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Archive for August, 2012
August 15th is a highly significant date around the world in both religious and political terms. Here in Tramore, Co. Waterford, ‘the 15th’ has long been associated with the height of the tourist season and always falls on the week of the Tramore Racing Festival. Horse-racing in Tramore has been a huge attraction for over 200 years now and draws vast crowds from all round the south-east and beyond. This is a week when the population of Tramore swells, but mainly with people whose families have been coming here for generations.
In the normal course of events, the sun is shining, the beach thronged, the Merries in full swing with people of all ages taking turns in the bumper cars, the Hall of Mirrors and even the little train that runs around the Amusement Park. With the races due to start tomorrow, one would be likely to come across a farmer from the Midlands enjoying his annual dip in the sea and happy to share tips for likely winners over the week’s racing.
Today brought a different kind of 15th with a huge storm blowing and torrential downpours. All appeared to be lost but after tea there was a break in the sky and Tramore came alive with people converging out along the Cliff Road, The Guillemene and Newtown to take in the magnificence of the waves. The sense of community was palpable. This was ‘our’ place; ‘our’ Bay and we were there together standing in awe. I doubt there was a person there who didn’t wish that they could have shared that special moment with people from past generations for whom Tramore was also very special.
Even when the rain started to fall again, and the spray was cutting into our faces, there was good humour and sheer wonderment at the vista that lay before us.
I just had to see Garrarus, which is one of my little sanctuaries about three miles on along the coast. Just at the turn down to the beach, the sky took on an orange tint and there was a hint of blue trying to blend its way through the dankness. Just one car at Garrarus, a father with his two kids and their dog. A sweet, sweet calm and hope that the races will go ahead with all their excitement and colour. But I know that memories of this August 15th will linger long in the collective memory of all who felt its force in and around Tramore this evening.
Andy Murray has just won Olympic Gold in what was one of the most breathtaking examples of determination, talent and focus that I have ever witnessed in all the years I have been watching tennis.
Four years ago, Andy Murray became my bedfellow for a couple of terrible days. I was on holiday in Jersey and on the second day got a horrific muscle spasm in my back which meant that I was laid low in agony for the remaining ten days on that lovely island. I had brought Andy Murray’s autobiography with me for holiday-reading and found it one of the most engrossing books I have ever read – and I have read a fair few tennis biographies and autobiographies in my time.
The idea that a boy from Scotland, who was in the school in Dunblane when that terrible shooting occurred, was dreaming of becoming the world’s greatest tennis player just captured my imagination. This was someone with a dream and vision who knew everything there was to know about how hard-work and sacrifices, and not just natural talent, are what makes a champion.
Since his defeat to the great Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Final just 28 days ago, I have been hoping, hoping, hoping that he could finally make the biggest breakthrough of his career and win Olympic Gold. From early this morning I felt that today he would shine. I had a perfect lead up to the match. The sun was beating down as I went for an early swim in Tramore Bay here in Co. Waterford in the south-east of Ireland. I floated in the calm sea looking up at the blue sky hoping that I could bring some extra energy and joie de vivre to Andy Murray. I was thinking of how his spirit had helped so much to carry me through the agony of those pain-ridden days in Jersey and I truly wanted to see him overcome the agony of his Wimbledon defeat by taking gold in what was like a second bite of the cherry against Federer on the Centre Court.
What a brilliant, unwavering performance! There must have been moments when Murray felt that Federer would come searing back into the match but he kept his cool and treated us to a display of brilliance – all that pent up talent finally flowed – and more than anything his ace on match point proved that he has finally come of age.
Andy Murray’s Olympic Gold will be an inspiration to young tennis players right across Great Britain and Ireland. But more than that, he is living proof to us all that dreams can become reality and that defeats can be turned into victories.