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Dublin: 2 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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Limerick's 'biggest let-down', a powerful story of struggle and survival and more of the week's best sportswriting

It’s Sunday morning so stick the kettle on and have a read of our selection of the week’s best sportswriting.

1. “To be a Monaghan person last week was to think a lot about potential, even without realising you were doing it. All our lives, All-Ireland finals have been a thing that happened to other people. Friends, cousins, spouses, people at work – every year around this time, there’d be someone to send a text to or buy a pint for or stop in the street to wish all the best in September. To be on the other side of that for once, literally for once in the life of anyone in the county under the age of 88, would have been very cool.”

The Irish Times’ Malachy Clerkin wrote about the Farney county coming so close but yet so far to the All-Ireland final last weekend.

Conor McManus 12/8/2018 Monaghan's Conor McManus. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

2. “Martha King doesn’t know what she’s supposed to look like. Everyone else seems to have an idea. When strangers learn she competes in professional lumberjack sports—that’s the official nomenclature—King hears some variation of the same line: You don’t look like a lumberjack.

‘Oh, you’re not very big,’ they say. ‘Shouldn’t you be doing something else?’ they ask.

‘Like what?’ she responds. ‘Do you want me to start sewing?’”

Jacqueline Kantor interviews King for The Ringer ahead of the lumberjills taking centre stage at the STIHL Timbersports Series.

3. “It was that day at the tee that mattered most. Because I discovered I was capable of excellence, if only for an instant. And if I could be excellent once, maybe I could be again, no matter where I came from, or what the odds, or how little people expected from me.

‘Golf shows you who people are,’ my grandfather often said.

That evening, with his help, golf also showed me who I could be.”

Alison Glock recently penned ‘Drive of a Lifetime’ for ESPN.

4. “All I had to do was step off the chair.

That was it. Literally. Everything else was taken care of.

I’d gone out to the local hardware store and bought the rope.

I’d made the noose. Tied it to a staircase bannister on the second floor of my apartment. Placed the loop around my neck.

I was standing up there, too. Perched on that chair. On my tippy toes … all ready to go.

I just had to take that one last step and it all would’ve been over.

The end.

You wouldn’t have heard about it, either. It wouldn’t have been big news. Nothing would’ve popped up on the ESPN ticker about me.

I’m not Connor McDavid or Ovi or Sid. Hell, I’m not even in the NHL.

I’m not famous.

And as strange as it might sound, I think that’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to write this. Because, in some ways, I’m more like you than I am like the top players in my sport. I’m not a superstar, or a transcendent talent. I’m just a hardworking goalie who busted his butt to become a pro and then bounced around the lower professional leagues for a few years and is currently playing overseas in Germany.

You’ve never heard of me.

You don’t know my name.

But it’s Ben.

And I’ve got a story I’d like to share with you if you have a few minutes to spare.”

As a minor league goalie trying to reach the NHL, Ben Meisner feared discussing his mental health would hurt his career. He shared his story of survival on The Players’ Tribune.

Britain Soccer Premier League Arsenal's Petr Cech. Source: Tim Ireland

5. “More engagement, more interactions and more followers equals more value to sponsors and thus a stronger bargaining position in negotiations. The two initial tweets about Cech generated over 5,500 retweets and 13,000 likes. If Cech responding angrily might make the exercise seem like a faux-pas, the opposite is true because Leverkusen will have delighted in the headlines. When the entire aim is to go viral, who cares about corporate social responsibility? There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Daniel Storey on football clubs and social media for Football365  off the back of the Petr Cech and Bayer Leverkusen Twitter altercation last weekend.

6. “Rock cocaine is going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever experienced, Willie.

I feel terrible writing that out. It’s not something I want to put down on paper. But I’m just being honest. Sad but true, man.

Powder cocaine will have screwed up your nose after all those years of using. You’ll have snorted so much when you’re with the Royals that your nose will constantly be raw and in pain. Some nights, you won’t be able to sleep because it hurts so bad. You’ll have to take painkillers just to get some rest.

Well, crack is gonna solve that problem for you.”

Another interesting piece on The Players’ Tribune — this time it’s former baseball player Willie Mays Aikens’ letter to his younger self.

7. “Like so many new parents, Serena still marvels at how strongly she feels pulled to her daughter, finding joy in how Olympia washes her hands in the dog bowl, smooshes avocado into her hair and shot puts Tupperware across the kitchen. “Sometimes she just wants Mommy, she doesn’t want anyone else,” Serena says, nearly choking up. “I still have to learn a balance of being there for her, and being there for me. I’m working on it. I never understood women before, when they put themselves in second or third place. And it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to do.”"

TIME’s Sean Gregory chats to Serena Williams about her complicated comeback, motherhood and making time to be selfish.

8. “Keane has put a lot of distance between himself and his struggles, and further still between the family man he is now and the hurler who once threatened to end Limerick’s Liam MacCarthy famine with the best young players in the country.

It may have been sixteen years since that last U21 win but Limerick people still don’t forget what those teams promised and ultimately, didn’t deliver. All-Ireland U21 final totals for Keane of 1-8, 0-7 and 1-6 aren’t easy to forget.

“Around Limerick, without being cruel, I was probably the biggest let-down,” he says.

“You go from being the top-scorer for three years with the U21s to acting the maggot. Then you come back and become top-scorer for the senior team and act the maggot again.

Mark Keane Limerick's Mark Keane. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I get it a lot, ‘Jesus you were brilliant, imagine if you did this or that’. I’d get that fairly regularly, even now. I’ve lads I work with and they would have known of me and they say, ‘Jesus, we were standing there looking up at you and now you are here working with us’.”"

Will Slattery speaks to Mark Keane for the Irish Independent — the hurling prodigy who lost his way, but overcame his demons.

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