By Aaron Dunne
Not all superheroes wear capes. Docklands Olympian Emmet Brennan certainly doesn’t – he just wears his heart on his sleeve instead.
And in doing so, he represented the very best of Dublin in Tokyo yesterday.
The 30-year-old broke down in tears after his last 32 light heavyweight defeat to world silver medallist Dilshod Ruzmetov from Uzbekistan. Brennan was evidently distraught in the aftermath as he spoke to RTE’s Des Cahill, but he knew he’d had a nation in his corner. And hopefully, in time, he’ll come to see the bigger picture. To realise the enormity of his achievement – the fact that he got there in the first place.
Having already achieved the seemingly impossible, the seemingly improbable might be an easier pill to swallow once the pain of defeat has run its course. Brennan’s preparations had been hampered in recent months by a succession of debilitating injuries – shoulder, elbow and rib problems – but he lacked nothing in commitment and endeavour despite his 5-0 (30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28) defeat to a 22-year-old opponent
‘Honesty of effort’ is a phrase once coined by another great Dublin sportsman John Giles. And just like Leeds United legend Giles, Brennan is the epitomy of a working class hero – a Dubliner whose grit and determination should be an inspiration to all. After all, isn’t that what the Olympics is supposed to be all about? Representing the very best of us.
“It will probably be three, four, five months before I look on it and enjoy the experience. The coaches have been great for me. I’ve been injured and they’ve done everything they can to get me here,” Dubliner Brennan said in the raw moments after he’d left the ring disconsolate .
No guts, no glory, they say. But what yardstick do we measure glory by in this city these days? Brennan gave everything to achieve his Olympic dream – he worked part time, trained full time, and took out a credit union loan to fund his boxing aspirations. He will forever be an Olympian. And he will forever be an inspiration. Guts were not in shortage.
Boxing since the age of 11, it took him to the age of 30 to achieve his goal of qualifying for the Games. And Dublin’s first male boxing Olympian since Darren Sutherland and Kenneth Egan in 2008 did more for his city and his county, and indeed his country, than perhaps he is yet to realise. But it was his honesty in the face of a ‘heartbreaking’ defeat that has endeared him to so many. Those who give their all can never truly fail.
And that is what will inspire the next generation of Liffeysiders who have the gall to dream. To pursue the seemingly impossible. To make reality of what the world might say that they can never do. To take the odds stacked against them and scoff at the people who tell you what you can or cannot do.
“You’re not going to pull out of it. You could have a broken arm and you’re not pulling out of the Olympic Games,” Brennan added of his injuries going into the fight. “It’s just unfortunate, you’re in the biggest moment of your life and your body is giving up on you. But it’s stuff that you have to overcome, and I did, I believed I was going to overcome it.
“I have a strong mental game and I thought no matter what he was going to throw at me I’d come out the other side. But look, it wasn’t to be. That’s life, you move on, the sun rises tomorrow and sets tomorrow night. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but life goes on.”
Any athlete can only control the controlables. Courage can’t overcome infirmity on such a thin-aired stage. Holding back the tears Brennan expressed thanks for all the support he received from Ireland. A Dubliner, supported to the end by Dubliners, and by every Irish man and woman alike.
“I didn’t realise the support I was going to get – that’s probably what made me the proudest. It’s tough. The support I got at home is unbelievable, it’s something that I never thought I’d get. It’s bitter that it’s ended now but I’m thankful for the support I got. Look I enjoyed the experience but it’s not what I came here for. You’ll always be hurt over that. It’s the Olympics, it’s the best athletes in the world so yeah, it’s tough. It’s very, very tough.”
“I’ve trained my whole life to be here,” Brennan said in a video he posted to social media, “but ultimately I didn’t bring the best version of myself on the night. That’s on me. As always, I showed heart, determination and courage to try and pull it back, but it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t sharp enough. I just wanna say thanks and I appreciate all the messages, calls, tweets, comments on instagram; it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Obviously, at the moment, I am quite down so I’ll take a day or two. But I hope my story may have inspired a kid or two…, I wasn’t good enough to be in this situation a year or two ago but I worked relentlessly hard to get here. So thanks very much to everyone.”
It’s Emmet that we should be thanking.
A man that made the impossible possible.
A warrior even in defeat.
An inspirational to us all.
And a Dubliner we should all be so very proud of.