Sporting success and legendary status is measured on trophies, awards, goals, assists, tries, touchdowns and whatever else you can think of.
Obviously, what an athlete achieves in their chosen sport is important but in the debate of Ireland’s greatest sportsman I like to factor in how someone represents themselves, our country and how they are received away from action.
Pádraig Harrington will admit himself that he isn’t the most talented sportsperson Ireland has ever produced but is there anyone else who makes you more proud to be Irish?
Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, John Giles, Liam Brady, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonny Sexton, Katie Taylor all more naturally talented than Paddy. But that’s what makes him so great.
Harrington has done so much for golf in Ireland. He opened the floodgates for a golden period in Irish golf, winning three majors in two years before Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke all tagged on their own majors in the next five years.
Watching Harrington play golf on those Open Championship evenings or on that PGA Championship Sunday and all the Sunday nights since and the Sunday nights to come has been nothing short of captivating.
It’s like being Neil Warnock in the living room, Harrington makes you sigh, cheer, grunt, clench and curse all in the one hole as you hit every shot with him.
The million percent effort behind every shot, the gritted teeth, the widening of the eyes. The tongue. Mesmeric. Often flirting with euphoria and disaster.
Only Harrington could lead the country on a merry dance as golf fans hold out for another Sunday night in the summer as he gives us one last roll of the dice for a fourth major title.
A man who has oozed every inch of his talents out of his career and achieved maximum success.
But what makes Harrington stand apart from many is that even now, he continues to give back.
The Island Golf Club hosted the Hillary Society earlier this month. Golfing conditions you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.
Harrington is a class act and after agreeing to be the President of the revived society, he duly paid the €50 green fee at the door. A nice touch.
The Stackstown man’s latest humble act is to open a free public putting green in Marlay Park designed to bring golf to new audiences.
An incredibly selfless act from the Dubliner. The phrase ‘growing the game’ has become exhausted to the point of extinction, but what a way to promote golf in this country.
Harrington’s selflessness, humility and overall class sets him apart from some of Ireland’s all-time greats. If he were to be included on a hypothetical short list he would not be the most naturally gifted contender but he is a legend in more ways than statistics.
Jurgen Klopp described himself as ‘the normal one’ in his first press conference as Liverpool manager in October in 2015. In a list of Irish legends, isn’t Harrington our ‘normal one?’
I don’t blame McIlroy for not showing up to the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. To have to face questioning about his galling, short-lived stint at Augusta as another Masters dream fades away for 12 months at least looks like it proved too tough a prospect to stomach.
However, in 2021 after a chastening experience of his own, Harrington had to front questions about a record-breaking defeat for Europe – of who he was captain of – against the USA at Whistling Straits. He was there on the Thursday at the Alfred Dunhill Links.
Pádraig Harrington. Ireland’s greatest sportsman?
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