It's not quite this quiet but it's close says Tommy Martin. Mark Baker/AP/Press Association Images
Rest Day

Welcome to the pit stop of sporting weekends

In his latest column, Tommy Martin says there might not be much sport on this weekend, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

HOW DID THIS happen? Who is responsible? What cruel global conspiracy contrived a weekend pretty much without sport?

Is it the result of a hastily scribbled Trump executive order? Frankly, I’d prefer waterboarding.

Is it the final twist of some dreadful January detox program?

“I’ve stayed off the drink, given up the fags, cut out the red meat…now this?!”

Is it just a dreadful, unfortunate mistake?

Of course, there is actually sport on this weekend, if you fancy broadening your palette away from the “big three” of soccer, GAA and rugby.

You really should stay up until the wee small hours and watch Carl Frampton defend his WBA featherweight title in an eagerly awaited rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.

Frampton was named The Ring magazine’s 2016 Fighter of the Year and is now being talked about as the greatest Irish boxer of all time.

Unfortunately he’s also from Belfast, which most people from the south of Ireland these days seem to believe is somewhere on the outskirts of Narnia. This means he’s well behind Gloria Hunniford, Jimmy Nesbitt and that Julian guy from UTV in our list of favourite Northern Irish people.

There’s decent racing on, including at Cheltenham; though apparently there’s another meeting there in March that’ll be more worth your while.

Ah, but what about the tennis? The Australian Open finals? The Williams sisters (sort of) battling it out; the great Roger Federer and his quest for a fairytale 18th Grand Slam title?

On too early. Sport before breakfast doesn’t count. Anyway, what kind of weirdo gets up at 8am on a Sunday? [ahem...cough...]

No, what’s missing is the type of sport that’s normally plonked in the middle of your weekend, dominating your life, keeping you away from the twin threats of family and fresh air.

Matches. Big, fat matches. Build up, first half, half-time-was-it-a-penalty-Jamie?, second half, post-match-lets-hear-from-the-winning-manager…then flick and do it all again.

Here’s the grim picture. There are no major rugby fixtures on, with the authorities declaring an off week between the conclusion of the European Champions Cup pool stage and the beginning of the Six Nations. This is much like the way warring medieval kings would declare a truce to clear away the piles of dead bodies before resuming the bloody carnage.

Proper GAA action doesn’t start until next week, in the shape of the Allianz Football League. The league is often criticised because it takes three months to play, no-one really cares who wins and all memory of it is magically wiped away by the middle of May.

But we are damn glad of it when it comes around. Purists will point to this weekend’s finals of the January pre-season competitions, suggesting healthy attendances as evidence of their worth. But then people in Soviet Russia used to queue for hours to buy a potato.

Then there’s the football. Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no Premier League this weekend. It’s the FA Cup fourth round, you see.

Most of us have a similar relationship with the FA Cup as we have with the Irish language. We know it’s part of the heritage and that it’s important it is preserved, but frankly it has very little relevance to our lives today.

In many ways the FA Cup is England’s GAA: a vast, democratic edifice that reaches from the smallest hamlet right up to the great cathedrals of the national game.

Sure it’s Southampton against Arsenal this weekend, but last August it was Hemsworth Miners Welfare taking on Runcorn Linnets (the miners digging out a 2-1 win, naturally).

But while the FA Cup is fine in the romantic flush of its early rounds, and later on when stuttering giants are desperately looking for a bit of silverware, it’s the bit in the middle that’s the problem. The bit where the colliery towns and factory works teams are gone and it’s just disinterested Premier League squad players shuffling about, like sulky teenagers visiting their granny’s house. Give it a miss.

So what is the sports fan to do this weekend? You could go to the cinema. Try La-La Land. It’s ridiculously overhyped and has suffered a huge backlash, but contains undoubted flourishes of aesthetic beauty. Think Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

Star Wars: Rogue One is a story of what happens when a brave rebel defies an all-powerful emperor and pays the ultimate price, much like what happened when Ian Madigan moved to France.

Trolls? That’s enough about Joe Brolly.

But don’t worry, in the next few weeks we’ve got the Super Bowl, the Six Nations, the GAA leagues, Champions League, Premier League etc, etc…all building up to that mad March weekend with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the club GAA finals, Michael Conlan’s fight, Manchester City v Liverpool, Kerry v Dublin in the league, Ireland v England in the rugby….[deep breath].

So think of this as a fallow weekend before the harvest to come. Go for a walk, read a book, learn Tai Chi. Hell, give The42 a rest; click on a fact check in TheJournal, or read a funny meme on the Daily Edge. Take a break this weekend.

Take a break this weekend.

You’re going to need it.

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