I don’t bet on sports events, not out of any self-righteousness or anything like that, more a case that I just don’t understand it all and have no great desire to learn.
I would have loved to have developed an interest in horse racing for no other reason that you could go to a meeting any day of the week.
Every now and again someone gives me a tip for a horse and I feel obliged to back it, usually with the money going in one direction only. The fact that the tip came from a bookie the last time didn’t help the feeling of being mugged!
We provide a GAA service to Paddy Power Bookmakers and one of their top guys, for once, mentioned a horse running in Cheltenham that day. ‘Get on it’, I think is what he said. I drove to Salthill, not sure whether I should go and hit Mulholland for the big payout or whether Power should pay for the loose tongue.
I had visions of being in town buying a new jacket or something and proudly announcing that the money was ‘coming out of Cheltenham’.
I hadn’t the guts to back it on the nose, so went a tenner each way and was pretty confident when its odds of 12/1 started dipping dramatically as the race approached. I didn’t think a tenner would have such an impact! But, obviously, there were others sucked in as well. In fairness, the horse gave it a go and if there was a prize for leading all the way before hitting the brakes a few hundred yards out, I would be in the money but fifth or sixth was as good as it got.
People have often queried why we don’t put our money where our mouths (or fingers, I would suggest) are and back the predictions we make in rugby, GAA etc as, apparently, we are on ‘the inside track’ or something like. We are supposed to know something about what we write about.
The whole notion of the ‘sure thing’ came back to me a few days ago when I was researching Connacht’s longest winning run in what is now the PRO12 league.
It came in 2002 and I was managing the team at the time. We won five on the spin but, goodness, were they tight! Mark McHugh dropped a last gasp drop goal to beat Borders by a point on the opening day and then did the same to beat his native Leinster by three in Doonybrook. We beat Cardiff by a point in the Sportsground and then pipped Bridgend by a solitary point in Wales, the day the current manager Tim Allnutt suffered a grievous injury. We ‘hammered’ Newport by six points.
The ‘sure bet’ was the sixth match of the season against Pontypridd. They had lost most of their games and they arrived in Galway a shambles. They rose at 4am on a Friday morning in Pontypridd, drove to Stansted, flew to Shannon, got caught in traffic and arrived in Galway around seven or eight in the evening.
They were staying in the Corrib Great Southern and were meant to do a captain’s run in Crowley Park. They went for a walk instead but they were like characters from ‘The Walking Dead’. No threat there you thought, not even with Neil Jenkins on board.
The following morning, the day of the match, my counterpart in Pontypridd rang me in a panic. He had gone with Jenkins, who was still playing for Wales at the time, to take a few kicks at the Sportsground but they had no pump and the balls were flat. This was four or five hours before the game. We didn’t, obviously, tell the players that the opposition were all over the shop but amongst ourselves we were marking down a perfect start to the season with a sixth straight win.
We were beaten 40-0 and didn’t win another league game that season.
SIGHT/SOUND OF THE WEEK: The crowd in Cusack Park in Ennis on Sunday. Almost 10,000 paid in to watch Clare play Galway. It’s a long time since I was at a regulation league match when the crowd packed into the corners of a ground. Hard to beat being All-Ireland champions.
THEY SAID IT: “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams”, Celtic fans chant their sympathies to the then Rangers goalkeeper, who had been diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia
IT HAPPENED ON THIS DAY: 26th March 1927: Ferdinando Minoala and Guiseppe Morandi won the inaugural Mille Miglia. The race, which was responsible for popularising the Alfa Romeo, was from Brescia to Rome and back but a smaller version followed a bad accident in 1957