Thursday, July 25, 2024

Editorial: The drive and passion of fallen sporting heroes must be replicated by the present and future generations

One of our favourite Shakesperian quotes (and everyone has one, even if they don’t attribute it to the great writer) comes from Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft’ interred with their bones.” It’s a reminder, perhaps, that we need to remember people for the great and good they have done.

The scales of Justice herself, standing over Dublin’s Four Courts, shows her with a scales, weighing the good and the bad, not forgetting either.

Recently, the people who put this newspaper together weekly were mourning the loss of a true great Westmeath man, Paddy Flanagan, a GAA legend and a writer with this paper who also contributed in the past to other newspapers.
Still coping with that – and how much much more difficult it is for his family – came news this past week of the loss of Paddy Colgan, an inspiration and driving force for Mullingar Town FC. Two great men of sport, two great men of the community, lost to both.

Every week thousands of Westmeath children and adults take to the playing fields and playing courts of the county to compete, have fun and try to be the best they can be. Nothing could happen without the enormous voluntary efforts of so many people who give their time, year after year, to helping out their clubs, whatever the sport. People like Paddy Flanagan and Paddy Colgan.

The GAA, one of the greatest examples of how unifying voluntary effort can be, exists only because of that voluntary effort. At the highest level, the GAA is awash with money.

It has no problems making money and no hesitation in doing so. It can make unpopular decisions if the money is right – think, for example, of its deals with satellite, subscription-based TV channels which bring in cash but deprive many of its volunteers from seeing games live.

Time, then, for some of it to come Westmeath’s way, time for a Centre of Excellence to be established within the county, a Centre which could be the development zone for even bigger and better things to come.

You cannot blame the GAA for that – not really, not in a world where everything has a cost but not everything has a value, and not when the Association ploughs millions of euro into clubs around the country every year, helping them turn fields of dreams into something more tangible.

While junior soccer remains the poor relation, there is no shortage of money within the GAA as a whole. Time, then, for some of it to come Westmeath’s way, time for a Centre of Excellence to be established within the county, a Centre which could be the development zone for even bigger and better things to come.

TEG Cusack Park may be the right size for a county like Westmeath, it may be in the right place, but none of us would reject the idea that it cannot be improved upon. Such an ideal must remain secondary to the establishment of the county’s Centre of Excellence. This is overdue – long overdue when one looks at the magnificent new facility in Mayo where the “the world’s largest sports air dome” now stands near Knock, or at the sprawling GAA facility Meath has put in place near Navan.

It takes drive and vision, of course, qualities that were exemplified by the two men from two sports that we’ve mentioned above. Let’s hope that amongst those boys and girls, men and women taking to the fields this weekend are people who can carry the torch of volunteerism, who have the drive and passion to put in place, in this county, facilities like an Academy for soccer and a Centre of Excellence for GAA.

You could argue about “owing it to the next generation” perhaps, but you couldn’t argue about owing it to the sporting greats who we’ve lost; channelling their passion, commitment and drive can be done. This country can always find the money when it wants to. it’s just a case of getting it done – and that’s where individual greatness takes over.

Who dares to try to fill the shoes of the great men we’ve lost? Good cannot be allowed to be forgotten.

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