|A different looking Padraig Harrington.|
There’s a great photograph doing the rounds at the moment of Padraig Harrington, the trailblazer for Irish golf’s major winners of late.
Before Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke started bringing golf’s big trophies north of the border, Padraig was the man.
He won three majors in the space of a few short years and also captured the Irish Open at Adare Manor, an achievement quite close to his heart.
Currently Padraig is struggling to come to terms with a swing that has deserted the winner’s enclosure for some time now, but he is trying hard to retrace that old glory.
His attention to detail and his penchant for practice is legendary and has never left him. Class, as they say, is permanent and form is temporary, and there’s little doubt Padraig will be a winner again.
What’s also never deserted Padraig is his determination to do the right thing, to make life better for others less fortunate.
He has worn red shoe laces in his shoes for some time as a sign of his support for Ireland’s Special Olympians. He has attended fundraisers up and down the country in aid of all sorts of charities.
And right now he is growing a moustache as part of the Movember campaign this side of the world, designed to make men more aware of their own health and the potential pitfalls that await them.
Padraig’s particular brand of chin hair, caught on camera in Hong Kong late last week, is something special and worth a look. At first glance it looks Mexican, but with more detailed study it makes Harrington look like something out of the Village People.
The great Padraig isn’t the only Irish sports star growing a mustache for charity this month.
Half the Ireland rugby team are sporting them. So are half the soccer team, some of whom played in last week’s friendly defeat to Greece and some of whom didn’t make it for a game Ireland probably didn’t deserve to lose.
One man who made it over with a mustache but didn’t play is the Stoke City striker Jonathon Walters, who pulled out of the squad just a day before the game with a slight injury.
One man who did play with a Movember tache, but left the field early thanks to an injury worry of his own, is Walters’s Stoke teammate Glenn Whelan.
A Movember veteran, Walters has a fairly run of the mill mustache this year while Whelan’s is a little more adventurous with growth on his chin and some hair running down from his bottom lip.
I know this because both Whelan and Walters played for Stoke City in front of the Sky cameras at West Ham on Monday when they conjured up quite a fascinating goal from a first half corner.
The move, straight off the training ground by the look of it, saw Walters move swiftly from one side of the box to the other as Whelan whipped in a low cross which the big Irishman finished to the net before the Hammers defense could realize what was going on.
The goal wasn’t enough to win the match -- the home team rallied after the break and Dubliner Joey O’Brien got a deserved equalizer -- but it did get Whelan and Walters and their mustaches a lot of attention this side of the world on Tuesday morning’s back pages.
That’s good because it alerts the football world to Movember when two such high profile mustaches make the headlines.
It’s also good to see Whelan and Walters get some recognition as both of them, a little bit like Padraig Harrington at present, have been through the mill.
Whelan was let go by Manchester City as a kid and has worked hard to re-invent himself as a professional footballer and get to the level where he is considered a first choice pick by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
Walters, finally enjoying life as a Premier League footballer with Stoke, has had more clubs that Jack Nicklaus to borrow an old football-golf cliché but he too is coming good now.
Their form on Monday night, probably watched on live television in Italy by Trap but certainly caught on DVD for the Irish boss, is good news for our national team.
It is also good news for Harrington, proof positive that hard work eventually pays off for those dedicated to their sport and the pursuit of perfection.
Whelan, Walters and Harrington have more in common than their Movember moustaches. They are role models for Irish sport and for Irish kids.
And don’t be surprised if Harrington has a little win of his own in the European Tour’s season finale in Dubai this week.
He’s due a win and such an outcome would definitely show his new mustache off to the world. It has to be seen to be believed.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)
SOCCER: Colleague Noel Dunne was laid to rest on Monday, 22 years after we soldiered together in the press box at Italia ’90. The former Irish Independent soccer correspondent waited a lifetime to see his beloved Ireland team play at a World Cup finals, and the wait was worth it the day Packie Bonner and David O’Leary knocked Romania out to send us to the quarter-finals. Rest in peace Noel – you’re still the only man I ever met who drank gin and tap water!
GOLF: Looking for the perfect book for a golf fan this Christmas? Then look no further than The Irish Majors by the country’s top golf correspondent Philip Reid. The Irish Times writer has put together a fascinating account of the majors won by Ireland’s top players, all the way from Fred Daly in 1947 to Rory McIlroy in 2012. Philip tells me the book is available for instant download from Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and I can heartily recommend it. It’s a great read.
SOCCER: Shay Given is just one of many commentators who thinks Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal for Manchester United against their neighbors City last year was more impressive than Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s spectacular strike for Sweden against England last week. You can make your own mind up on YouTube -- the version with the Alan Partridge commentary is brilliant -- but there is no denying that Ibrahimovic and Sweden are going to be serious World Cup opponents for Ireland next March.
SOCCER: Nice touch from Celtic manager Neil Lennon ahead of Tuesday night’s big Champions League game against Benfica in Portugal. Not alone did Lennon invite some of the Lisbon Lions abroad the team flight, he also brought the current Celtic players to the old national stadium where the same Lions won the European Cup in 1967. History still counts for something in one part of Glasgow.
RUGBY: Ireland arrested their recent run of defeats with an emphatic 53-0 win on Saturday, but the game was only a friendly and the real action resumes when Argentina visit the Aviva Stadium. Declan Kidney’s team have to win to preserve their top eight status in the ratings ahead of the World Cup draw so the real pressure returns this weekend.
SOCCER: Giovanni Trapattoni wants FIFA to stop counting friendlies when it comes to the world rankings, which might not be such a good idea considering Ireland’s most recent competitive games have included defeats to Germany, Italy, Spain and Croatia with only wins against the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan to count in 2012. Not good.
HURLING: The hurling all-stars look set to travel to Shanghai in China next year, a move which may open the sport up to a new Chinese audience of players and spectators! Who knows, the Chinese may find a way to stop Kilkenny in their tracks.
GAA: Great photos of the Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups in Time Square last week ahead of the GPA dinner at the Marriot Marquis hotel. I just wonder what the locals made of the two greatest trophies in Irish sports. And did they even notice?
SOCCER: Love the story of Snoop Dogg emerging as a potential investor in Glasgow Celtic. Better still was the headline in the Irish Sun – Hoop Dogg!
HERO OF THE WEEK
A STAR was potentially born in Limerick on Saturday when Craig Gilroy scored a hat-trick of tries for the Ireland rugby team in the 53-0 win over Fiji in an international friendly. Not since Brian O’Driscoll scored a hat-trick of tries against France many years ago has a young player offered such promise. Gilroy could be as good as Dricco according to those in the know. Let’s hope so.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
THE English idiot who issued death threats against Sunderland winger James McClean over poppy-gate now says he is living in fear of an attack by the IRA. It’s amazing how his bravery disappeared when the boot was on the other foot. And it dispels the rumor that the so-called supporter is a former British Army soldier.