Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mayo Minors Fall at Final Hurdle

An Spailpín Fánach is flattered once more to be allowed the pages of the Mayo News to express his two cents on our gallant minors, who strove, sought and did not yield, although defeated, on Saturday. It's ironic to be posting this now, on a day when the world stands in wonder at some profoundly short-sighted messing in the US House of Representatives yesterday, messing that the puts the very futures of these young men in jeopardy. But we must all hope for the best, and treasure what we have. Life goes on.

Tyrone 1-20
Mayo 1-15

There was a banjo festival on in Longford the same weekend that the Minor All-Ireland final was replayed at Pearse Park. The banjo is a fine instrument in many ways, but it is not well suited to slow airs or laments, the only appropriate music for the legion of Mayo support and for the Mayo minors of 2008 for whom it was another day of so nears and yet so fars.

No Mayo heart can but fill with pride at the thought of the achievements of Ray Dempsey and his lionhearted team, for whom the summer has been a long odyssey of toil and dedication. Last Sunday’s draw was not the first of the campaign, but the third. Mayo drew with Monaghan and with Kerry as well, before seeing both of them off. As such, Mayo were able to face the replay against Tyrone making no apologies to anyone.

Tyrone got off to the better start but this Mayo team is not one that is shaken off easily. They doggedly stuck with the game and were still in contention after finishing the first half only two points down with wind advantage to come.

The second half developed of a pattern with the drawn game as two fine teams matched each stride for stride, blow for blow. By the time the clocked tolled an hour, Mayo’s Aidan Walsh was once more lining up a long range free on the left hand side, but this time to save the game, rather than to win it. It made no difference to Walsh – over the crossbar it went, and Mr Reilly blew for full-time and extra time.

Sadly, after so many heroics of the long, wet summer, Mayo’s well had finally run dry. Despite their best efforts, Mayo were three points down at half time and only hanging on. Manager Ray Dempsey was on the pitch at half-time in extra time, exhorting his boys for one final push, but it was not to be. Goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, the hero of full time for saves whose excellence was such that a rumour ran around the ground at one stage that Air Force One was filled with green diesel at Knock, ready to fly the young man to Washington to see if he could save the US economy as well, was calling for one final heave as well, a leader of men.

But the Tyrone pressure ultimately told in what has very much been Tyrone’s year, and the goal went in that sealed Mayo’s doom. James Cafferkey got one back with about a minute to go but all it did was take the bad look off a scoreboard that did scant justice to Mayo’s talent, effort, heroism and guts.

Tyrone were well worthy of their victory, and all Mayo congratulates them in what has been another fantastic year in a fantastic decade for them. Your correspondent was at the league game in Healy Park at Easter last year and I was really taken with the warmth of the welcome for the visiting support, and the vibrancy and pride of place the people of Tyrone showed then. They deserve and are worthy of their success at every level.

As for Ray Dempsey’s minors of 2008, their whole lives teem before them, and they must make the most of them. We only come this way once, after all. Perhaps they feel badly about some calls that did not go their way in last Saturday’s game; they shouldn’t, as very little happens in life’s great game that’s particularly fair, and there is even less point in appealing to the referee in that game either. The best policy is generally to bite the bullet, put it behind you and wait for the next kickout.

High stool discussions on who will or won’t make it at senior level will lengthen as the days shorten, but it is a fundamental truth in life that while man proposes, another Power entirely disposes, and His ways are not always easy to figure out. Whatever else happens, and whatever life has in store for these young men, they have worn the green above the red with pride, passion and distinction. They are a credit to their manager and their people and they have all our thanks and best wishes for their futures, whatever side of the markings they find themselves. Maigh Eo abú.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

So. Farewell Then, Paul Newman

What made Paul Newman a great actor was not what made him a star. It is often thus. Jazzmen loved Sinatra for his phrasing; the masses wanted to hear him eat it up and spit it out. So it is with Newman.

Today’s obituaries speak of transcendent performances in Hud or Sweet Bird of Youth, but who watches those movies, really? They’re the definition of classics in that they are movies that are respected but never watched. Very few people say I put Hud on the DVD there last night again; God, you never get tired of it.

This does not mean that Paul Newman wasn’t a great actor. He was, and a very great actor. Just how great is expertly outlined by William Goldman in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade. In reminiscing on his time as the scriptwriter on Harper, Goldman remarks on Newman’s almost complete absence of ego. Even though he was a major Hollywood star, Newman was willing to work off-camera, to supply reactions in scenes for Robert Wagner, who was just starting out, and to up the ante if he saw Wagner was taking off. Most Hollywood stars hate and despise other actors getting any good lines at all, as they believe it takes from their own luminosity. Newman was bigger than that; Newman realised that movies are a collaborative art form, and hogging the limelight just doesn’t wash.

To An Spailpín’s mind, Paul Newman will be remembered for two roles above any others. The first of these is Luke – we never do find out his second name – in Cool Hand Luke. Cool Hand Luke is often seen as a rebel-against-the-system picture but it’s much more complex than that. It’s not The Wild One, for instance, a picture to which thy years have not been kind. The Christian allegory is striking and repeated throughout Cool Hand Luke – the camera pans back after the egg scene to show a loin-clothed, crucified Luke; Luke addresses God as “old man” in the church at the finale; Dragline is sitting slightly higher than his audience at the end of the picture, telling them about “that old Luke smile,” just as the teachers are often elevated in medieval and Renaissance religious paintings. There’s a lot going on in that movie, and there’s always something more to see.

But An Spailpín’s favourite Paul Newman movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is often described as the progenitor of the buddy movie in Hollywood but Butch and Sundance isn’t a buddy movie at all - the Sundance Kid’s role is just as subservient to Butch’s as Robin’s was to Batman back in the day. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is about Butch Cassidy, and that means it’s about Newman’s performance. The only imbalance is that Sundance gets the girl, but the Raindrops scene is done with Katherine Ross and Newman, not Robert Redford. That’s not an accident.

Just a couple of years ago we got a glimpse of just how hard it is to make a movie like Butch and Sundance. Mr and Mrs Smith was a buddy movie, and it should have been ever better, because it starred the two most beautiful people in Hollywood at the time. But whereas Butch’s ending is sublime and magnificent, Mr and Mrs Smith’s was just a shameful copout that should have been lustily booed at every screening.

The ending is part of what makes Butch and Sundance great of course, but the centre is Butch himself, that most charming man. Butch Cassidy charms us the audience completely, just as he’s always charmed Sundance, the Hole in the Wall gang and even Woodcock, representative of EH Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad. He is a man of vision in a world of bifocals, and his three minute scene on the bicycle with beautiful Katherine Ross is one of the most joyous scenes every committed to celluloid. Reader, remember Paul Newman this way. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Céad Tuar an Meathlaithe

Deireadh na brioscaí seacláide i ndán dona GaeilIs fear Tesco é bhur Spailpín Fánach. Tá mo chroíse geallta le fada ag Superquinn, ar ndóigh, agus áilleacht a gcuid siopaí agus boladh breá a gcuid aráin, ach is fear garbh go leor é An Spailpín agus ní théann an saol garbh agus an bia galánta le cheile de gnáth. Tá an Dunnes is giorra domsa fada uaim, má thuigeann sibh, agus mar sin, is fear Tesco é An Spailpín Fánach.

Agus tá sé sin ceart go leor. Tá trí siopa acu i bhfogas dom, agus rogha maith siopadóireachta agam dá bhrí. Tá gá an Spailpín simplí go leor, agus is iad na brioscaí príomh-chuid den rogha céanna. Tá éis lá fada, idir obair agus bheith buartha go gcaillfear obair, is breá liom an tráthnóna a chaitheamh le braon tae agus briosca. Briosca seacláide go háirithe.

Le déanaí, bhí beart spéisiúil acu i dTesco's. B'fhéidir leat trí chinn brioscaí seacláide a cheannach ar phraghas íseal, níos ísle ná praghas an trí cinn ina aonar. Bheifeá brioscaithe go maith ansin don seachtain seo chugat, agus DVD breá opera le féachaint agat, conas a n-éiríodh an saol níos binne?

Ach a léitheoir, tá meathlú geilleagrach ar siúl sa domhan mór faoi láthair, agus níl a fios ag duine nó deoraí an mbeidh a thigh féin aige an bhliain seo chugainn. Mar sin, cuirtear cnaipe breise ar gach uile sparán, agus bímid go léir níos cúramaí i gcúrsaí airgid ná mar a bhímis. Go háirithe 'sna siopaí.

Chonaic bhur Spailpín Fánach tuar an meathlaithe geilleagrach seo i dTesco's an deireadh seachtaine seo caite, agus mise isteach ar thóir mo bhrioscaí. Chonaic mé an paicéad ceart go leor, an páipéir ina bhfuilid curtha le céile, ach in ionad an Club Goldgrain gálanta, an Club Digestive binn nó an Chocolate Polo blasta, cad a bhí os mo chomhair ach an Ginger Snaps, an Digestive folamh agus an Polo lom go leor. Is brioscaí uaisle iadsan go leor, gach uile cheann acu, agus is minic a chuireas fiacla i nGinger Snap éigin, ach ba léir go raibh an seacláid scaipthe mar a scaipeann an ceo, agus nach dtiocfadh sí ar ais le fada, fada an lá.

Seo céad tuar an meathlaithe. I gceann tamaillín, beimid ag ól tae seamróige, déanta le trí chuileog, mar a óladh i rith an Cogadh Domhanda, agus beidh gúnaí na mban déanta ó seacéadach garbh in ionad síoda sleamhain. Beidh Irish Flirty Something mar, ATD!, sílim, nuair a chloiseann sí an drochscéal, an cailín bocht. Ach mo léan, seans go mbeidh roinnt casacht le bogadh fós!

FOCAL SCOIR: ADT? A Thiarna Dé, ar ndóigh. Cad eile?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Game of Three Thirds - Mayo Minors Denied at the Death

An Spailpín Fánach is flattered once more to be allowed the pages of the Mayo News to sing the praises of Ray Dempsey's minor team. The team played in their manager's own image and were desperately unlucky not to bring the Cup home when they had one hand clasped on it going into injury time. They will close the deal on Saturday in Longford at half-two, with the grace and help of God.

Mayo 0-14
Tyrone 0-14

In the end, the 2008 All-Ireland Minor Football Final proved to be a game of three thirds. Mayo dominated the play for the first twenty minutes only for Tyrone to come back into the game up until half-time and on ten minutes into the second half. Then came the denouement of the final twenty minutes, when Mayo had one hand on the Tom Markham cup only to see it dashed agonisingly from their grasp with the second-last kick of the game.

Mayo made a start that was as bright as the suddenly sunny weather, with tasty points zipping over the black spot from the wings. Inspired by the imperious Aidan O’Shea at centre-forward, the forwards buzzed like bees before Hill 16 and Mayo found themselves seven points to three up and cruising after twenty minutes.

The Tyrone senior team, however, have not redefined Gaelic football in these early years of the century without their young men having noticed, and fancying a drink from the cup of glory for themselves. Like young bulls that had been disturbed while grazing, Tyrone roared right back into contention, scoring five unanswered points and cutting through the Mayo defence with punishing runs from midfield and deeper. Tyrone were slicing Mayo to ribbons and the half-time whistle came as a blessed relief to the harried Mayo rearguard, as Mayo were now trailing by eight points to seven in a worrying turnaround.

Mayo manager Ray Dempsey has made much of how character is forged by adversity and the team proved him right in the way they responded to Tyrone’s challenge. Captain Shane Nally scored a point one minute into the second half to remind Tyrone that Mayo hadn’t gone away you know and, after Robert Hennelly made a super save on the 37th minute to deny a certain goal at the cost of a point, the game entered into its third and final stage.

For those final twenty minutes then it was war of no quarter between Mayo and Tyrone, as each checking move was checkmated by the other. Dark clouds rolled across Dublin 7 as the final minutes were played out – the sun had to go away, not being up to Championship pace itself after so few appearances this summer.

With ten minutes to go, it was honours even. Aiden O’Shea lamped a huge point into the Canal End from a distance that would have done credit to a senior hurler, to say nothing of a minor footballer, giving Mayo a one point lead with eight minutes left. Tyrone equalised, and then went one ahead. Six minutes left. Mayo struck back with a Dean Gavin point and then, on the sixtieth minute, Aidan Walsh had a free from the shadow of the Cusack Stand to give Mayo the lead going into garbage time in an All-Ireland final.

Walsh stroked it over and all Mayo had to do was sit on it and they were champions. Sadly, it was not to be – the ball was turned over, Tyrone swept forward and hit the equalising point into their relieved legion of supporters on the Hill. Mr Hickey blew for full-time and the Mayo boys were stretched on the field, disconsolate and desolate that they were so near to glory, and still so far away.

But a draw is not a defeat and once the sting dies a little, they can take comfort in the fact that Mayo were the better team on the day. The team has got better in every game that it played and now it has been forged some more in yet another fire. No reason not to push on and close the deal next weekend.

Not least as they have Aiden O’Shea wearing the green above the red. It’s unfair to single out players in a team game, especially minor players, but Aiden O’Shea is an outstanding prospect. So much so that a Kerryman told me during half-time of the senior game that he was O’Shea’s cousin, and they’d love to have him in the Kingdom. “Goodness gracious,” said your correspondent, or words to that effect, “have you not got plenty as it is?”

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Red Right Hand

Tyrone 1-15
Kerry 0-14

What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,
Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,
And plunge us in the flames; or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us?

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II.

The ornate and magnificent verse of John Milton seems the only fitting accompaniment to today’s wonderful All-Ireland final, the best in ten years, as Tyrone won their third title in five years and emphatically answered the question about who are the team of the decade.

It’s astonishing now, as Tyrone stand as a super-power of the game and Mickey Harte stands as one of its great tactical geniuses, to think of what went before for Tyrone. Being seven or eight points up against Kerry in 1986 and still getting beaten out the gate. Losing the 1989 semi-final against Mayo. Losing the 1995 final to Dublin on an extraordinary refereeing decision. Being boxed and belted out of it by Meath in the semi-final of 1996. Losing to Sligo in 2002. None of those looked like steps on the road to Earthly Delight.

And yet that’s exactly what they are. The 2008 All-Ireland final was another reminder that heart counts, that desire and will can do great things, and that All-Irelands are played on the pitch, not on paper.

On paper, Kerry have the best individual players in the country. There’s no question about that. There are no bums on that team, and there are several players that would do credit to any Kerry team of any era. But they were out-foxed, out-fought and out-played today by a team that would not countenance defeat, and who were under the stewardship of the greatest manager of Gaelic football since Eugene McGee.

Kerry let themselves get distracted by sideshows over Paul Galvin, over Aiden O’Mahony and over Dara Ó Sé, which isn’t something that should be happening in a county with thirty-five senior titles, and more to come. One of Kerry’s strengths always has been their ability to take the big picture into account, and this was something that they lost this summer, even though they were blessed their team of all talents. Hearing the baying of the Kerry support every time Paul Galvin was shown warming up on the TV screen showed an unusual and sad distraction in the Kerry psyche. Kerry developed a victim complex; at a time when the western economic world teeters on the brink of collapse, the Irish nation doesn’t really have time to form campaigns to victimise the Finuge One.

Not that Kerry couldn’t have won it, of course. Had Pascal O’Connell not made some super saves, like the one from the feet of Tommy Walsh in the first half, Kerry could have won pulling up. Kerry remain, like the All-Blacks in rugby, the gold standard, the blue chip of football excellence. But tonight, it’s Tyrone that hold Sam and Kerry that are drinking the bitter cup, and football justice is served.

In saying that Tyrone won soley because they were better organised and showed more heart and bite, it would be an injustice, for Tyrone have their superstars too. No system will win without men to work it and, even though Brian Dooher, the sawn-off sledgehammer, is the epitome of Tyrone in modern times, the performance of Sean Cavanagh today was heroic in a way that would do justice to the old tales of the Fianna and the Red Branch Knights, those men who would slay seven times seventy warriors and not think it to many.

Bulls in china shops are as butterflies in steelworks compared to Sean Cavanagh in Croke Park today. The extraordinary strength of the man in bursting through tackles, setting up plays, or cracking points over the bar himself was imperial in its majesty, and it was a privilege to see him play.

All-Ireland final Sunday is one of the saddest days of the year because the great pageant is finished for another year (the disgraceful sham of International Rules do not count, of course), but what a marvellous Championship it has been, crowned with a superb final. Weep not for Kerry, for they will return, as they do, but fill a flowing bumper for Tyrone, who proved once more that none are so lowly that they cannot rise if they want it badly enough. The minor replay remains the only unfinished business of the Championship – more on that in the Mayo News tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Athchuairt ar Pheig Tar Éis Fiche Bliain Slán Uaithi

Tugann do Spailpín faoi deara go bhfuil Peig athfhoilsithe faoi láthair. Nuair a chonaic mé an leabhar bhog rud éigin im' chloigín; ar aghaidh liom abhaile, síos go mbun an bosca, agus amach arís leis an sean-eagrán scoile, an clúdach oráiste, mo sean-nótaí scríofa ar beagnach gach uile leathanach an leabhar. Shuigh mé síos ag léamh Peig don chéad uair ó bhíodh an seanbhean os mo chomhair don Ardteist fiche bliain ó shin an bhliain seo chugainn. B'fhuath liom an leabhar ag an am, agus ba mhaith liom fáil amach ar an leabhar nó orm atá an locht?

A léitheoir, ar an mbeirt againne atá sé. Tá Peig imithe ó chúrsaí na hArdteiste faoi láthair, agus leabhar dá leithéid Maidhc Dainín nó An Triall ann in a hionad. Ní maith liom sin, mar tá cultúir Pheig níos saibhre ná Maidhc Dainín, dá ngabhfadh sé mo leithscéal. Nílim ag iarraidh másla a thabhairt do Mhaidhc Dainín, ach nuair atá na habairtí is fearr sa leabhar agat i mBéarla - an cur síos ar an mbéile bialainne i gcomparáid leis an béile sa bhaile - níl mórán ghnó agat ar chúrsa Ghaeilge. Níor léigh mé An Triall riamh, ach beidh ionad orm má tá a Ghaeilge níos fearr ná Gaeilge Pheig.

Ach cé go bhfuil Gaeilge den scoth aici, cén fáth nach n-insíonn Peig scéal níos fearr dúinne? Gach cúpla leathanach insíonn sí faoina cumhacht scéalaíochta, ach ní fhéidir léi rud ar bith a dhéanamh lena scéal féin seachas an béal bocht go deo. Ba chrua an saol a bhí ag Peig Sayers ar an oileán, ach an raibh sé níos measa nó ag bean ar bith ag deireadh an naoiú haois déag? Nílim cinnte go raibh. Na rudaí is spéisiúla dúinne anois, sa lá atá inniu ann - cuimhnigh ar an ndrochshaoil, saol chailín aimsire, cleamhnas chun phosadh - bhíodar chomh mór den gnáthshaol ag an am ní dhéanann Peig faic leo.

Cén fáth go bhfuil scéal Pheig níos tábhachtaí nó níos suimiúla ná scéal aon duine eile? Bhí tionchar mór ag lucht an Bhlaoiscéid i gcultúr na hÉireann, go háirithe cultúr Gaeilge na hÉireann, ach níl sé chomh soiléir don Spailpín anois cén fáth go raibh an meas sin ar saol an Bhlaoiscéid mar a bhíodh. Níor léigh mé An tOileánach - fós - ach tá Peig agus Fiche Bliain ag Fás léite agam agus níl cúis na measa soiléir dom. Tá scéal an Shúilleabhánaigh níos bríomhaire ná scéal Pheig ach tá sé míbheasach go deo don cailín ar an dtréan ag deireadh an scéal, rud a d'fhág blás gránna ormsa. Freisin, ní chuireann cur síos ar an gcéad uair ar bhuail Muiris Ó Súilleabháin le George Thompson rud ar bith chomh mór im' chloigín ach buaileadh le cheile Anthony Lamont, Paul Shanahan agus John Furriskey sa choill in úrscéal iontach le Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds.

Sílim gur chóir áit a fháil do Phádraig Ó Conaire agus Seosamh Mac Grianna ar chúrsaí Ghaeilge go deo, mar mura bhfuil an beirt sin ann ní chóir bacadh leis an gcúrsa dá laghad. Ach chomh maith leo, ba chóir chuid den sean-dhream a bheith ann freisin. Léigh mé sliocht ó bhailiúcháin scéalta a rinne Dubhglas de hIde ag tús an 20ú haois, agus ba dhraíochta iontach an stíl a bhí ann. Tá tionchar láidir go leor ag an mBéarla sa Ghaeilge anois - seans go gcuirfeá an seanstíl ruaig éigin air dá léifeá tuilleadh na scéalta sin. Agus an seanbhean a coinneáil sa choinne arís.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Jugular Train - Ballina Locomotive Discovers the World Beyond Manulla

An Spailpín Fánach has written before of the boundless courage and impossible spirit of daring that is the birthright of the Ballinaman. The events of the train journey from Ballina to Dublin last Saturday simply added further lustre to that fundamental truth.

As far as Irish Rail are concerned, Ballina is like Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon – it exists somewhere off in the mists, and can damned well stay there, as far as our masters are concerned. The train to Mayo runs from Dublin to Castlebar and Westport – fine towns both – while Ballina is served by a spur connection that runs from Ballina town to a block of concrete in a field in the townland on Manulla, about three miles north-west of the great town of Balla. The commuters descend from the Ballina train onto this block of concrete, and then board the Westport train all the way to Dublin. And vice versa on the way back.

Because it’s a spur line, the rolling stock on this route isn’t of the first water. It usually consists of a clapped out old locomotive and two carriages – if it were a car, it would be a Ford Cortina Mark IV, and two fluffy dice would hang from the mirror.

Last Saturday, that dauntless old locomotive and her two carriages chugged out of Ballina on her way east to the city. As the train approached Manulla, the commuters heard dread news on the PA. The train from Westport had been suspended due to “operational difficulties.” Hearts sank in the carriages, as the normally procedure in these not-at-all-uncommon circumstances is to put everyone in the train on a bus at Claremorris and send them off that way.

Imagine, then, the thrill that ran though the people when the driver continued his announcement: because the Westport train was suspended, that clapped out old Ballina train wasn’t going to stop at Manulla this time and slink back home again. She was going all the way to Dublin.

The train drove through Manulla without even slowing down as women wept and strong men clenched their teeth. The light brigade at Balaclava can have felt no more electric a thrill as they began their charge for the Russian guns. At Claremorris, the driver announced that there would be no “dining car” on this trip, none of that fancy-smancy “food” or “beverages.” The commuters were given five minutes at Claremorris to stock up on minerals and Mars bars, something they attended to with alacrity, and then off again on their gallant trip east.

Leaving the heather county at Ballyhaunis and cutting a swathe through Roscommon, the steadfast heart of Ireland, the scale of the undertaking became clear. The Westport train is normally blessed with eight to ten carriages. The Ballina train had but two, and carriages of a vintage that if one were to find Charters and Caldicott inside one of them discussing the cricket a person couldn’t be a bit surprised. But the two carriages were only meant to carry the Ballina contingent; now they had to carry the commuting population from all towns between the western Atlantic shores and the city of Dublin along that particular rail line.

Things quickly became crowded on the train. On leaving Mayo, the people were, quite frankly, crushed in a heap together. In Roscommon, a situation similar to the infamous black hole of Calcutta had arisen on the train. And after she crossed the broad majestic Shannon, the commuters waiting on the platforms recoiled in horror, staring at the windows of the train which now seemed to offer a glimpse into a nightmare vision from Hieronymous Bosch or Picasso’s Guernica, human forms crushed almost beyond recognition, heads the far side of shoulders, legs where arms should be, and even some people with the eyes moved to the one side of their heads from the squeeze of humanity.

And that’s what that Ballina commuter train looked like when she finally rolled into Heuston on Saturday – like a Mark IV Cortina driving up O’Connell Street, great clouds of smoke and steam coming from under the bonnet, and every single member of the Croke Park Residents’ Association jammed into the back. And there’s a lot of them.

An Spailpín Fánach doesn’t know what happened that train after her epic journey east. I do know that the passengers untangled and disembarked, and then went about their business in the city, including the one who drank the sweet porter with your correspondent in Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street on Saturday night and told the grand tale. It’s possible that the old locomotive chugged her last, and then just fell down in a heap in Heuston, and could be there yet. But chances are she just took a fill of green diesel and headed back home again, to rest peacefully by the banks of the Moy until she hears the bugle once more.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Oh Bryn - How COULD You?

Scarpia never did to Tosca what Terfel is about to do to Danny BoyAnyone that’s getting sniffy about Paddy’s Revenge, a dance/trance/happenstance version of Music for a Found Harmonium that’s an underground hit about to go mainstream had better start digging his or her fallout shelter now. The news isn’t going to get any better.

Bryn Terfel, the Welshman considered one of the great operatic baritones of his generation, is releasing a populist album of songs from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales mid-way through September. He’s going to use an appearance at the Last Night of the Proms on the BBC this coming Saturday to sing four tracks from the album – Loch Lomond for Scotland, The Turtle Dove for England, Cariad cyntaf for Wales and Molly Malone for Ireland.

And that’s lovely. An Spailpín Fánach has no problem with nice songs being nicely sung and Terfel is the boy that can sing them.

The album goes on release the following Monday, and this is where the problem begins. It’s called First Love – Songs from the British Isles, and the Irishman’s back immediately arches at that unfortunately all-inclusive moniker. But, you know, we plough on and look at the track list and think “oh, Carrickfergus, nice, My Lagan Love, very classy, Danny Boy, well, of course, you couldn’t ... what? Who? Oh dear God in Heaven, no! No! No! Aieee!”

The problem is that Terfel has decided to duet Danny Boy, and this then begs the question: with whom shall Terfel sing?

It has to be an Irish singer but don’t forget the big man has his eye on dollars here, so there’s no point in Terfel singing with Jack L, say, as nobody outside of Ireland has heard of him. A duet with Ronnie Drew might have been interesting, but Ronnie is free of all earthly concerns now.

Bono is the obvious choice, not least as a duet tends to reduce his ego a little - from gargantuan to merely enormous, of course, but still. Andrea Corr did a nice version of Summer Wine with Bono not so long ago – maybe Andrea could get the gig? Sadly, she didn't; the sister Sharon is doing some fiddling on the record, but there’s no place for lovely Andrea.

Who then? Moya Brennan? In a Lifetime was a great duet with Bono (him again!) twenty years ago but goodness gracious, after the barbarities Moya and Ronan Keating committed on the helpless Fairytale of New York that time the idea of anyone ever wanting to duet with either of them again is laughable.


Ah no. No. You’re kidding. Not him? Surely not him. I mean, could they not have got Dustin the Tucking Furkey?

Jesus tonight. Bryn Terfel, the great baritone of his age, a man that’s sung Wotan at Covent Garden, Figaro at the Met and, even more importantly perhaps, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau at the National Stadium in Cardiff, has only gone and recorded a duet of Danny Boy with Ronan Fecking Keating.

Avoid, avoid, avoid. For the love and honour of God, avoid.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

An Ceol, an Ceoldráma agus ár gCeol Féin

Anna Nebtrenko, guth gleoite na Rúise
Tá plé ar siúl i leathanaigh an Guardian faoi láthair maidir leis an gceoldráma. Cuireadh an t-iriseoir Laura Barton chuig cúpla ceann i rith an tsamhraidh agus níor thaitin mórán acu léi. D'ionsaigh sí lucht an cheoldráma ar an Máirt, agus tháinig beirt scríbhneoir eile amach ag ionsaigh uirthi féin ansin, agus ag iarraidh an ceoldráma a chosaint.

Níl mórán ar an bplé i ndáiríre - déanann Laura amach níl ach lucht srón-in-airde iad a bhfilleann chuig an gceoldráma, ach tugann do Spailpín Fánach faoi deara gurb é an fíon an deoch is ansa le Laura; más laoch an lucht oibre í, nár cóir di canna breá te Tennants a ól?

Thaitin sliocht Tom Service liom - feiceann sé go lochtaíonn Laura ah ceoldráma go bhfuil an t-iomarca athrá ann, agus tá an cheart aige go bhfuil an t-athrá i bhfad níos fearr ná saothar Wagner, atá slán ó athrá ach lán le ceol crua deacair. Thug an Spailpín uair Nollaig amháin ag breathnú ar Fáinne Wagner ar BBC2 ach tar éis an uair bhí gach fonn bheatha caillte ag an Spailpín agus mura chuala mé an guthán seans go gcaillfeá mé.

Charlotte Higgins beagán soineanta, dár leis an Spailpín, maidir lena tuairimí. Admhaíonn sí go bhfuil sé deacair éisteacht leis an gceoldráma agus tú cleachta leis an bpopcheoil le linn do bheatha, ach shíleann sí gurbh féidir le Laura níos mó taitnimh a bhaint ó Eugene Onegin ná mar a bhain sí ó Bhainis Figaro? Deacair le creideamh.

Éisteann an Spailpín leis an gceoldráma ach bí cinnte go ndéanann sé a obair bhaile don gcéad uair - bheidh mé caillte go deo mura ndéanann. Má tá bua an cheoil agat, seans go mbeidh tú ceart go leor dul isteach ag ceoldráma éigin ach más gnáthdhuine thú ba chóir dlúthdhiosca a cheannach agus éisteacht leis cúpla uair.

Bhí páirt mór ag an bpopcheoil im' shaol nuair a bhíos óg ach anois tá sé beagán éadomhain dom. Éistim le Rockferry ag Duffy ach cloisim Dusty in Memphis. Cá bhfuil an t-ionadh? Cá bhfuil an rud nua?

Chomh maith leis an gceoldráma agus an ceol clasaiceach, éistim i bhfad níos mó lenár gceol féin. Caithfear bheith cleachta anseo freisin - bhíodh na poirt mar a gcéanna ar dtús agus níl ach éisteacht cruinn agus athéisteacht arís go dtí go gcloistear na difríochtaí agus go n-éiríonn fíor-thuiscint an cheoil leat.

Rinneadh an seandream amach gur gá leat bliain is fiche a chaitheamh ag foghlaim na píoba uillinn - seans go bhfuil cúpla bliain tuilte agat taitneamh na bpíoba a fhoghlaim chomh maith. B'fhuath liom iad agus mise im' ghasúr ach anois, nuair a gcloisim na píoba, cloisim guth na Tuatha de Danann. Seo fear agus a bhliain is fiche caite go maith aige - Séamus Ennis, agus ríl a chasadh aige. Suas léi, a mhic!

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