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Is it time for the GAA to start declaring our teams ‘world champions’?
Spain 4-0 Ireland.
All Blacks 60-0 Ireland.
These are not pretty scorelines from an Irish perspective. Sure we were up against the best nations in their respective sports but these are still embarrassing losses in the two main team sports that Ireland competes in internationally. We like to go into major tournaments with a faint strand of hope that we could accomplish something glorious but the odds will always be against us being delcared champions especially in soccer. Our opponents know it and we know it too.
We are however the greatest GAA sports nation on earth. Our hurling teams are the best in the world. Our Gaelic football teams are the best in the world. They would be world champions. They do not compete in a world championship but this has not stopped the US calling their teams the best in the world. Why should it stop us?
The Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA finals during the week and not only were they declared NBA champions but also world champions. Basketball is played to a high level in Europe but more than likely the NBA champions would defeat Europe’s best fairly comfortably. The NFL’s New York Giants are the current Super Bowl and world champions even though the US is the only country where it is played at such a high professtional level. MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals are world champions.
For years I thought this was just pure American arrogance and it is self-important to call yourself the world’s best after only defeating teams from your own country and an odd few from Canada. But after the disappointment of Euro 2012 and the demolition of Ireland by the All Blacks we need to rebuild the self-esteem of Irish sport. We’ve been put in our place internationally, we’re the little engine that can’t. So wouldn’t it be nice to call ourselves the world’s greatest at something right now? Just imagine it, Kilkenny – All-Ireland and World Hurling Champions. Dublin – All-Ireland and World Gaelic Football Champions. It would feel silly uttering those words initially and it might sound arrogant and pompous but maybe that’s what Irish sport needs. That same arrogance and pompousity that American sport has in droves.
I was listening to Ken Early on Newstalk this week talking about the irrationality needed by some sports people to be a success. He was talking about Frank Lampard specifically. After losing 4-1 to Germany in the 2010 World Cup, Lampard said that he believed the German players were not better than the English players even though it was clear to everyone else that the Germans were far superior. Lampard won a Champions League this season defeating a Bayern Munich team in the final that featured many of the players from England’s 4-1 to Germany. Perhaps it was this irrational self-belief that pushed Lampard the extra inch that he needed to help Chelsea defeat the Germans. Ken Early juxtaposed Lampard’s words with the statements from Irish players after the defeat to Spain and how they accepted that the Spanish players were better and that Ireland could never compete with them. We’ve got an inferiority complex. If we don’t believe that we can beat the best teams then we never will. When Roy Keane said that the players need to change their mentality, this is what he was talking about.
It might seem superficial for the GAA to start calling our teams world champions but maybe subconsciously it would instill the irrational self-belief that Irish sport needs to compete on an international level. We might start to believe that if we can be the best in the world at hurling and Gaelic football then maybe we can be the best in the world at other sports. It’s time to do something to change the perception of what we can achieve. We can call ourselves world champions and we should do exactly that.