YOU’LL NEVER SLAG THE IRISH
SO THERE we were, hacks feeling less than gruntled, grazing on the thigh-bones of innocent missionaries and wondering what kind of trouble we could stir up ahead of tomorrow’s Wales-Ireland game, or The Greatest Story Ever Told, to contextualise it appropriately.
Suddenly, into our shared holding cell/lavishly appointed penthouse – delete as you see fit – burst one of our number with the astounding news: that one of the coaches had actually Said Something.
Hence the general air of happiness for the last few days, in the aftermath of Wales boss Warren Gatland’s sudden attack of personality.
For the record, Mr G earlier in the week: “Somebody told me, after the Scotland game, the Irish players were singing and celebrating, so they are fairly happy with where they are.
“They are probably happy with winning four out of four and playing for the Triple Crown and Grand Slam. We were completely the other way (after beating Italy). The boys went back to the hotel, did not drink and were thinking about this week.”
O happy day. There are open goals, and then there are goals which aren’t so much open as offering you two for the price of one on admission and a free basket of chips with your second drink.
There’s an implicit suggestion somewhere in Gatland’s comments that perhaps being happy isn’t the correct emotion when you win four from four and play for the Triple Crown and Grand Slam. What would be the appropriate way to feel – a fleeting hint of melancholy?
As for Welsh players thinking about this week . . . cast your minds back to the second week of February, and specifically place to the Queen’s Vault Bar in Cardiff, 24 hours after Wales’ 23-15 victory over England at the Millennium Stadium.
Gavin Henson had to issue an apology subsequently to ‘any member of the public he offended’ after he and five team-mates were cautioned by the Wales management team for their behaviour in the bar.
(Full disclosure: for Wales management team read W. Gatland et al).
Centre Henson issued a personal apology, while forwards Andy Powell, Rhys Thomas and Jonathan Thomas were also rebuked and offered apologies after admitting to ‘varying degrees of regrettable conduct’, while scrum-half Mike Phillips and full-back Lee Byrne were also questioned by management the incident.
Witnesses out in Cardiff described Henson as a ‘disgrace’ and claimed scrum half Phillips even took to the stage to apologise for his teammate’s behaviour.
(Even fuller disclosure: Phillips was the man previously found unconscious outside a nightclub while rehabbing his knee. At least you can’t argue with his credentials in this department.)
Fair enough, let him who is without sin and so on. Gatland is only doing what he thinks is right for his team, turning up the heat a little in the Ireland dressing-room in an effort to distract the men in green.
With all due respect to the Irish players, however, they’re professional sportsmen who are used to a far more overt means of intimidation. The real victims of Gatland’s comments, and the dismissiveness implied in “happy where they are” are the rest of us.
We like to think – this week of all weeks – that Irish people are viewed universally by those beyond the four green fields as likable, bright, good company, impressions which are only strengthened when foreigners arrive here.
For Gatland to criticise us, after years with Connacht and Ireland, hits home because he knows us. He knows whereof he speaks, so he’s not that easily dismissed, and now that the whole country is apparently swirling down the plughole, it’s as if one of our own is kicking us when we’re trying to stay afloat. Or standing on our heads to keep us under the surface – well, you get the message.
You’ll never beat the Irish? What they meant was you’ll never criticise the Irish.
Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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Another meeting rolls on to the agenda

MONDAY night, and another meeting of the Cork County Board. How many is that now?

It’s as if official gatherings seem to sprout wherever one or two gather in the name of transfer applications and fixture congestion.

It’s a commonplace to pay tribute to tenacity and determination in all forms of life by saying that a nuclear holocaust would not extinguish those same elements of God’s creation.

Clearly, however, the innate desire of Leeside GAA administrators to come together is so strong that the detonation of any amount of fission-based ordnance would not stop a quorum being formed.

Radioactivity be damned; if there’s an agenda, we’ll be there.

Anyway, last night. The meeting centred on proposals regarding the composition of the committee which will appoint the county’s next long-term senior hurling manager.

That’s exactly as much background as we’re minded to give. Take it or leave it.

Those proposals were dealt with at some length at last Thursday night’s meeting, but the executive proposal was one of the early favourites in the running.

In the event it was hardly a contest and no-one was surprised when that motion romped home, gathering 72 votes out of the 113 cast.

It means that under the initiative proposed by Central Council earlier in the dispute, three independent people will be appointed by Central Council to consider and recommend a manager to the county committee for a two-year term.

The three nominees are to be “Cork GAA people” — no member of the County Committee or current player will act on the committee.

However, questions remain regarding the original document which gave rise to the proposal.

That was proposed by Christy Cooney and Pauric Duffy in an effort to resolve the dispute some weeks ago, and it didn’t confine itself to the issue of the manager.

For instance, if the executive of the Cork County Board is content to assign Central Council the power to appoint the men who will appoint the Cork senior hurling manager, what about the other proposals in the CooneyDuffy document, which would effectively remove power from the executive? Will those be implemented?

After all, precedent has been established in last night’s decision for bringing in some of those wide-ranging recommendations, which covered issues from fixture planning through to facilities maintenance.

Furthermore, exactly how Central Council will actually appoint those three persons is another issue, and last night’s meeting did not tease out the methodology which Croke Park will use to select three Cork GAA people.

Cork already have a short-term senior hurling manager, John Considine, who was appointed on an interim basis pretty snappily last Thursday night.

Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists everywhere – but specifically those triangulated between Adrigole, Newtownshandrum and Youghal, let’s say – Considine threw a spanner in the works when he indicated
yesterday that he wouldn’t be going forward for the job on a permanent basis.

Throw the duster across the blackboard, then, and we can chalk up the usual suspects.

However, if we could divest ourselves for a second of the robes of impartiality and express an opinion, we feel it’s a great pity that proposal number 4 wasn’t adopted, an
Imokilly suggestion that the incoming manager be appointed by a committee drawn from the Cork hurling winning captains of the last 25 years.

The proposal only garnered five votes, which was unfortunate. Given the week that’s in it, it’s only right to point out that one of those captains is Ireland scrum-half Tomás O’Leary, who captained the All-Ireland winning minor side of 2001.

It would have been some fun to make a call to the Ireland team hotel this week to ask Tomás if he could take some time out from the attempt on the Grand Slam and puzzle out a long-term manager for the Cork senior hurlers.

We heard last week about Cork democracy, but that would have been some blow for Cork ecumenism.

Board gets back to brass tacks

AS PARLIAMENTARY gatherings go, last night’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh probably lacked a little in terms of drama and theatre.

No surprise there: as Barack Obama is finding out, you may campaign in poetry, but you have to govern in prose.

And last night’s meeting had a grim opening. Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as manager earlier this week was the elephant in the convention room, tootling a distracting tune on its trunk as delegates took their seats, ostensibly to hammer out the dates and venues for local championship encounters.

The soundtrack soon overcame the dialogue, however. True, a Taoiseach was appointed — or rather, a complete, brand-new Cabinet: the entire Cork U21 management team was delegated, en bloc, to handle the senior hurlers for the National Hurling League games against Clare and Limerick, but there was also plenty of anger expressed by speakers about the tribulations suffered by Gerald McCarthy in recent months.

After the vote on the short-term manager, there was a flurry of proposals regarding the composition of the committee which would appoint the long-term manager. Those proposals included committees with former players and with current players; with Pauric Duffy aboard or with the county chairman as a member; with club coaches participating or with club chairmen getting involved.

And finally, a proposal from the Newtownshandrum club which involved Jim O’Sullivan of this parish helping to select one of those committees.

At last, at last, at last: an organisation with the common sense to listen to us. What odds would you have got on that organisation being the Cork County Board?
THE number and variety of those proposals was far too unwieldy for last night’s meeting to process, so it was decided to hold another meeting on Monday night to hear what the clubs have to say about the proposals . . . I know. It’s hard to keep track of everything. After a while every second word is either ‘meeting’ or ‘proposal’.

Last night wasn’t an occasion for Cromwellian thunder, and the speakers wouldn’t have been confused with the likes of Burke or Grattan. They didn’t need to be.

After all, there was an odd mixture on the agenda which had to be addressed — the mundane, in that the championship fixtures are a hardy annual on the order of business, and the momentous, in that . . . well, you’ve probably been well briefed on that over the last few months.

For those who have been tracking those mass meetings in the last week around Cork — many of them large enough to keep Daniel O’Connell happy — there may be a little surprise this morning that the rule book wasn’t filleted like a kipper in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.

They shouldn’t be. Expressive as those meetings were of a thirst within the county for change, they can’t effect that change unilaterally. The
legislature is where those changes are made, not the hustings.

If you’re sick of the political metaphors, consider those last few get-togethers as more in the nature of warm-up performances for the big premiere: before the glossy musicals ever get to Broadway they’re given a run out of town first. Accordingly, procedural developments were thin on the ground last evening, as was constitutional reform, though a special convention would be a more appropriate forum for the reinvention of administration in Cork anyway.

This morning the announcement of John Considine and his colleagues as managers of the senior hurling team will dominate headlines. Little wonder.

Last night’s meeting moved on to the pleas for postponements of various championship games, which will generate plenty of discussion at local level: as chairman Jerry O’Sullivan pointed out, for instance, weddings are not a genuine cause for postponements. The games go on regardless.

True enough. They also go on despite separations.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Board gets back to brass tacks

AS PARLIAMENTARY gatherings go, last night’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh probably lacked a little in terms of drama and theatre.
No surprise there: as Barack Obama is finding out, you may campaign in poetry, but you have to govern in prose.
And last night’s meeting had a grim opening. Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as manager earlier this week was the elephant in the convention room, tootling a distracting tune on its trunk as delegates took their seats, ostensibly to hammer out the dates and venues for local championship encounters.
The soundtrack soon overcame the dialogue, however. True, a Taoiseach was appointed — or rather, a complete, brand-new Cabinet: the entire Cork U21 management team was delegated, en bloc, to handle the senior hurlers for the National Hurling League games against Clare and Limerick, but there was also plenty of anger expressed by speakers about the tribulations suffered by Gerald McCarthy in recent months.
After the vote on the short-term manager, there was a flurry of proposals regarding the composition of the committee which would appoint the long-term manager. Those proposals included committees with former players and with current players; with Pauric Duffy aboard or with the county chairman as a member; with club coaches participating or with club chairmen getting involved.
And finally, a proposal from the Newtownshandrum club which involved Jim O’Sullivan of this parish helping to select one of those committees.
At last, at last, at last: an organisation with the common sense to listen to us. What odds would you have got on that organisation being the Cork County Board?

THE number and variety of those proposals was far too unwieldy for last night’s meeting to process, so it was decided to hold another meeting on Monday night to hear what the clubs have to say about the proposals . . . I know. It’s hard to keep track of everything. After a while every second word is either ‘meeting’ or ‘proposal’.
Last night wasn’t an occasion for Cromwellian thunder, and the speakers wouldn’t have been confused with the likes of Burke or Grattan. They didn’t need to be.
After all, there was an odd mixture on the agenda which had to be addressed — the mundane, in that the championship fixtures are a hardy annual on the order of business, and the momentous, in that . . . well, you’ve probably been well briefed on that over the last few months.
For those who have been tracking those mass meetings in the last week around Cork — many of them large enough to keep Daniel O’Connell happy — there may be a little surprise this morning that the rule book wasn’t filleted like a kipper in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.
They shouldn’t be. Expressive as those meetings were of a thirst within the county for change,
they can’t effect that change unilaterally. The
legislature is where those changes are made, not the hustings.

If you’re sick of the political metaphors, consider those last few get-togethers as more in the nature of warm-up performances for the big premiere: before the glossy musicals ever get to Broadway they’re given a run out of town first. Accordingly, procedural developments were thin on the ground last evening, as was constitutional reform, though a special convention would be a more appropriate forum for the reinvention of administration in Cork anyway.
This morning the announcement of John Considine and his colleagues as managers of the senior hurling team will dominate headlines. Little wonder.
Last night’s meeting moved on to the pleas for postponements of various championship games, which will generate plenty of discussion at local level: as chairman Jerry O’Sullivan pointed out, for instance, weddings are not a genuine cause for postponements. The games go on regardless.
True enough. They also go on despite separations.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Capturing the strife of Brian

The first football game David Peace attended was Huddersfield Town v Leeds United, Brian Clough’s first game as Leeds manager. Now Peace’s book about Clough’s 44 days at Leeds — ‘The Damned United’ — has been turned into a movie. He spoke to Michael Moynihan.

THEY were going to the game anyway.

Trevor Cherry, the ex-Huddersfield player, was lining out for Leeds and he was the focus for a
seven-year-old David Peace and his father, avid Town fans both. Then the youngster spotted a distinctive figure getting off the United coach: new Leeds boss Brian Clough.

“His last game in charge after his 44 days was Leeds-Huddersfield in the League Cup, another coincidence,” says Peace.

“I didn’t go to that game — my Dad did — but it was a strange quirk of fate that Huddersfield bookended that period.

“And we always discussed that in my house, why he took the job, why they offered it to him, what happened and how it all went wrong.

“I suppose it was always there for me, from an early age.”

Peace — whose ‘Red Riding’ novels have been filmed for Channel 4 — published ‘The Damned United’ three years ago.

“What I wanted to do was an ambitious plan — probably not a very good one — which involved writing a history of Leeds United, a kind of occult history, getting into corruption early in the 20th century and so on, but things kept happening, and it kept getting longer.

“I’d always been thinking about Clough’s 44 days at Leeds, but in the original idea I wouldn’t have gone back to Derby County and Hartlepool, it would have concentrated on Leeds. “However, Clough overtook the whole book. I was very young at the time so I didn’t remember anything about Derby, or the players going on strike — I really only remembered him as boss of Nottingham Forest. The injury, his love of films like ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ — that was all new.

“I still think Revie is a complex, fascinating character. He’s a ghostly presence in the book, and while I wouldn’t do it, there’s surely a Revie novel there to be written.”

Peace prefers American writing on sport to much of what’s published on the same subject in Britain.

“I’ve thought about that a lot, and when I was researching The Damned United I read quite a lot of different books.

“’Underworld’, the opening is just fantastic, but I also read non-fiction about American football, baseball, basketball — compared to the non-fiction books about football you get in Britain, those are interesting enough but there’s no attempt to craft a great sentence, usually.

“I wondered if it was something to do with the nature of the sports — baseball and American football are almost more mythic as sports, and the pace is slower. American football is very violent and aggressive, for instance, but there are time-outs and breaks and so on.

“In Britain and Ireland, football is played at such a pace that it’s different. There’s an attitude that ‘if you didn’t play the game you can’t write about it’, which is a strange attitude.

“But it seems that American sportswriting, generally, is better than what we get in England.”

Warming to the theme, Peace agrees that American writing about sport often tries to locate those sports in a wider social context.

“I agree, and you could go deeper. Even the non-sporting British novel can appear to be in terminal decline — these are big, big generalisations — but to me, someone like Don DeLillo is streets ahead of someone like Martin Amis.

“These are difficult comparisons, but a lot of great American sportwriting isn’t just about the sport, but about the society. That’s certainly not the case in England, and I wonder if that’s the case also with novels. I think it could be a smaller mindset.

“Certainly there has been good writing about sport — Geoffrey Green, Hunter Davies — and Eamon Dunphy’s ‘Only A Game’ is fantastic. People have written very well about football without resorting to cliche, such as Nick Hornby, but there’s that exclusion I spoke about — that you can only write about it if you played, otherwise you’re only accepted if you write as a fan. Then the whole thing ends up with being quite narrow.”

Not an accusation you could level at Brian Clough. Peace confesses his affection for the larger-than-life manager.

“I didn’t have an impression one way or the other when I began the book. My memory of him would have been of him hitting fans behind the ear, that period of Clough.

“The real surprise for me was learning how outrageous a character he was, how rebellious. When I was writing it he was still alive — he died when I’d almost finished the book, and there was a huge outpouring of emotion.

“But on a Saturday night he was talking about the football, he’d be impersonated by Mike Yarwood, then he’d pop up on ‘Parkinson’. He was everywhere.

“I also realised that those were the worst 44 days of his life, very dark, but that made me like him even more. He did good things and bad things, like everyone, but when I finished the book, I’d say I admired him.”

*’The Damned United’ is published by Faber. The movie is released on March 27.

Rugby success would be last word

L AST night some of you may have caught ‘Red Riding’ on Channel 4, a new drama based on the novels of David Peace.
‘Red Riding’ is a fictionalised
account of police corruption, the Yorkshire Ripper murders and general north-of-England grimness.
To be honest, after the last six months covering the Cork GAA
dispute, it felt like light relief.
Coincidentally, this column was talking to David Peace — clang, as the name drops on the floor — a couple of weeks ago about another new screen adaptation of one of his books ‘The Damned United’, which covers Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44 days in charge of Leeds United in 1974.
In the course of our phone conversation — he lives in Tokyo, which is a full nine hours ahead of us if you ever need to ring someone in Kabukicho — Peace casually mentioned that American writers — arty novelists and sports hacks alike — seem to have a far greater appetite than their Irish and British counterparts for relating sports events to wider social issues.
It’s a fair point. Peace mentioned well-known English writers like
Martin Amis, who wrote ‘London Fields’ about a darts player trying to break into the professional ranks, but one such book doesn’t come close to the likes of American giants like Don DeLillo and Philip Roth, who splice baseball and American football into their novels without making it look like an anthropologist’s first encounter with an interesting but backward tribe.
You can over-egg the
social relevance pudding, of course (pardon the metaphor). In Ken Burns’ ‘Baseball’ — the greatest sports documentary ever made — the writer George Will makes a telling contribution about writers reading too much significance into baseball, pointing to the profusion of authors and intellectuals living in New England in particular, who tend to weigh the Boston Red Sox down with all sorts of symbolic baggage.
“These writers were neurotic enough to begin with,” says Will, “But then it’s ‘why, baseball reminds me of life, death, the Federal Reserve, whatever.’”
Sometimes, of course, that wider socio-economic picture is something everybody is looking to detach themselves from altogether rather than a phenomenon people want to get more involved with.
At a recent press conference, Ireland rugby forward Jamie Heaslip acknowledged the fact that in an economic downturn that’s beginning to look like a black hole, people are taking a closer-than-usual interest in how the Irish rugby team is doing.
“People are focused on it to take their minds off things,” said Heaslip at the time. “It happened, looking at Ireland at the soccer World Cups; that took the focus off things at the time.
“If people want to do that, do it.”
Everyone in the country seems to be hanging onto the rugby team for a bit of good news at the moment, but we’re here to sound a sober note of warning, because if there’s one thing that international rugby success appears to herald for Ireland, it’s complete economic meltdown.
Far be it from us to pour cold water on everyone’s hopes and dreams, but our last Grand Slam came just in time to usher in the hungry fifties, when we were exporting 50,000 emigrants per year.
The next championship came in 1982, as the country plunged into a eye-watering recession so severe that Charlie Haughey told us we were living way beyond our means.
And right now we have late-capitalism teetering on the brink of extinction as an economic system just as Brian O’Driscoll rediscovers his try-scoring touch.
By contrast, when we couldn’t beat the Italians in the nineties the country was going like the clappers, with everyone’s house increasing in value by 322% per week.
Back in the early sixties, when we were winning about one game per year in the Five Nations, the rising tide was coming in that would lift everyone up out of squalor and into mohair-suited prosperity.
In that context, would defeat in Murrayfield be all that bad?
contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie