Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Biting Back: Northern Ireland's sporting heroes deserve better

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

The 12 contenders for this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year award have been announced ahead of the event to be held at ExCel on December 16. KIAWAH ISLAND, SC - AUGUST 12: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on August 12, 2012 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Years from now, when Rosie McIlroy has run out of sideboard space and Brasso, how will we remember her boy, Rory?

I don't mean in terms of his millions and trophies. Where will be the tangible reminder for future generations and visitors that the world's greatest golfer and soon to be our richest ever sports star actually hails from our wee country?

Not just Rory... Jack Kyle, Mary Peters, George Best, Pat Jennings, Taylor and Higgins, Barry McGuigan and a raft of world beaters in all sports right through to our present day Olympians and Paralympians.

Where is the permanent totem to their achievements and the pride they infused us with in bad times and good?

It is a great anomaly of the ‘new' Northern Ireland that we do not have a Sports Museum, or even a corner of a museum, library or public building, to commemorate our sporting icons. The men and women who provided the one semblance of normality in the worst of days and who continue to show their country in the best possible light worldwide.

We've had millions spent on the Titanic project, a ship that sank. The visitor numbers stack up, so fair enough. We're getting the Conflict Resolution Centre/Hunger Strike Museum, call it what you will, I always said we'd get at the Maze. It happened, so why airbrush it? And we have busloads of battlefield tourists tripping up the Shankill and Falls to view the ‘muriels'. Everyone to their own. Yet still no room at the inn for our true heroes.

Our politicos of all hues are never far away when there's a photo opportunity to bask in reflected sporting glory. Well, every day we go without an edifice to those continuing, uplifting triumphs is a glorious opportunity missed.

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