MAKE sense of that. Beyond the pageantry and the pitch invasions, four Tipperary goals should have copper-fastened victory over Waterford yesterday in Semple Stadium’s Munster SHC final, but the Premier county were, surprisingly, only four ahead at the close.

Should we disregard that points difference? Are there now lies, damned lies and scoreboards? Tipp should have had plenty to spare over the Déise yesterday, and once they managed that fourth goal just after half-time the difference should have been expressed in stark black and white, but Waterford were a live option into the closing minutes.

The game wasn’t a classic. A Munster hurling final is usually a steak that doesn’t need the sizzle, but the razzmatazz of the GAA’s 125th anniversary celebrations were a major ingredient yesterday. The Munster championship-winning captains of the last 25 years were introduced at half-time in the senior game, the Artane Band provided the entertainment and Jimmy Doyle of Tipperary brought a lit torch into the stadium to culminate the triumphant procession from Hayes’ Hotel.

Hey, in the new Ireland everybody gets to march on the 12th of July.

In the game itself, Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald admitted afterwards that his plan was to go for goals early, and Eoin Kelly proved that after five minutes. He lined up a 21-metre free after five minutes and decided to test the Tipp concentration, squeezing in a goal.

Tipp settled, and Seamus Callanan and Lar Corbett were prominent in establishing their rhythm. With the elegant Noel McGrath getting involved they carved open goal chances at the Waterford end, taking three of them. Corbett surged along the end line before the break for the third to seal a terrific Tipp half.

In 35 minutes Tipperary
had racked up three goals and 10 points. The only question
at half-time was whether
they could avoid the 20-minute sabbaticals which afflicted them against Cork and Clare.

The answer seemed to arrive minutes into the second half: a defensive mix-up in front of the Waterford goal allowed Corbett a simple ground pull for Tipp’s fourth goal. At that stage it was 4-11 to 2-6 and Waterford looked in need of snookers.

But once again, Tipp faded. Waterford managed the last six scores of the game and could maybe count themselves unlucky that their best goal chance in the second half fell to the inexperienced Maurice Shanahan, whose shot was blocked with quarter of an hour left.

If that had fallen to another Waterford predator,
the ending might
have been far more nervy for Tipp boss Liam Sheedy.

“Waterford outhurled us for long stretches in the second half,” said Sheedy afterwards. “At times we were hanging on with the odd point. We’re glad to be back in Croke Park. At times some of our play was top class, we just have to continue with the struggle for that consistency.”

Sheedy was acknowledging that Tipp’s second-half fade-out would drive today’s agenda. So did star midfielder Shane McGrath. Kind of.

“I don’t really care,” said McGrath. “We’ve the cup in the dressing-room. Ah, I know it’s a worrying thing for us, but we’ll sit down next week and have a chat about that. We’ve four or five weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final. Another step to get to where we want to be, an All-Ireland final.”

Waterford have their own worries. A ruthless edge in front of their own goal has been missing from their armoury for years, and yesterday proved that all over again.

“Tipp were in control of the game for a lot of it,” said Fitzgerald. “It wasn’t that Tipp slackened — we kept going with it, we kept driving and I’m proud of the lads for that.

“We have to look at our mistakes. The first goal, the one just before half-time and the one just after half-time came from mistakes we made. Bad errors. But we’ll put down the heads and work away. We have the character and I’m glad to put that to rest after last year.”

Tipperary have their own work to do. Consistency is something to improve; is discipline another area to focus on? They picked up four yellow cards to Waterford’s one, and at one stage in the first conceded a 20-metre free, defended that — and then conceded another 20-metre free for off-the-ball foolishness when the ball had been cleared outfield. Costly.

There were green shoots yesterday for Waterford. They picked up a first minor title since 1992 with a team staffed by youngsters who have spent summers following their heroes to All-Ireland semi-finals. Some of those should join Noel Connors in the rebuilding.

It’s the same for every county: the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Teddy Kennedy said that nearly 30 years ago. The men who met in Hayes’ Hotel 125 years ago would have endorsed it.

Advertisements

PAUL FLYNN may not be playing for Waterford any more, but that doesn’t mean his radar is missing any star players. You only have to ask. “Who do you have your eye on”?

“Well . . . Noel McGrath from Tipperary,” says Flynn. “Our Eoin Kelly, John Mullane; Richie Power. Joe Canning.”

No defenders? A longish pause. “Eoin Murphy,” he says eventually. “Mark Foley. Lads I’d have played against. But mostly forwards, yeah.”

Flynn put down 17 seasons with the Déise. Good days, bad days, happy and sad. But now it’s gone and he’s not looking back.

“The lads who’d know me well would know when I played hurling I played hurling, and that’s it. I packed in last year
after 17 years, and I enjoyed most of it and I’ll move on now.

“I don’t want to go back to saying I wasn’t fanatical about it, but I wasn’t. Maybe that helps. It was something I was able to do, I can’t do it any more, so you move on.”

He moved on to sitting in Thurles for the first Waterford-Limerick game. Then he decided to move on again.

“What goes on in the stand would really wake you up to what lads are being called. Some of the things being said about Waterford lads – great Waterford players – by Waterford people would open your eyes. I won’t say it upset me but for the
second game I couldn’t go to the stands and listen to that. If I went again I’d be bringing a
radio. It’s incredible.”

There have always been hurlers on the ditch, but Flynn doesn’t enjoy other, more recent developments.

“You can’t really compare nowadays to 1992 and those early years because with no backdoor we were preparing for one game, which we often lost. But the point of driving to Dungarvan to have a session of walking in the water . . . you’re gone at 5, on Clonea strand at 6, after grub you’re maybe home at 9, or half past. Just to recover.

“Or being at the beach for 7 am the morning after playing a game. I never saw the sense to that and there’s no secret that I wouldn’t be a fan of it.”

FLYNN traces the new regimes to Kilkenny’s dominance and managers wishing to emulate that.

“There’s no doubt a lot of it is down to the lack of managers wanting to be different or innovative. A lot of is counter-productive, I think; if a fella is tired after a game what’s the point in getting him out of bed at half-six the following morning?

“Justin (McCarthy) would have had the idea, and I wouldn’t have been far off it myself, that hurling is hurling and athletics is athletics. The more hurling you do the better and the whole canoeing, or mountain-climbing, or walking around blindfolded . . . some fellas might get something out of it. Not me. But, definitely, if it got out that Kilkenny were all playing with 32-inch hurleys, then every team would be using them then.”

Some of the innovations he approved of — “the Nutron diet wasn’t bad; one night at training I lapped a few fellas, so it had to be good,” – while others aren’t so obvious.

“I’d say the major difference that people don’t realise is that with the previous (Waterford) management there were no great instructions, it was a case of going out and playing. Okay, defenders would be told to be in front, to pick out their men, to handpass to a better man for a clearance. But there were no great patterns or set plays further up the field. Waterford seem to be playing a more controlled game now, whereas I’d prefer to go out and play instinctively.

“It’s possible with set patterns that fellas get locked in, and the fear factor can come in – lads can get fearful over losing the ball. But the win over Limerick will definitely have brought lads on, in fairness.”

Regarding Sunday, he’s realistic. “I wouldn’t say I’m worried, but I’d have concerns — Limerick were so bad in the first game, they were almost like a club team for the first 20 minutes. I’d say they couldn’t believe they were still in it in the second half.

“The weather was shocking, fair enough, but take John (Mullane) out of it . . . Waterford are playing the ball to him, but you can’t rely on one player chipping in with all the scores.

“From Waterford’s point of view – will Stephen (Molumphy) and Tony (Browne) be right? They’re big worries.

“As against that, Tipp’s big players last year have been doing well for 20 -minute stretches, but they’ve also been disappearing for long stretches. If Waterford can stay steady then they’ve a chance. And Waterford have a good record in recent years against Tipp.”

THAT’S been with Ken McGrath, of course – Flynn is frank about the loss of the Mount Sion man: “The difference in having the Ken of last year and previous years and no Ken at all is . . . it’s not immeasurable, but it nearly is.”

There have been other spin-offs, however. Surely the Waterford minors of today are kids nourished on the Déise’s championship voyages since 1998? “I’d say so. I grew up watching John Fenton, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Tom Cashman, all these lads, but that time the All-Ireland semi-final would be the first games on telly, and it would have been Cork, Galway, Tipp.

“So these lads are ahead in that sense. They’re competing in Thurles – and hopefully Croke Park – at an earlier age. In 1998 for the All-Ireland semi-final the bus went to the wrong door in Croke Park; we didn’t know any different. You can see that Waterford are more competitive in the Harty and in other Munster colleges competitions, so hopefully that’s a start.

“Tipp have a good minor team, but it’s still progress. You have to make progress at minor, at U21 – not necessarily winning, but competing. So I’d say yeah, some of those lads are lads who wanted to be Ken (McGrath) or Dan (Shanahan) when they were younger.”

Not to mention the lads who wanted to be Paul Flynn. That vacancy exists now in Waterford, but it’ll be a tall order for the youngsters trying to fill it.

HE was watching television last weekend when he saw the two of them. Anthony Daly, the measured bainisteoir of Dublin.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan, suited and
booted on The Sunday Game.

Dan Shanahan reached into a
memory bank swollen by 12 intercounty seasons and remembered other days. Other attitudes. Like the
Munster hurling final in 1998, when Shanahan came into Daly’s orbit.

“I said that to him, ‘you’re not marking Seanie McGrath now’,” says Shanahan. “He said ‘no, you’re uglier’. That was fair enough. I had no gumshield that time. He was the elder statesman, I was the young fella. I’d say there was worse said to Daly out on the field.”

More recently there was the snap of O’Sullivan and Shanahan on their haunches. Breathing hard, not so hard they couldn’t talk.

“The two of us were down and I said ‘Sully, I’m fecked’, and he said ‘if you are, so am I’. That’s another side of it — we were serious playing it, but if the ball was up the other end of the field you’d end up talking, even though I wasn’t much for talking.”

Shanahan is up front about the timeframe for his own playing career.

“You
realise the time is
getting short. Up to a couple of years ago it was a 15-man game, but now it’s a 20-man game. You have to do extra training to stay at the level, and at times you’d wonder if it’s worth it.

“I love training, and I have great respect for the lads I’m training with. You might be in bad form going into training but a good session will put in good form again.”

He gave young Noel Connors some advice before his first championship match. Nothing dramatic, but Shanahan could remember his entry to a dressing-room with men like Stephen Frampton and Damien Byrne.

“I was stuck in the corner, togging out next to someone from my own club because that’s the only guy you’d know. But then they started taking the piss out of me and vice versa, and it was fine. I know what it’s like for young fellas coming in, they’re looking at the likes of Tony Browne, Eoin
Kelly, and it takes three or four weeks’ training for the young fellas to realise they’re great lads. After carrying lads around a mucky field they get to know each other fine.”

And when they do the slagging starts: “Ah, you’ll rise fellas if Man United lost, or if Mullane did
something cracked the last day. You’ll have great banter. Inter-county hurling has become very serious in the last couple of years, the fun is nearly gone out of it. We take it seriously when we train but we have plenty of craic with each other afterwards.”

And the top marksman when the darts fly? “Eoin Murphy’s very fast off the mark with an answer. But you’d know the witty lads, they all have a third-level education.”

Shanahan doesn’t mind talking about 2008, and the All-Ireland final, but he goes back a bit further.

“In 2007 we conceded five goals to Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, and any time you concede five goals you’re in trouble, but we still nearly won that game. If we’d won that day we’d have been in better shape for 2008, but last year we did everything right, as far as I’m concerned, going into the game. We just came up against a fantastic team on their best day.

“To beat Kilkenny, we’d need 17-18 fellas playing very well, and they’d need a few not to play well. A good team beat us in the final — a very good team – but it could have been any other team against them in that game and the result would have been the same.

“We didn’t know what effect that had until the championship.
Challenges and league games are fine but nothing compares to championship. The first day against Limerick the weather was a huge factor — people couldn’t see how heavy the rain was, the referee could have called that off at half-time.

“The second day the weather was much better and you could see the
difference — everyone did very well. That’s something Davy has installed, that everyone is part of the team and contributes when they come on.”

The Lismore man sees plenty of
differences between hurling now and 1996, when he started.

“High fielding was easier in the 90s because you’d have space. Now if the opposition knows you’ll win high ball they’ll drop a player back in front of you, and it’s up to you to counteract it. And you can counteract it, by moving, but the game has become harder and that’s one sign of it.

“The speed of the game is now unbelievable, so now if you win a ball you’re nearly looking to lay it off with a handpass rather than going for it like in the old days.”

Elsewhere, it’s been a week of
headlines for the GPA. Shanahan is a strong believer. “You have to respect the GPA. You’re training like a professional and what players ask for isn’t much. I know everyone is suffering with the recession, and the GPA is willing to do what’s necessary.

“The clubs are doing great work and so are county boards, but the work that players are putting in is colossal.

“It’s definitely not a money thing. Being paid to play hurling isn’t going to happen; there might be two counties could do it but that’s all. Recognition is what it’s all about. After all, the Monday after the Munster final I’ll be up at work — and rightly so — but the players should get recognised.

“It mightn’t happen in my era but it could happen that a game will come, with 40,000 or 50,000 spectators in a ground, that the players won’t line out. The mood is that strong.”

He sees bright signs for Waterford’s future: “We’ve won some Tony Forrestal tournaments, De La Salle won a couple of Hartys, Lismore won the Munster B and Dungarvan the C, so you’d be hoping a few come through.”

One of those youngsters is his own brother, Maurice. “I think having him there puts more pressure on me!

“It makes me feel old having him there. He’s 19, and he’s dedicated, he’s committed, but it’s a fair education to come into the intercounty scene — in the first week on the panel the young fellas meet a dietician who plans their food, a doctor checks them and runs blood tests and so on ahead of training after what happened Cormac McAnallen, God rest him.

“They can’t socialise at all, no drink or anything. Richie Foley was saying all his mates are going to Oxegen, but he can’t.

“But against that, if you won tomorrow … I’ve been lucky enough to be there three times, and the 10 minutes after the final whistle is like nothing else. Losing is desperate, but if you win, there in the dressing-room, the lot of ye together … nothing else is like it. Nothing compares to it.”

Post-game talk out
of Africa catches the eye

W E’RE going to kick off
proceedings with the most
unlikely call to arms you’re going to hear this week: let’s hear it for Peter de Villiers.

The South Africa rugby coach
produced that rarity last weekend, the interesting post-game press conference after the Springboks had beaten the Lions in the second test, when he suggested that trying to flip someone’s eyes out of their sockets was in fact part of the game of rugby.

Predictably, the remarks caused some annoyance, with Lions coaching staff and players quick to condemn the comments; presumably Luke
Fitzgerald, the Lion who had enjoyed Schalk Burger’s attempts to get a pesky speck of grime off his eyeball, didn’t appreciate them much either. (Lest you think we’re making light of Fitzgerald’s experiences, take this as a side order of perspective: Schalk Burger is about six foot four, and as a professional rugby player has spent many years lifting weights as a matter of course. As a matter of specifics, he has probably pursued a specialised
exercise regime to increase the power of his grip and finger strength for tackling purposes. That speck never stood a chance.)

The shine of de Villiers’ comments has dulled somewhat since then, given that he’s had to retract them, but in a hidden corner of our hearts there will always be a warm glow in memory of the man who decided to enliven the weariness of the post-game hunt for quotations.

It’s almost always an anodyne string of cliches so stunningly bereft of life that the listeners end up surmising that the person melting their
microphones is also asleep and has pupils daubed in make-up on their eye-lids to hide that fact.

If you can divorce yourself from
polite society and don a journalist’s shoes for a minute (and for no longer than that, promise), last Saturday’s solo run from de Villiers was like an all-you-can-carry sprint around the storeroom of the biggest diamond mine in Kimberley (see what I did there).

Instead of the usual soupy bucket of fronting up and no backward steps and all of that business, somebody actually said something that normal human beings would find interesting.

Lamentably, there are a couple of unfortunate aspects to de Villiers rush of blood.

First off, we acknowledge that de Villiers’ comments about eye-gouging being part of the game of rugby were inappropriate and untrue.

Those remarks also amounted to an open invitation to opponents to
slip an enormous thumb or two into his players’ corneas and therefore not likely to please anyone — his
own team least of all — as well
as bringing an entire sport into
disrepute.

Also, it’s not as if Pete doesn’t have a bit of previous. He already had the prospect of a little chat coming up with his employers on foot of a few other comments about one of his players, Ricky Januarie.

A COUPLE of weeks ago, in a
long, drawn-out metaphor that
rambled around like Kitty the Hare on a sponsored walk, de Villiers drew some kind of tortured analogy which involved people going to white mechanics and black mechanics, and what those mechanics would say about your car, and who people trusted and who they didn’t, all by way of affirming his continuing faith in
Januarie’s ability. (He dropped Januarie for the next game).

And last, de Villiers has done everybody a disservice by offering coaches and players a template to avoid when it comes to commenting on games.

It’s easy to say that there’s no place for those comments in the first place and that no responsible coach would have said anything like that: de Villiers himself is proof of that.

But it shows how starved we are of interesting post-game discussion
when half-baked nonsense such as
de Villiers’ came up with last
weekend looms that large on the agenda.

If you don’t believe us, consider the big talking point in New Zealand rugby this week: why more All Blacks don’t sing along with their anthem before games.

Want to bet Pete comes up with something better than that this
weekend?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie;

twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

Robbie offside playing
politics

R OBBIE KEANE thinks we
should vote yes in the Lisbon
Treaty referendum re-run, soon to come to a ballot box near you.

Already your nose is twitching as you reach into a quiver of ready-made, obvious retorts: what is a soccer star doing preaching to the rest of us on how we should vote, for a start?

In fact, what is a soccer star who no longer lives in Ireland and is therefore not subject to the laws of the land
doing, preaching to the rest of us?

More in his line to sort out his travails with defenders playing a high line against him: I’d vote for that (and etc and etc).

During the week a radio station even played a spoof interview with Keane, splicing identikit post-game answers into questions supposedly
relating to the European treaty. An obvious opportunity, taken like a tap-in on the goal-line, the sort that Robbie himself specialises in (see? Once you start you can’t stop).

However, we have some sympathy for Robbie. For one thing, if he hasn’t read the Lisbon Treaty, then he’s in good company. By definition the most fervent Euro-evangelising Irish person of all must surely be our Commissioner to the Union.

Charlie
McCreevy hasn’t read the text of the Lisbon Treaty, however.

“I have a document that puts together what it (the Lisbon Treaty) would look like and I have read most
of that,” said
McCreevy last year.

“I would predict that there won’t be 250 people in the whole of the 4.2 million population of Ireland that have read the treaties cover-to-cover. I further predict that there is not 10% of that 250 that will understand every section and subsection.

“But is there anything different about that? Does anyone read the Finance Act?”

(They don’t have to, of course,
because everyone knows what pops up in the budget is enacted in the
Finance Act.

For another thing, Keane isn’t the only person advocating a ‘yes’ vote whose credibility in the pulpit is a little shaky.

It’s a bit rich to take lectures on sovereignty and citizenship from someone like The Edge: U2 have been widely criticised for availing of a Dutch tax shelter since 2006, with one charity spokesperson saying that while U2 may campaign for a better deal for the world’s poor, they are taking advantage of the same tax avoidance schemes that rob impoverished countries of billions.

Speech over. We can hear you say you were expecting to read about puck-out policies or line-out strategies, that you’ll take the bit of geopolitics as everyone could do with some more roughage in their diet but is there any chance of a joke or a yarn at any stage?

F OR all our sympathy for Robbie
you’ve got to worry about
sportspeople getting involved in politics. We’re not so much talking about career politicians — from Jack Lynch to Jesse Ventura, if they commit to the lifestyle they learn quickly it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

It’s more the single-issue spokesman or mouthpiece we’re referring to, which can be a pretty sticky wicket because sportspeople tend to the single-minded and obsessive.

Politics is described in a thousand unflattering ways, but nobody disputes that when it functions properly it showcases the art of the compromise.

By contrast, how many times have you read about a sporting icon that he or she is totally and utterly dedicated to their craft, or that he or she has a hatred of losing that bordered on the psychotic and can’t be approached
after a defeat?

Which leads to the obvious question — how suited is a person who is not willing to compromise to achieve their aims, and who has a seriously distorted view of how the world
operates, to making reasoned political argument?

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

Easy, let’s not write off the small ball game just yet

THAT put us rightly in our place.

Hurling snobs everywhere were left choking on their cigarillos and smashing their snifters of absinthe after last Sunday’s dull Munster senior hurling championship draw between Waterford and Limerick.

Roll up your silk smoking-jackets and put those 78s of Noel Coward songs back in the sleeve. Let that air of smug superiority and impossible aesthetic standards waft out the window like a bad smell.

It’s all over. Officially. The reign of the grand old game came to an abrupt end last weekend and Waterford and Limerick carry the can for its demise.

Even if heavy rain and slippery turf can be added to the charge sheet, those were the two teams that ushered in the final demise of the small-ball game.

They shouldn’t shoulder too much of the blame, of course, they just happened to be in the seats when the wheel went round.

Eventually the reality of Gaelic football’s primacy was going to sink in. That just took a little longer than everybody expected.

The reaction to last Sunday’s draw in the Munster senior hurling championship was interesting in all sorts of ways: friends and colleagues who are aware of this column’s … fastidious approach to Gaelic football weren’t slow to shake their heads mournfully at the festival of slipping and dropping and missing that went on in Semple Stadium.

Years of eye-rolling as football midfielders mauled each other like strangers in a San Francisco bathhouse were cited in evidence against your correspondent; we were reminded of loud sighs exhaled as yet another wing-back was checked when moving upfield for a return handpass; and certain comments from years past about the wisdom of allowing football to be played in Croke Park — Gaelic football, that is — were brought up, and not to our advantage.

There’s no hiding from the fact that last Sunday wasn’t entertaining. What we found interesting, however, was that directly after the game, participants commented freely on its quality.

“It was a poor Munster championship game… it wasn’t a great championship (match) by any standards,” said Limerick boss Justin McCarthy. His captain, Mark Foley, was even more forthright: “Whereas it was close and exciting at times, the standard wasn’t great and you’d be hoping from a neutral perspective that the quality will be better the next time.”

Compare Derry-Monaghan a few weeks ago. After that clash — an ugly enough affair, even by football standards — Derry boss Damien Cassidy said: “It was a battle but it was not going to be anything else. People sitting at home may be complaining about the quality of football but we are not in the business of entertaining people.

“This is an amateur game — you sacrifice your working life and your family life. And we don’t get paid for entertaining people.”

Cassidy is right, of course: he’s not obliged to produce fun viewing but to produce victories in a competitive environment. We just feel it’s significant that in the immediate aftermath of a poor hurling championship game participants find the time to gauge the aesthetic appeal, along with the result, while after a poor football championship game a participant acknowledges people will be unhappy with the quality of the entertainment.

We’re not going to try to pretty up last Sunday. It was a poor game, and this isn’t designed to make a case for the beauty of hurling (you could say that most Gaelic football games perform that function pretty well; okay, we couldn’t resist that one).

What surprised us was the reaction to the poverty of the fare, as if hurling fans had that hour of dreariness
coming. Maybe they’re right, too.

Still, it beats the alternative.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie; twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

Taking advice one vision at a time

KEN LOACH has a new movie out, Looking For Eric.

You’ve probably seen the trailer: Cantona appears in the movie as
himself, advising an unhappy postman — and Man United fan — on how to improve his life.

As was his wont when playing, Cantona makes enigmatic statements and philosophises about life whenever he materialises in his acolyte’s
bedroom (philosophising was his habit, not appearing in people’s
bedrooms).

Now, we have a lot of time for Ken Loach on account of his being
someone who makes films that don’t rely on a) huge robots exploding in a hail of ketchup and ball-bearings,
or b) teenagers “hilariously”
showing off their bodily functions on-screen.

We also respect Ken for including a game of hurling in his movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley,
possibly the last thing on earth you should watch before going to London to do a bit of shopping (you could end up shouting angrily at the people in Space NK when you only wanted the Sleepyhead Bath Oil; anyone hook a brother up?)

However, this seems a dangerous precedent. If people invoke the spirit of their sporting heroes, which then appear at crucial moments in their personal lives — then where will it all end?

It’s like asking what would Jesus do, but asking Paul O’Connell. Or Shay Given. Or Henry Shefflin.

Say you’re a rugby fan trying to patch things up after an unfortunate misunderstanding about forgetting an anniversary or some such.

What are you going to get when you invoke one of your sporting heroes?

First, the presence of an enormous, steaming second-row in your bedroom will do nothing for the
ambience of your boudoir, but leave that to one side. What about the words of wisdom?

“Never take a backward step . . . you’ve got to front up when you’re in the trenches . . . if you’re going to war you can’t look any further than the next day . . . it’s all about the performance — not the result . . . you’ve got the strength in depth, you’ve done well out on the
paddock in midweek, so you know you’re ready . . . don’t take anything for granted . . . you just have to want it that little bit more.

“And if it doesn’t work out why not come on down to Café en Seine with me and the guys?”

Fair enough. Not the best example. But if you love the beautiful game and conjure up some willowy winger to perk up your spirits?

“At the end of the day . . . got to be disappointed with yourself . . . got to be a penalty for me every time you forget one of those . . . full credit to yourself for the effort . . . when you get those chances to apologise, you’ve got to put those away, don’t you . . . know it all evens out over the season but you’ve got to go and do it out there . . . innit . . .

“And if it doesn’t work out, why not come on down to Chinawhite with me and the boys?”

Another false step. Let’s roll the dice one last time: how about an
intercounty hurler or footballer?

“No-one gave you a chance coming up here today . . written off by
everybody . . . showed the good side out . . . left early to bate the traffic and the sneaky guard on the motorway didn’t get you with the speed camera so you made it for a late breakfast before the match . . . hectic stuff altogether . . . lookit . . . when all is said and done league is league but championship is championship and you showed out there what it means out there for the so-called weaker counties.

“And if it doesn’t work out, why not come on down to Copperface Jacks with me and the lads?”

Be careful what you wish for.

The spirit may be willing, but on the evidence we’ve seen over the years, the advice you get could be pretty weak.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

05-06-2009
Colm O’Connor

If hurlers brawl
in the woods…

IT’S not usual for this column to open with a mea culpa directed at Gaelic football fans of the northern counties, but there’s no way out of it.

Sorry.

Last week we had a little pop at the Derry-Monaghan prize-fight – er, Ulster championship game, a testy affair that drew all sorts of contumely down on the heads of those involved.

And certainly much of that was deserved. It was unedifying as a spectacle, though that had a lot more to do with the game being the first big occasion of the summer than its billing as the latest marker in the world’s slide into a post-apocalyptic wasteland reminiscent of the landscape in The Omega Man (still one of Charlton Heston’s best films, in our book).

Much to the chagrin of hurling snobs everywhere, then, we had a full-scale brawl at Galway-Laois in the Leinster SHC last Sunday.

Two players were red-carded in the aftermath of that melee, but once again we’re struck by a) the lack of outrage at this kind of violence because b) this kind of violence was far more dangerous than a certain occasion in Semple Stadium two years ago which drew the kind of reaction usually reserved for the opening of the Michael Jackson Tiny Tots Daycare Centre.

CERTAIN conclusions can be jumped to as a result of the contrast in reactions between Derry-Monaghan and Laois-Galway.

One is that everybody seems to have a hard-wired readiness to believe the worst about the Ulster championship. Granted, that’s a readiness which is all too often sustained by the actual evidence, but it helps nobody to operate with prejudice.

We’re aware that this kind of serene even-handedness is at odds with certain opinions expressed in the past, to which we can only say: people can change.

Another conclusion relates to the warm sensation that can be deciphered as a generalised hope that Galway do well in Leinster – for the sake of Galway and for the sake of Leinster hurling.

(That feelgood factor about Galway seems to permeate everything, by the way. After all, we just had a week in which every media outlet in the country decamped to the west of Ireland to rediscover their passionate interest in yachts coming into Galway Bay, while the local League of Ireland soccer club must be the only business on the planet which was able to make appointing Nick Leeson into a good-news story.)

All of the above shouldn’t make the Galway hurlers proof against investigation or punishment for indiscretions, and the same goes for every county. However, investigation or punishment seem to depend on one last variable.

IF THERE had been an incident in the Cork-Tipp game along the lines of the Galway-Laois brawl there would have been outrage: editorials calling on us to think of the children, etc.

The critical difference is that the game in Thurles was live on television last Sunday, the centrepiece of the afternoon’s entertainment, while a few scant minutes of the Leinster clash made into that night’s highlights programme.

RTÉ can take pride in the fact that The Sunday Game is a hugely influential programme which is essential viewing for sports fans across the country. However, managers who attack the show’s pundits for appearing to dictate the disciplinary sanctions within the GAA – step forward Derry’s Damien Cassidy — are wide of the mark; they’d be better off training their sights on the disciplinary chiefs within the GAA, who have let that perception gain weight.

(The pundits don’t always get it right, either – their focus on Cork’s Aisake Ó hAilpín’s legitimate pick-up, which was apparently whistled by Barry Kelly last Sunday omitted an earlier swipe which was what, presumably, the Westmeath man blew for.)

On that basis we’re inclined to warn those teams operating off-Broadway this summer: be careful that you don’t end up being the evidence when the GAA tries to prove that Pat Spillane and Michael Duignan don’t drive their disciplinary agenda.

An apology won’t do you any good at that stage.