Irish Examiner sports Column, June 13

June 13, 2008

THINK of us hacks these last few weekends, squeezing our way through the throng to GAA teams’ dressing rooms, skipping with light feet across the
seats in the covered stand in
Páirc Uí Chaoimh or the Gaelic
Grounds, slipping an unobtrusive
dictaphone into the nostril of a near-naked hurler.

Access to players after
a high-intensity inter-county game can often be fraught, but all of us will be hoping to avoid the scenes which played out in Barcelona last week, when Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o apologised for headbutting a journalist.

Eto’o apologised yesterday
for headbutting the journalist, Philippe Boney. (Aside: a star striker heads a journalist on the forehead; the journalist’s name is Boney. It’s pun overload, isn’t it?).

Boney was reportedly headbutted by Eto’o and then assaulted by members of the Cameroon squad last Friday following some journalists’ decision to boycott a press conference over access to the team, and Eto’o later told Cameroon television he had met and apologised to Boney, adding: “In the name of all my
teammates I want to apologise.”

Boney later confirmed that he and Eto’o had made up, however: “Yes, we met up and he has asked my forgiveness. He promised me a few things, let’s see if he sticks to his promise.”

Press reports said that after
the incident, members of the Cameroonian entourage confiscated all cameras and mobile telephones belonging to the press in a bid to get rid of
the evidence. So don’t hold
your breath for the YouTube


The incident reminded us of
a relatively obscure encounter between a writer from the Boston Globe and an NFL player in the late 70s.

Will McDonough was looked up to by all his peers for one simple reason. He once punched an NFL player.

According to witnesses — and, as with most near-mythical events, the number claiming
to have seen
the incident would have
filled the
stadium rather than the locker room in which it took place —
McDonough knocked the miscreant into the team owner, who then fell into a clothes hamper.

As the Patriots’ medical staff looked at McDonough’s hand, the player showed up for attention as well.

McDonough’s question wasn’t a query about how the game had gone or whether the team could regroup for the following week: “You want another dose?”

The whole thing began with New England Patriots corner back Raymond Clayborn
shoving an older man in the
Patriots’ locker room.

McDonough said to Clayborn, “You know what you just did?”

Clayborn, sore after a defeat minutes earlier, got up close and personal with the sportswriter, jabbing a finger in the older man’s face to emphasise the points he was making. But he miscalculated and plunged the finger into McDonough’s eye, blinding him in pain.

McDonough was born and reared in south Boston, which is not a place where one sticks a finger in someone’s eye
without expecting an immediate
response. One of McDonough’s Southie pals was James (Whitey) Bulger, who once spent a few years at Alcatraz after robbing a bank — where McDonough
visited him — and is now on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, next to Osama bin Laden.

McDonough did not seek a Socratic dialogue with Raymond Clayborn, he clocked him with a punch. History does not record what McDonough told his
editor when he didn’t come up with any post-game quotes.

Obviously we’re not encouraging anything similar from
disgruntled journalists in any GAA dressing rooms. We’re
certainly not encouraging any Samuel Eto’o-type outbursts from any GAA players. But there is a take-home point from the story of Will McDonough and Raymond Clayborn.

“I have the greatest respect
for Raymond Clayborn,”
McDonough’s widow Denise McDonough said recently,
“because he and Willie, after that, made amends and became good friends.”




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