Jimmy Geoghegan: Sustaining the light that never goes out

Recently I spoke to someone who was thining of kicking starting a career in Gaelic football. Nothing unusual about that you might say except in this case the prospective player was a woman in her forties.

She talked about how one of her friends, also in her forties, had recently joined a 'Mothers and Others' group and loved it. Not only that she found that she was very good at it - and I mean very good. The 'Mothers and Others' concept has proven to be a great successs it seems, one of the more unheralded aspects of the revolutuion that has taken place in women's sport in recent times. It's where women, mostly mothers it seems, meet on a regular basis and engage in a game of football, Gaelic football.

The idea of someone finding out that they are very talented at something in their forties is both delightful yet sad also. Bitter, sweet. At least they found out they are good at the sport but they must be left wondering 'what might have been' if they had been able to play the game at a much younger age. How much would they have achieved? Like a player who gets an injury at a young age and never fulfils his or her true potential.

Sport is one of the great cures for society's illness helping people both physically and mentally but it shouldn't just be confined to the youth of the country. Older people in the fifties, sixties and beyond should be encouraged to take part. Last spring I attended a Towns' Cup semi-final between Ashbourne and Portlaoise in North Kildare RFC''s excellent ground near Kilcock. Beside the carpark was, and presumably still is, a bowling green. People were engaged in a game on the well-manicured surface. It was intriguing to watch them as they gauged how and where they should roll the ball.

The players were in the zone, fully focused on what they were doing - and that's the great prize that sport gives us. It allows us the time and space to step out of the real world of mortgages, cost of living costs and other pesky distractions.

Not that all participation by older people is a good thing. Years ago George Foreman talked of making a comeback as a boxer and he was nearly 50 at the time! Sometimes it's just best to admit the genie is gone from the bottle. One of the saddest sights is watching, say, a once great hurler or footballer continue well beyond their sell-by date. That doesn't mean he or she should pack it up altogether. There is always some kind of sporting pursuit to be followd; some mountain to climb. Some way of sustaining that light that never goes out.