Irish Examiner Column 17 July 2009

September 25, 2009

Free at last after escape from Semple

NOW it can be told, the unforgettable story of a man’s bid for freedom and the unquenchable power of
the human spirit, the longing for
liberty that can never really be
extinguished, no matter how long the ordeal lasts.

You are lucky to have your
columnist supplying you with his patented bons mots and piercing
insights today, given the bonds of
captivity he was… bonded in last
Sunday evening.

Following the final whistle in
Sunday’s Munster senior hurling final and the usual tramp down to the
dressing-rooms in Thurles for a few quotes, reporters tramped back up to the press box.

Your columnist felt the call of nature and repaired to the little boy’s room
located some distance from said press box.

Business transacted, it was time to leave. Only the door wouldn’t open: the lock had jammed. A couple of
tentative shouts were followed by a few fairly strident shouts but answer came there none.

Thankfully the mobile phone signal found a way past the cast-iron
bulkheads and lead piping around the facility and a quick call alerted some of this columnist’s colleagues.

There followed a period of stating the obvious (“Have you not turned it this way at all?”) which in turn was
replaced by gallows humour (“I’ll slide a sandwich under the door, how’s that”).

But no period in which the door moved an inch. Shane McGrath and Jackie Cahill I salute thee but seek not
alternative careers as locksmiths.

Another colleague who shall remain nameless tried shouldering the door and came back off it like a tennis
ball.

Eventually the gents went in search of Philly Butler, the Semple Stadium groundsman.

All of this I offer as preamble to the thoughts that drifted through my
mind in the long, slow passing of the hours (steady — Ed.) in solitary
confinement.

I had often eulogised the Munster final as an occasion apart and shaken a sorrowful head at misguided souls who put forward World Cup finals and such as its equal.

Was this where cruel fate was to
have its revenge? Was I to spend
eternity yoked in spirit to the wicked chuckle of hurleys in the Tipperary square?

Would generations yet unborn bring forth an archaeologist who would
uncover parched bones pointing
pitifully at a long-crumbled stadium door, the mystery of the fossilised phone clamped to the earbone never to be resolved and the long-lost
skeleton’s final words forever the object of speculation?

(I can reveal exclusively what those words were: I rang the office and
explained that with the air running out rapidly and the sweltering humidity dehydrating me by the second, my copy would, by necessity, be late,
owing to the fact that slow death had one hand on my shoulder . . .

“Right,” said the voice at the other end. “How late exactly do you mean?”

OF course, the Semple Stadium men came through. Philly Butler sent for a carpenter who took the door off its frame to free me. Much thanks.

God knows there are county boards around this country who would have taken a different approach to the
doorframe — knowing a journalist
was trapped behind they’d have
cemented it over — but not in Thurles, where they have a bizarre notion that representatives of the media are actually human beings, though this is unlikely to be universally accepted.

Press box colleagues explained sheepishly that they had in fact been on the point of rushing in to put their collective shoulders to said door but the stadium lads had fresh sandwiches and, you know yourself . . .

“That’s okay lads,” I said. “It was a case of get busy living or get busy
dying.”

Hard time. It affects us all
differently.

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

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