World Cup withdrawal isn’t easy

It's the calm after the storm, and the comedown is proving very difficult to cope with after five weeks living out of a World Cup suitcase full of emotion and never to be repeated experiences.


A week after the late night flight home from Johannesburg to Amsterdam with a plane full of dejected and, in some cases, drunken Dutch fans, and life has suddenly got very, very boring.

The Vuvuzelas have been silenced. There are no more FIFA press briefings to go to. The wife doesn’t need to see my accreditation badge before I’m allowed through the front door.

The kids don’t talk to their father in a mixed zone. The dog doesn’t bark with the same ferocity as a Durban security man very anxious to point you in the right direction of the press center and away from the VIP lounge.

The one bedroomed annex to a Craighall Park guest house that was my home from home for 35 nights is no more. I’ve escaped that nomadic lifestyle and the long drives to Rustenburg and Bloemfontein and even Pretoria.

And heck yes, I miss it. I miss picking up the South African Star each and every morning to see what the contributors to the letter pages -- the best part of the paper -- have to say about FIFA, the crime rate and the World Cup tourists.

I miss my daily dose of Nelson Mandela update in a country fascinated by the man who turned 92 just last Sunday.

I wonder how Nkela the housekeeper and Divisions the driver and Limited the gardener are getting on now that the World Cup has been and gone in their fair land.

And I wonder how South Africa will cope with their post-World Cup blues if I’m struggling to adapt to the quiet life after the ball is over.

In many ways it reminds me of the Ryder Cup experience in Ireland four years ago, a tournament we had to wait an extra year for in the wake of 9-11 attacks on New York.
The build-up to the K Club spectacular was intense. Ireland Inc. went on stand-by for the great sporting event in the history of the world.

Homeowners in and around Straffan were going to make millions from renting their houses to Yanks desperate to taste the Irish golf experience.

The very golf clubs now struggling to make ends meet were going to make enough in green fees in the week of the Irish Ryder Cup to ensure their long-term survival. Ireland was never going to be the same again after the visit of Tiger and Bubba and Lefty.

How romantic we were to believe that dream. How naive we were as well.

On the Wednesday before Friday’s start of the Ryder Cup action I stood on the hill overlooking the 13 green on the Palmer Course and watched as the various players went through in their practice rounds.

Beside me was a very tall man by the name of Colm Keys, a Navan native so tall that children used to stop on the streets of Izumo just to look up at him when we were there with Ireland a week before the 2002 World Cup.

Now the GAA correspondent with the Irish Independent, Colm was in the employ of John Kierans and the Daily Mirror back in 2006 if memory serves me right, and a bloody good job he did for them too.

His penchant for the perfect phrase to sum up any situation came to the fore that Wednesday afternoon as our feet settled into the damp conditions underfoot in the Kildare village straddled by the river Liffey.

“This Ryder Cup is going to be a bit like Hayley’s Comet,” offered Colm. “You wait a lifetime for it to come around and then it’s gone in an instant.”

How right he was. Within five days one of the wettest Ryder Cups in history was gone.
The circus tent was lifted, and the pictures of Darren Clarke’s tears in memory of his late wife Heather and the pink jackets the European players wore in her honor were already on their way to the memory bank.

The Ryder Cup will be back on European soil this October for the first time since it landed on Irish shores all those years ago.

Like us in 2006, Wales are debutant hosts this time around and I’ve no doubt they will be “excired and delired” as Gay Byrne used to say in advance of golf’s greatest spectacle.
But, like the South Africans, they too should be warned that sporting brilliance is only ever a fleeting reality.

The World Cup is over and the world is already forgetting about South Africa.

We have to get on with our lives, and so do those who enthralled us in Johannesburg and Cape Town and all points South African.

Manchester United play in Dublin on Wednesday, August 4. Ireland play Argentina at the Aviva Stadium the following Wednesday. The Premier League kicks off just three days after that game.
Sport doesn’t hang around for memories, and it certainly doesn’t hang around for sentiment.

Those of us currently missing the Vuvuzelas and the World Cup will just have to get on with it. Football’s Hayley’s Comet has been and gone and more’s the pity -- ‘cos I miss it like hell.

Sideline Views

GOLF: Great quote from Graeme McDowell after the final round of the British Open on Sunday when he explained just why he is taking longer than expected to come back to reality after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach a few weeks back and enjoying the moment shall we say.

“The British Open was maybe a week too soon,” said McDowell after he finished well down the field. “I could have probably done with using those two weeks after Pebble a bit more wisely, but you want to celebrate and enjoy yourself. I’m down from cloud nine to about cloud five. There was definitely a sense of coming down last week.”

After his U.S. Open achievement, McDowell is quite entitled to float on cloud nine for a while.

HURLING: Sometimes it’s great to see myths shattered. Edward Carson has long been regarded as the founder of Ulster Unionism and I’ve always known that he was a Dubliner by birth.

Now it transpires that Carson was a hurler during his time at Trinity College, and a new poc fada on Stormont Hill in Belfast next month is to be named in his honor. Competitors in the first ever hurling event in Stormont, organized by Gerry Adams among others, will play for the Edward Carson Trophy and will see the hurlers hit sliotars up and down the Prince of Wales avenue that leads to the Parliament buildings.

I’m not sure who will be turning in their grave that day, but I’m sure somebody will.

SOCCER: England’s World Cup flop Joe Cole has signed for Liverpool on a weekly wage of around $120,000, and his arrival may prompt Steven Gerrard to stay according to the reports in all the papers on Tuesday. So might the fact that Real Madrid haven’t actually made a threatened bid for Gerrard, with manager Jose Mourinho far more interested in the younger German Mesut Ozil. Having watched Gerrard and Ozil at close quarters in the World Cup I’d definitely be going for the German if was the Real Madrid boss. Which I never will be of course, but you can always dream!

GAA: My old mucker Paul Galvin is in the news again after one of our stations, TV3, had to deny weekend newspaper reports that he’s going to work as a presenter on the Xpose gossip show that also features the likes of Glenda Gilson, former girlfriend to the recently married Brian O’Driscoll. Galvin has time on his hands -- he’s in the middle of another two month ban from the GAA -- but the bosses at the television station have laughed off the story.

SOCCER: FIFA big wig Sepp “Blunder” Blatter is kicking for touch again with regard to goal-line technology. A meeting of the International Football Board in Wales next Wednesday will only discuss adding video technology to the agenda for another meeting in October, which proves Blatter and his cronies aren’t that bothered about the issue at all despite all their promises over the course of the World Cup finals.

HERO OF THE WEEK

Having listened to a very honest and almost distraught Fergal O’Donnell sum up Roscommon’s capitulation against Mayo in the Connacht Championship on a Castlebar Saturday in June of last year, I have to say I was delighted to see him steer the Rossies to a first provincial title in nine years last Sunday. O’Donnell’s achievement is proof that you should never give up in sport, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you.

IDIOTS OF THE WEEK

Those who run the New York Red Bulls soccer franchise should be ashamed of themselves for handing that French cheat Thierry Henry millions of dollars to ply his treacherous trade in America. Henry retired from international football after France’s farcical World Cup, but those who control football should have forced him to retire from the game altogether after his blatant cheating in Paris last November. I just hope no Irish men or woman support that shower.

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