Britain and the United States are examples of places where bronze sculptures are used to immortalise the achievements of their sporting greats. Statues, although only small monuments, can play a huge role in the identity of an area, club or team.
In the English Premier League almost all teams have a monument outside their stadium of a club hero - Bill Shankly at Liverpool, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams at Arsenal, Dixie Dean at Everton. These provide a focal point for fans visiting the stadium, a place for photographs, a meeting point; something to be proud of. A club's history is as important as their future, and a statue is a symbol of embracing this history. British national stadiums Wembley and Twickenham have monuments of sporting greats for all foreign visitors to see.
In the U.S., sport is a way of life, and when it comes to sporting statues nowhere does it better - Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Rocky, Payne Stewart, Pat Tillman to name but a few. The difference with the U.S is that they like a statue to tell a story. Many of their famous sporting statues are motion images of defining sporting moments.Take Doug Flutie for example, Boston College QB, who threw the most famous Hail Mary of all time to win the National Championship in 1983. His statue outside of Alumni Stadium is him as he winds up to throw the pass. With statues, motion shots add more realism to the subject.
Ireland has very little tradition of sporting statues at a local or national scale. Our history as the underdog deserves recognition. Recently Mick O'Dwyer and Nicky Rackard were immortalised in statues in their local areas - however these are the exceptions to the rule.
Each and every GAA, rugby and soccer club around the country has their own story to tell. While it may not be feasible to tell it at a local level - statues at national stadiums could encapsulate what it means to be part of the sport.
In 2011 the GAA unveiled a 9ft statue of Michael Cusack outside Croke Park. While I agree Cusack deserves recognition for his part in the founding of the Association I think it would have been better to use this opportunity to remember former players, say for example Christy Ring and Jack Ó Sé. Cusack has also had a stand named in his honour which is the highest possible recognition.
As a new stadium, the Aviva is desperately seeking an identity. Historical relevance is needed to help break from its commercial surroundings. The old Lansdowne Road was steeped in history - triple crowns, battles against the English (sometimes literally), and famous soccer qualifiers. The new stadium should embrace some of this history to create an identity for rugby and soccer going forward. The iconic picture of Mick Galwey embracing Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer before their international debut would be a great statue, and one which would symbolise the emotion and pride felt for Irish sporting history.