The Difference

Eyes on the Prize

Yesterday I was doing a PR photo thing for CRY with John Lundy, Jim Grattan and Jessica Delargy of the IFA.

It involved getting together with Jonny Evans of Manchester United for a photo shoot to promote Cardiac Screening.

Jonny agreed a while back to become a patron of CRY and this was the first opportunity we had to get to meet him, get some pics done and for John to explain to him a bit more about CRY. I was interested to see what this well paid professional footballer was like in person.  He was a nice guy, quiet, unassuming. Certainly not a bigtime Charlie as John would describe some of them.

By way of contrast, on Monday afternoon my nephew and good friend Sean Leo headed to Limerick to study for a PGCE at the University. In the boot of the car was tucked a bag of half a dozen or more O’Neills balls to keep him occupied. Alongside various provisions that his mother had carefully packed for his trip. Although he will likely be back on Friday it was a poignant moment. I took myself off.

Two years ago about this time of the year Sean Leo and his two brothers set off round the world for six months. It broke all our hearts to see them go, it was as if they were never coming back. In reality at any given time, half the young people of Portstewart seem to be in Thailand or Oz. Six months they were back, better for the experience. For me it was part of the making of the County Championship winning team that a number of them had been away together for a real adventure. A sort of bonding.

As I met Jonny yesterday and stood shooting the breeze I couldn’t help comparing him with the young gaelic players I know male and female. Without being in any way big headed or overbearing Jonny casually mentioned that he had someone to open his fan mail at Old Trafford.

He also told us in passing how he accidentally drove his golf cart into a lake having lost control of it and had to jump clear. It wasn’t a drunken prank – the wheels locked on a downward slope and he had to jump clear, hurting his leg in the process. He seemed most perturbed about the fact that his phone was wrecked in the water.

He was a personable young fella. Similar to young players I know and work with. No airs or graces. The difference is that yesterday whilst Jonny relaxed in his hotel in ‘recovery’ after Manchester United’s 8-2 hammering of Arsenal, our players were up for work, school, whatever. Certainly not PR photoshoots or endorsements.

It’s a different world. He told us how he didn’t like Arsenal and wished they had scored more, saying ‘I was telling the lads “let’s get into these’ns” so I was.’  I smiled for a minute at this young fella urging Rooney, Giggs and Co to get stuck into it.

On Sunday in a changing room in Newbridge at halftime I heard the same sentiment from one of our senior camogie players. A world separates them but really there is much in common.

The difference is that one is a top class athlete with the greatest team in the world. The other, plays for Manchester United.

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