dwyer included, can learn from.

Maher might well agree that maybe it’s best to de-fang the wildest, most baseless criticisms with kindness, be humble enough to admit mistakes, and only go after the easy-to-debunk, egregious stuff. Enjoy the good days. In short, take a leaf from the book of McIlroy.

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