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Cluxton the silent hero

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Stephen Cluxton strikes the All-Ireland winning free on Sunday

This column isn’t going to tell you a whole lot you don’t know about the All-Ireland football final hero Stephen Cluxton -- but we can tell you about Coppers.

Cluxton is the goalkeeper who kicked the winning point from a 50 meter free as Dublin beat Kerry in a rip-roaring match at Croke Park last Sunday, the point that ended a 16 year wait for Sam as far as the Blue Army is concerned.

I can’t tell you anything that you don’t already know about Stephen Cluxton simply because there isn’t a whole lot you or I know about the Dublin goalkeeper.

He is the Howard Hughes of Gaelic football if you like, a man who likes to keep the media at a distance even when he has just scored the winning point in the biggest GAA game of the year.

The goalkeeping and point-scoring hero has never done a media interview to the best of my knowledge. He certainly hasn’t done one since scoring that point on Sunday.

He didn’t even stay on the pitch for the frantic celebrations that followed, preferring instead to enjoy the moment with his teammates when they made it back to the sanctuary of the dressingroom.

So reclusive is Mr. Cluxton that one paper is currently speculating on how much money he is missing out on by virtue of his reluctance to share his soul with any media outlet prepared to pay him for the privilege.

I doubt Cluxton cares about such things, and he shouldn’t. What he did on Sunday is worth more than any amount of money, what he achieved is worth more than a thousand words.

To run up from his goalmouth with just seconds remaining on the clock and kick that point took real guts, real heart, real belief.

You can’t buy that sort of confidence. You can’t bottle that adrenalin. You can’t believe how much that Cluxton point meant to his teammates, to their fans, to his team.

It will probably be better if Stephen Cluxton never opens up about that point.

The air of mystery surrounding his match winning score will prompt debate for many years to come, the air of mystique about him will enthrall spectators and pundits for decades to come.

Instead of speculating about Stephen Cluxton, we should celebrate his brilliance last Sunday, we should acknowledge that he stood up to be counted when it really mattered.

He also prompted one of the best All-Ireland final speeches we will ever hear.

The Dublin captain Bryan Cullen did all he had to do. He spoke the obligatory few words in Irish. He thanked everyone from the Dublin management team to the beaten Kerry side.

Then he uttered the immortal words: “See You All In Coppers.”

Coppers is Copper Face Jacks, a well known nightclub on Dublin’s Harcourt Street that has long been known as one of the best spots in town.

It is not pretentious like some of its neighbors. It is not exclusive like some of its rivals. It is just a good place to go.

Bryan Cullen promised the Dublin fans he will see them there this week. He may even bring Stephen Cluxton with him.

After what they pulled off on Sunday, I doubt if the Dublin fans will begrudge their heroes a week on the batter as we say, a week in Coppers. They probably deserve it.


The luck of the Jersey for Europe

There's a jersey belong to the Irish rugby team legend Paul O’Connell on the wall of the European Team’s locker room ahead of this weekend’s Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle.

A keen golfer, and a man who has played the Meath course that hosts the best lady golfers from Europe and America for this bi-annual event, O’Connell won’t be around to support the home team himself.

He’s a bit busy at the minute. As Team Europe tackles Team USA, O’Connell will be on the other side of the world preparing for a test of his own.

The European captain Alison Nicholas met O’Connell on a recent trip to Ireland and was so impressed with his will to win that she asked him for a signed shirt.

The Limerick man has also sent a good luck message and an inspirational few words to a Euro outfit that will need all the luck and all the inspiration it can get against a crack American side this weekend.

O’Connell is definitely the man for that job as he proved once again with a faultless display in the heart of the Irish pack that took on the Aussies and beat them in the Rugby World Cup last Saturday.

Some pundits here at home have already described the 15-6 win over the Wallabies as the greatest upset in World Cup history. It may not be that good but it was certainly one of the greatest Irish results of all time.

What made it all the more special was the element of surprise.  Ireland was brutal, by any standards, in the warm-up games against France, England and Scotland and not much better in the opening round win over the USA.

Last Saturday, however, it all came right as an Irish side led magnificently from the front by O’Connell and brilliantly from the back by Brian O’Driscoll, pulled off all the right moves against a fancied Aussie side in Eden Park.

Like Europe this weekend, Ireland were rank outsiders to win through.

O’Connell has beaten the Yanks once this month already. If his jersey can inspire Europe’s lady golfers to anything like the level of achievement he reached in Auckland last Saturday, it will indeed be an inspiration.

Sideline Views

RUGBY: Ronan O’Gara was very honest with himself and with the nation after the Aussie triumph on Saturday when he told Irish television that he will quit the national team after this World Cup. Now seemingly resigned to a role as understudy to Jonathon Sexton, it can’t be easy for O’Gara looking on from the bench whenever Ireland start a big game these days. But the one thing his time on the pitch proved in the win over Australia is that Rog still has a lot to offer this Irish side. Declan Kidney needs to tell him as much when the World Cup is over -- and he needs to keep O’Gara on board.

GOLF: Great story on Monday as the U.S. Solheim Cup ladies golf team made its way from Dublin Airport to their Dunboyne hotel -- their bus broke down. It just so happened that the European team passed them by on the motorway and took great pleasure in revealing their hassles to the world via Twitter. On Tuesday, at a pre-event press conference at Killeen Castle, Christina Kim revealed that the American players listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” when the bus ground to a halt. “Thunder Road” might have been more appropriate.

SOCCER: Whatever price you can get on Manchester United for the Premier League title in England, take it. They were outplayed for long spells by Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday and still won comfortably enough on a 3-1 scoreline.
Fernando Torres did score a great goal for the visitors but his late miss has to be seen to be believed. YouTube will supply the footage if you haven’t seen it already.

GAA: Am I the only one who didn’t like the way Kieran Donaghy barged into Dublin defenders on Sunday, then went down like a sack of potatoes when he got the slap he probably deserved in the final minutes? I’ve no problem with the so-called “star” giving it like a man, but he should take it like a man as well.

Heroes of the week

Any team that makes you sit up on the edge of your seat deserves credit, and both the Irish rugby team and the Dublin footballers did just that this weekend. Declan Kidney’s unfancied side got the ball rolling with an unexpected but well deserved win over Australia on Saturday. The Dublin’s underdogs followed it up as they dug deep to snatch the Sam Maguire from Kerry’s grasp in an incredible finale to the All-Ireland football decider on Sunday. What a weekend of sport.

Idiot of the week

The former Munster hooker Frankie Sheehan would have been forgiven if he had stood up and boxed fellow pundit George Hook after Ireland’s sensational World Cup win over Australia on Saturday. Georgie Boy just couldn’t be happy for Ireland after a win against all the odds, moaning that it wasn’t a great game of rugby and such like. Fact is, George, nobody but you was bothered about the quality as long as Ireland won. And they did. So don’t worry George, be happy.

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