Friday, February 27, 2009

Cosc Curtha ar Seachtain na nGiobal i nGaillimh

Baineadh geit as do Spailpín Fánach oíche Dé Chéadaoin nuair a fógraíodh ar an nuacht go bhfuil cosc curtha ar Seachtain na nGiobal i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, as seo amach tar éis roinnt mac léinn gafa ag na Gardaí tar éis a ndrochiompar thall is abhus na cathrach.

Bhog roinnt mothúchán i gcúl mo chloigín agus mise ag breathnú ar an nuacht siar. Bhí lámh agam féin i Seachtain na nGiobal agus mise im' mhac léinn i nGaillimh ins na nóchaidí. An bhfuil an saol athraithe chomh mór sin go bhfuil gá ar na Gardaí féachaint ar Seachtain na nGiobal, nó an mbíonn an saol go geal i gcónaí nuair a mbreathnaíomar siar air?

Tá tuairisc ins an Galway Advertiser an deireadh seachtaine seo maidir le tuairimí na hOllscoile, ach níl mórán cur síos ar an ndrochiompar a rinneadh sa chéad áit. Síltear i gcónaí go bhfuil na h-óige i bhfad níos fiáine ná mar a bhímis féin, ach nílim ró-chinnte go bhfuil sé sin fíor.

Chuaigh an Spailpín ar ais go Gaillimh Lá 'le Phádraig i 2002. Bhíosa bréan de Bleá Cliath, agus ar thóir sosa ón bpríomhchathair. Ach ba léir go raibh bearna mór idir Gaillimh mo chuimhne agus Gaillimh mar a bhí. Bhíos ar thóir faoisimh éigin, agus in ionad sin bhí gach uile duine ar na sráideanna as a meabhair leis an ól - agus seo ag a trí nó ceathair a chlog. Thógas téacsaí ar ais chuig mo ghluaisteán chun m'éalú a dhéanamh, agus d'inis mé don tiománaí go raibh na daoine go dona ar an drabhlás.

"Tá," ar seisean, "ach nílid chomh dona mar a bhíodh. Tús na nóchaidí anois, ba í sin aimsir an óil sa chathair seo."

Bhíos ag smaoineamh ar fad an turais abhaile.

Insíonn cairde atá ina gcónaí cois Coiribe fós go bhfuil drochiompar na mic léinn chomh dona mar a deirtear, agus is cóir is ceart coisc a chur orthu. Agus is dócha go bhfuil an ceart acu. Ach is chuimhin liom go maith na laethanta úd, agus cúig bus dhéag ar a mbealach chomh fada leis An Teach Dóite ar son an "Bogman's Ball."

Chaith daoine ar Choiste na Seachtaine na nGiobal an oíche ag tógáil mic léinn isteach ón mbáisteach, agus iadsan gan aithne fágtha acu leis an ól. Is cuimhin liom buachaill amháin a thug cabhair dom doras leithris a bhriseadh isteach chun duine a thógáil slán. Cad a tharla di? Cad a tharla dúinn go léir?

Bhí laethanta meala againne freisin, nílim ag rá nach raibh. Bhuaigh cara dílis domsa Turas na dTithe Tábhairní bliain amháin, agus eisean gléasta go bródúil le dathanna Mhaigh Eo. Is cuimhin liom na buachaillí ar thóg an sínteán leis, agus eisean trom go leor. Córas Iompar Shéamuis, más maith leat. Bhí an saol go binn blasta gan amhras - ach dá rachainn siar trasna na blianta chun casadh liom féin le linn m'óige, agus mise go dian ar an drabhlás, cad a shílfinn fúm féin?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Renouncing Swearing for Lent

An Spailpín Fánach has decided to conduct an experiment, and is renouncing swearing – or cursing, if you like – for Lent.

It’s been quite some time since your faithful chronicler of contemporary Irish life gave up anything for Lent. The priests of Ballina in the County Mayo in the 1970s still glowed with the reforms of Vatican II, but your narrator and his fellow urchins had the black hearts of schoolboys everywhere, and we knew soft boys when we saw them.

The sandal-wearers told us that loving God in a positive way was just as good as that nasty old self-sacrifice. We nodded assent eagerly, and then off to Brennan's sweetshop with us to gorge our fat little faces on blackjacks, curly-wurlys, catch bars, gobstoppers, sticks of Eniscrone rock and, best of all, the 1970s equivalent of the asphodel that blooms in the Elysian fields, super refined sugar marketed as sherbet, sold in yellow paper packets and consumed by dipping a stick of liquorice into the powder and sucking away. Good times.

An Spailpín is not necessarily in the process of a religious conversation; my Lenten resolution has a practical aspect. Like most Irish countrymen An Spailpín swears like a sailor. The blog stays clean – someone seems to have already cornered the swearing market there – but in his private life your faithful narrator almost unconsciously embellishes every remark with a frightful curse, rich in scope and intent.

And I don’t want to be that guy any more. I hear parents swearing at their children in town in the most vile way and feel sick to my marrow. I don’t want to be on that side any more. It was the same with giving up smoking; eventually, you realise that while it was cool for Bogie and Bacall in the forties, right now smoking is very much a Lee and Nat’lee pastime.

Swearing is a loss to the language on both sides; everyday discourse becomes cheapened as it’s run through with qualifiers that don’t really mean anything any more, and then in moments of extremis when there’s only one word that can describe something, that word’s meaning and impact is lost from overuse.

Perpetual swearing can let you down. One of the greatest philosophers I have known – from the rebel county of Cork, of course – told me once that he had a swear switch in his head, that allowed him to converse in one language with his dear mother, and in quite another with myself. I know what he means, and I seldom cross those circuits myself.

But all the same; you never know when you’ll be sitting in traffic, and someone cuts across you, and you get out of the car and make certain remarks pertaining to uncertain ancestry and unlawful carnal knowledge and all manner of stuff, and some little five thousand year old nun gets out of the car – a 1983 Austin Metro, or some similar chariot – and starts apologising to you, and the ground does not open up and swallow you. It never does.

The chief problem with swearing denial, of course, is what to use to fill the gap. Nothing ever seems to quite replace the oomph. The writers of Battlestar Galactica delight in using the neologism “frack” but it sounds rather too close to the root; a lot like Norman Mailers use of “fug” in the Naked and the Dead. How odd it seems now that the publishers baulked at the original. It wouldn’t surprise me if people were Christening their kids with that word now.

A friend of An Spailpín delighted in using the word “crikey” for a week or two five years ago. It was charming, but it didn’t stick. She enjoyed a week as a visitor from Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers, but she’s very much back to herself since.

An Spailpin was always charmed by the pouting Scarlett O’Hara, and her expression of “fiddle-dee-dee” when she found out that the big dance had been cancelled because the Yankees were rampaging through Dixie. Myles na Gopaleen cooked up some marvellously baroque insults in the fifties, such as thoorlramawn and goshcogue, most of which he hurled at the misfortunate Doctor Alfred O’Rahilly of UCC (“he may deny he is a thoorlramawn, but he cannot deny that he is Cork”).

The rugby against England will be the first big hurdle, of course, and it won’t be easy to watch Mayo play Westmeath in Charlestown next month with no stronger injuction to calm the nerves than “for goodness’ sake, referee!” but if a man can see those challenges through he is ready for the greater challenges ahead. Wish me luck.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ireland v England: This Time, It's For Real

Tommy Bowe, the Hound of Ulster, catches a hould of Nick Easter at Twickers last year
Declan Kidney will name his team for Saturday’s game against England at lunchtime today. Unlike the embarrassing hype-fest of two years ago, the game on Saturday evening will be played for huge stakes.

The first reason is because Ireland are still on track for the Grand Slam. One of the reasons why all that blather two years ago was so nauseous was because the Slam had already been lost, when the Irish lost to the French in the first game of rugby played in Croke Park; the pressure was off Ireland, as 2007 was another year when the Golden Generation wasn’t going to deliver.

This year, by contrast, the Slam is more real than it has been in six years. Ireland were a side transformed against France, delivering a performance that gave rise to hope once more that this Golden Generation can get more out of a Championship than a silver medal. By kick-off in Croke Park, the French may have done Ireland a favour – 211 years too late, but welcome nonetheless – and put paid to the Welsh in Paris. If so, the Championship will seem almost within touching distance.

This restoration of the Golden Generation is the second reason that the game on Saturday is so important. People had given up the Golden Generation for dead after the disaster of the 2007 World Cup; instead, Declan Kidney has come in and has somehow breathed life into careers long thought dead.

Brian O’Driscoll, like us all, will never be young again, but he has turned the clock back at least four years. The Munster ethos, so long dormant in the green jersey, is shining through. And the return of the Ulster players seems to have healed the Leinster/Munster rivalry that blighted the national side for so long. If Ireland do manage to win their first Championship in twenty-four years this year, the thanks will largely go to the new coach.

The third reason why the stakes are heightened is because England are that much better than they were two years ago. England have never recovered from winning the World Cup six years ago and have been in a process of either rebuilding or falling apart since. But a combination of immense player resources and bloodlines that allowed a damp little island to conquer one third of the world in their day don’t just disappear. England’s relentless march to the World Cup Final two years ago, before finally falling to a superior Springbok force, is one cameo instance of that. The English performance in Cardiff on St Valentine’s Day two weeks ago is another.

England had the advantage in that World Cup of having Jonny Wilkinson at stand-off half. Andy Goode or Toby Flood don’t really compare, while Danny Cipriani, who cut Ireland to ribbons last year at Twickenham, is out of favour. That makes them vulnerable. You need never look further than the misfortunate Italians to see how much a team struggles without a ten of international quality. Perhaps Martin Johnson will decide that even if he can’t stand him he’s stuck with him, and name Cipriani at ten. That would fairly put the cat among the pigeons.

Johnson. The current English coach is the only man in Lions history to captain two tours, and he is widely hailed as one of the greatest second rows in the history of the game, up there with Eales, Meads, McBride, and the rest. But he will always be infamous here for standing his ground on the red carpet before the Grand Slam decider at Lansdowne Road in 2003.

The significant thing about that is that Johnson successfully bluffed Ireland; he knew that if Ireland caved in, and bent the knee to the red rose before a ball was kicked, that the day would go to the old enemy.

Johnson was right. The only way to respond to a bluff is to up the ante. Ireland should have walked off and make a diplomatic protest about the insult to our head of state. Don’t think for a second that’s not what would have happened had Ireland tried the same stunt before a Windsor at Twickers. Instead, Ireland blinked. England won pulling up, and went on to claim the World Cup six months later.

Two years ago, England were humiliated in Croke Park, and humiliated before it by being made to say a lot of inane pieties about the historical associations of the stadium. That crack wouldn’t wash much with Johnson. Johnson, at a guess, would probably respond to Bloody Sunday the way Dyer did about Amritsar, and only express regret they couldn’t get in the armoured car and do a right job on it.

An Spailpín has written in the past of the horrors of leaving Championships behind. But if Ireland were to lose in Edinburgh and in Cardiff next month it would be worth it if that were the price of beating England on Saturday. The notion of losing to England, in Croke Park, is beyond intolerable. This game is that big a deal. Let it begin.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

More to Fighting the Recession Than Hot Air and Blather

An Spailpín Fánach allowed himself a wry smile this evening when he heard Mr David Begg of the ICTU damn “crony capitalism” during that protest in Dublin today.

If Mr Begg is against cronyism, it’s lately it came on him. He and his union were fully signed up members of the public private partnership that has essentially governed Ireland for the past ten years until the start of this month, when they finally got the smell of a cake burning, and they scarpered. And now Mr Begg claims he had nothing to do with it? Break me a give.

One of the many reasons the country is currently twirling down the crapper at the moment is because rats scurrying off a sinking ship are as a grandfather’s egg and spoon race at the school sports in comparison to the eagerness of the Irish nation to find someone – anyone! – to blame for the situation the country is currently in. Whereas the reality is, as Father Paneloux told his congregation at Agen in Albert Camus’ The Plague, “calamity has come upon us my children, and we deserve it.”

As an Tomaltach has rightly remarked, there is a very real and visceral anger in the country that so much has been lost so quickly. The really sad thing has been the nation’s reaction to that loss.

For the past ten or fifteen years we’ve believed that the Irish have changed as a nation. That the old days of tipping your hat to gentry and taking a begging bowl to Brussels were over. We thought we were a new, 21st Century nation, free of old dogmas, taking our place in the world at the vanguard of a technological revolution. The best educated workforce in the world.

And then things went wallop, and we reverted to type. It was straight down to the Dáil to demand that this gravy train keep running or that feather bed stay soft. The fact that the country is all out of both gravy and feathers wasn’t taken into the equation.

The facts are these. The country suffered a double hammer blow. The first is the near collapse of the world economic system. Nothing much we could do about that. The second is the collapse of the Irish housing market, which has had several knock-on effects – the revelations concerning gangsterism in the banking system, the cutting off of the Government’s chief source of revenue, the massive increases in unemployment. That list, God help us, is still being compiled.

Both of those things are spilt milk now. Boiling Seánie Fitzpatrick in oil outside the GPO will not bring any of that lost money back. Talking about what’s fair and unfair doesn’t come into it. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost already this year – what was fair about any of that? What’s fair about someone prudently investing their savings in Bank of Ireland shares only to see all that disappear into the void, never to come back? But I don’t think we’ll see Mr Begg organising any marches for them.

What would be nice would be if someone were to stand up and say: we’re drawing a line under this now. This is how we get out of this mess, and this is what I’m personally going to do, my own individual self, for the good of the country. A lot of vague old blather won’t do it. Let a leader rise who will talk numbers – we have this much coming in, and this much going out. This is how we balance the books.

An Spailpín shan’t be holding his breath. Pass the bananas.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don Giovanni at the Gaiety

Anyone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about in opera could do a lot worse than to make his or her way as far as the Gaiety next month, where Opera Ireland will perform Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a constant delight to audiences in the 222 years since its premier in Prague in 1787.

Mozart wrote or collaborated on twenty-two operas during his short life – not a man to spend much time leaning on the shovel, Mozart – but three in particular stand out as exceptional, even for him. They are 1786’s Le Nozze di Figaro, 1787’s Don Giovanni and 1790’s Così Fan Tutte.

The reason those three stand out is because of the man who wrote the librettos. Most opera librettists don’t get a look-in – who ever raises a glass to Francesco Maria Piave? – but Lorenzo Da Ponte was a horse of a different colour. Born a Jew, Da Ponte’s father converted to Catholicism for reasons of eighteenth century expediency. Da Ponte, in an in for a penny, in for a pound moment, took holy orders, but was run out of that, and out of his home town of Venice as well, for showing a marked preference for committing sins of the flesh rather than condemning them.

Da Ponte eventually pitched up in Vienna and the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, known to history – insofar as he’s remembered at all – as Marie Antoinette’s Da. Joseph appointed Da Ponte as Poet to the Theatres in 1783, and that was how Da Ponte ended up sharing a desk with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart thirteen years later.

There is no question about which of the two supplied the genius in the relationship. There’s a marvellous vignette at the start of the movie Amadeus that shows just how overwhelming Mozart’s talents were in comparison to, well, just about anyone else, really. But Mozart still needed a dramatist to supply the bones on which to pin the melodies, and Da Ponte was just the man.

Figaro, Giovanni and Così are music dramas about boys meeting girls. But whereas much of opera is, by necessity, painted in broad strokes, there is a tremendous depth in characterisation and dramaturgy in those three operas that is very seldom replicated elsewhere in the canon. Da Ponte was a man of the world, one who was no stranger to fighting in the lists of love, and he was able to bring that vast experience to bear in his writing. Indeed, in the case of Don Giovanni, the greatest lover of all, Da Ponte’s own memoir of the composition of that masterpiece suggests he was just the man for the job:

A bottle of Tokay at my right, the inkstand before me, and a box of Spanish snuff on my left, I sat at my table for twelve consecutive hours. My landlady's daughter, a pretty girl of sixteen (for whom I wish I could have felt only paternal affection) came to my room whenever I called for her, which was very often, especially when it seemed to me that I was losing my inspiration.

Lock up your daughters, indeed.

Don Giovanni is the story of man who loved women, and whom women loved back. Until such time as he dumped them, of course, at which stage he invariably sends in his valet, Leporello, to clean up the mess while he himself moves on to further conquests.

The opera is subtitled “Il Dissoluto Punito, The Rake Punished,” as Don Giovanni meets his comeuppance at the end, but raking does not meet the disapproval now that it did once. Vide Colin Farrell. So a modern interpretation now sees the amorous Don as something of a Hugh Hefner of the Enlightenment, here for a good time, not a long time.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of that, the eternal human drama of boys and girls and the glory of the music remains magnificent and inviolate through the ages. Kierkegaard said he thought Don Giovanni perfect; George Bernard Shaw was obsessed with it, and wrote in a review in 1891 that he never expected to see a performance of Don Giovanni he liked in his lifetime. As the notorious old curmudgeon still had over half a century left in his span, An Spailpín hopes GBS found a production that was at least middling in the following fifty-nine years.

Opera Ireland have rather cleverly cast two brothers, Paul and Peter Edelmann, as the Don and Leporello. Leporello represents us, Joe Schmoe, in the drama. Ostensibly there as a foil to the dissolute and feckless Don, there are hints throughout the text that Leporello only wishes he had half the success himself. It will be fascinating to see how they tease it out.

Interestingly, as well as the shows in the theatre itself, Opera Ireland are broadcasting the opening night performance in two venues, the Park Inn Hotel in Smithfield Village, Dublin 7, and Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, Dublin 2. It’s a bold and praiseworthy initiative, but the scheduling is unfortunate. Because at half past five on that Saturday evening the rugby teams of Ireland and England will be having their own operatic encounter, and it may not be easy to concentrate on the opera while a gang of boozed up rugger fans razes Temple Bar.

But never mind – as a taster to the show, here’s the great Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel performing the Catalogue Aria, where Leporello reveals to a horrified Donna Elvira that she’s just a single name on a long, long list, from a performance in 1997. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Liam Ó Brádaigh - An Tírghráthóir

CEANN BEAGMá n-éiríonn le Poblacht na hÉireann i gcoinne na Seoirsia oíche amárach i bPáirc an Chrócaigh beidh deich pointe buaite acu ó dhó-dhéag, an tús is fearr i gcomórtas idirnáisiúnta sacar le sé bhliain, tuairim. Agus má n-éiríonn siad i gcoinne na Bulgáire i bPáirc an Chrócaigh beidh cos amháin acu ar an eitleán chuig an gCorn Domhanda san Afraic Theas i 2010. Sé seo go leir tar éis an lá náire sin ins an Chipir dhá bhliain ó shin. Agus an ceist atá i gcloigín bhur Spailpín maidir le seo go léir ná: cén fáth nach bhfuil an t-aiséirí seo á cheiliúradh ag na meáin?

Deirtear le fada nach bhfuil aithne ar fáidh i measc a dhream féin, agus is fíor é. Feach ar chás Liam Uí Bhrádaigh, leas-bhainisteoir foirne na Poblachta faoi láthair. Bhí sé faoi bhrú ag an meáin maidir le Andy Reid - arís! - agus bhris foighne an Bhrádaigh. D'iarr sé ar na meáin meas a bheith acu ar a dtír féin. Ar chuir sé seo náire orthu? Níor chuir. Scríobhadar gurbh fear garbh é an Brádach agus eisean ag tabhairt amach dóibhsean.

Dó-chreidte. Nach bhfuil fios acu cé hé an Brádach? Nach bhfuil fios acu cé hé Giovanni Trapattoni féin? Táid ag tabhairt amach faoi go bhfuil a fhoireann leadránach; nach bhfuil fios acu gurbh é Trapattoni féin an fear a chuir an stíl catenaccio ar an domhan? Nach raibh fáilte mór acu roimhe nuair a cheapadh é? An dóigh leo gurbh é seo rud nua leis, in ionad an stíl ceanán céanna ar iomraíodh a fhoirne Juventus ina ré glóire ins na h-ochtóidí? An bhfuil aithne acu ar an stáir nó ar a n-obair féin?

Pé scéal é Trapattoni, cén fáth nach bhfuil aithne acu ar an mBrádach, fear dár sliocht féin? An t-imreoir Gaelach is fearr riamh, níos fearr ná Keane, ná McGrath, ná Giles. Bhí an Brádach ina rí óg i Highbury ag deireadh na seachtóidí, ach ní raibh sé sásta. Ba mhaith leis an dúshlán a ghlacadh sa tír ina iomraíodh an sacar is fearr sa domhan mór, sa srath Serie A na hIodáile.

Bhog an Brádach ó Shasana go dtí an Iodáil agus bhuaigh sé an srath le Juventus, agus Giovanni Trappatoni ina bhainisteoir orthu. D'aimsigh an Brádaigh níos mó cúl i mbliain amháin ins an Iodáil - 1980, sílim, ach nílim cinnte - ná duine eile sa srath. Bhí ocht gceann acu. Ná bígí ag caint liomsa faoi sacar leadránach.

Ach amach as sin go léir bhí Éirinn i gcónaí i gcroí an Bhrádaigh, agus bhí cuid ina chonartha i gcónaí go ligfeá saor é ar son na hÉireann. Bhí a áit dúchais chomh tábhachtach sin do.

Lig an Brádach an imirt uaidh le fiche bliain, tuairim, agus bhí dhá phost breátha boga aige, ag tréanáil na stócaigh ag Arsenal agus ag bladaráil ar an teilifís. Ach chonaic sé a tír i bponc agus - cé nár dúirt sé tada faoi - sílimse féin go raibh sé ró-chrua do. Mar sin, d'fhág sé Billo agus Gilesey agus amach leis ar áis ar son an geansaí glas, ag dul chomh fada le Manchester chun iarraidh ar Stephen Ireland go deas bog an rachadh sé ar ais ag imirt le Poblacht na hÉireann. Stephen Ireland, peileadóir nár chóir do bhróga an Bhrádaigh a ghlanadh!

Cén buíochas a dtugann an tír do? Faic tada. Ach tá súil agam nach mbacann an Brádach ró-mhór le seo. Tá a dhualgais á dhéanamh arís aige ar son na Éireann, agus is é sin an rud is tábhachtaí. Guíonn an Spailpín rud amháin - go maithe an seanfhear uasal sin, Giovanni Trapattoni, a shean-imreoir tar éis é an thabhairt don tír mhí-bhéasach seo, gan aithne againn ar an ndifríocht idir an seoid agus an salach.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

The Cork Footballers are Bluffing

The current Cork football panel made a pretence of solidarity with their comrades on the 2008 hurling panel last night. The footballers released a statement that they too would withdraw their services from the Cork County Board if Gerald McCarthy remains as hurling manager.

An Spailpín Fánach is convinced to his marrow that they are bluffing, and that bluff should be called.

The reason for this is because the footballers are not going on strike now, but at the end of the National League, if McCarthy remains in charge. And if that isn’t a hedged bet then An Spailpín has never seen one.

Here’s the thing: the footballers have had all winter to decide how they feel about the hurlers, so this statement is quite late in the day. If they were serious, they’d go on strike now, and settle the thing once and for all.

But they’re clearly not willing to sacrifice the National League, and if they’re not willing to sacrifice the National League, you can be pretty damn sure they’re not going to sacrifice the Championship – not least when they themselves are a good outside bet to win the thing. Chances of an All-Ireland medal are far less common for Cork footballers than Cork hurlers; they’re not going to give that up just so Dónál Óg Cusack can indulge his ego.

It’s reasonable to presume that last night’s statement is the last throw of the dice by Cusack and his cohorts, calling in the favour they feel the footballers owe them over that Teddy Holland business last year. But the footballers haven’t bought into it, and are just doing this for show. Otherwise, they would down tools here and now. Dónal Óg and the boys are at the end of the cliff. Time to let the sea have them, and be done with the whole ugly, selfish business once and for all.

One of the hardest things to take about the current dispute was all that old blather that this was all done for the greater good of Cork hurling, and the fine young men who are coming behind. No. What age is Frank Murphy? The man is in the autumn of his years, while Cusack, Gardiner, Ó hAlpín and the rest have forty or fifty years of service each before them. They can do plenty for the future of Cork hurling in fifty years. But they’re not interested in that; only in themselves, their “careers” – funny word for an amateur game – and their own high estimation of their worth. This is their final kick, and soon we’ll be able to close the book on the whole sorry business. Thank God, and small loss.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Real Reason that Mayo Lost to Derry in Ballina

It was naïve of the people to Mayo to think that Mr Louis Walsh could be named to the impossible honour of Mayo Person of the Year without expecting some sort of karmic retribution. And it is only through the influence of the otherworldly that we can explain the events of the Mayo v Derry game in Ballina on Sunday.

In the light of that traumatic defeat, the Mayo football public can only hope that the gods will settle for Sunday’s cuff around the ear, rather than the worrying prospect that they intend to take satisfaction all year from the Heather County for having such peculiar values as to appoint as the Mayo Person in excelsis a man whose qualifications for that honour at are not at all obvious.

How innocent of their inevitable doom were the home support in Ballina as the crowd gratefully watched the teams assemble for the throw-in – it can be a long winter without football. Mayo got off to a cracking start, horsing ball into Barry Moran at full-forward where Moran was making himself busy. They support play was a little lacking, but it was early days. Derry struggled with the new rules, and found three of their starters sent to the line with yellow cards before half-time. Mayo could not lose from there.

But meanwhile, far above in the great beyond, the huge wheel of fate turned. Any people that make a hero out of Louis Walsh deserves all they get, and they got it in spades in Ballina Sunday.

After the success of feeding Barry Moran in the first ten minutes the big Castlebar Mitchell saw nary a ball for the next hour. The Derry substitutes, particularly Uimhir a Fiche Cúig, who was not even listed on the program, cleaned up all around him. And when Mayo couldn’t get the ball out of their own half and were fading, fading, fading on the heavy sod of the bleak midwinter, who arrived to save the day? A blackberry smeared gasúr and C-Mort. Mission impossible. Thanks boss, and good luck.

An Spailpín doesn’t get upset about the league, being a man who takes the long view. It was a bad day at the office, but there’s a long time between February and the Championship where a lot of things can happen yet. But your faithful and nerve-shattered correspondent does have one suggestion however.

It is the belief of this blog that Mister Walsh and whatever class of a gobbaloo voted for him as the finest example of the Mayo Person living in 2009 be sent out to Clare Island, home of Gráinne Uí Mháille herself, Banríon Mhór na nGadaithe Mara, and locked in a bothán out there listening to Westlife’s Flying Without Wings on a constant loop until they fully repented.

Mayo’s next day out in the League is on St Valentine’s Night at Ballybofey in the County Donegal. High above the earthly sphere, the gods make their plans. We can only wait, and cower.

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