Thursday, June 08, 2017

Mayo v Galway: The Lonesome Road to Salthill


Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turn'd round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.


The Mayo fan has no fear of frightful fiends. Why would he or she? What chills the Mayo soul in the lead-up to Mayo’s trip to face Galway in Salthill are entirely more rational and comprehensible than the slimy things in the slimy sea that so bothered the Ancient Mariner.

Billy Joe Padden, in a typically excellent preview of events in the Mayo News, outlined how Mayo can beat Galway. Billy would like to see a sweeper, ideally Kevin McLoughlin; he’d like Aidan O’Shea to start, ideally somewhere in the middle of the field; he’d like Andy Moran to finish the game, rather than start it, meaning Andy must come on as a sub, and above all Billy would like to see Mayo attack in numbers from the middle third.

Your correspondent sees the merit in every one of these arguments. My own personal contribution to Mayo’s Heroic Path to Immortality would be to play Aidan O’Shea at full-forward, rather than in midfield, but it’s not something I’d fall out with people over, least of all someone who knows so much more about these things than me, as Billy Joe does.

However. What does make me wonder just whether or not a frightful fiend doth close behind me tread is that we have seen no evidence at all of Mayo playing in the way Billy suggests all year, and there’s no reason to expect them to change their ways now.

There is a growing trend in GAA discussion that suggests anyone outside the team and its back-room team – henceforth referred to as “The Group” – has no business questioning any decisions made by The Group. Such questioning is, in fact, as near to treason as makes no difference.

Your correspondent takes an opposite view. Your correspondent thinks that the Mayo edifice – players, trainers, even the Board – have a duty to keep the fans reasonably informed of what’s going on with the county team. That does not seem unreasonable. It’s so reasonable, in fact, that Darragh Ó Sé made a case for it in yesterday’s Irish Times:

Supporters need to be led. They need to be given something to believe in. They need big players and big personalities showing them the way. Not giving them a reason to shrug their shoulders and decide that this is just how things are.

Where are the Mayo supporters being led right now? Your correspondent is more than eager to hear something, anything, from The Group in response to the following questions that have been rattling around my noggin:
  • Why has Kevin McLoughlin spent the entire league at corner-forward if he’s going to play sweeper in the Championship?
  • If McLoughin isn’t going to play sweeper, who is? Will Mayo play with a sweeper at all? And if not, why not?
  • Why start Andy Moran when you need him most in the final twenty minutes?
  • Why didn’t Robbie Hennelly start one home game in League? We all know David Clarke is the Number One choice but Robbie is still No 2 to a keeper who isn’t getting any younger and who has a history of knocks. Hennelly is going to catch Hell from the fans whenever he starts, so why not start him in the bleak midwinter and get it over with.
These aren’t the only questions that need asking, but they’ll do for now. If they’re not being asked aloud, people are certainly thinking them – by the time these things dawn on your correspondent they will have long ago dawned on better football people. And, like anything that’s supressed, the reaction will be greater the longer it has to stay underground.

If, God forbid, Galway should win in Salthill you can expect these questions to come bursting forth. You may say that’s unfair, but fair has nothing to do with it. The price of playing at the great height at which Mayo have played for the past six or seven years is that the fall is steeper.

And there is the awful truth that, for all the long and wonderful summers, Sam did not come home. Sam’s not coming home is more than a detail; Sam’s not coming home is why the depths of Mayo’s fear and trembling are so much greater than Galway because, even though Sam hasn’t been in Galway for sixteen years, that’s as the snapping of the fingers compared to sixty-six years, and counting.

Kildare never really came close to Galway in the Division 2 Final, but Kildare, with all due respect to them, weren’t really that great. Equally, Galway laid an egg the size of the Rock of Gibraltar in losing to Tipperary, something for which they did not get anywhere like the roasting a Mayo team would have got. Of if they did, they kept it quiet.

A seasoned Mayo team on the top of its game has nothing to fear from Galway. But a malfunctioning Mayo team, whose identity is slipping away for whatever reasons, will always walk in fear and dread. Let’s hope that walk to nowhere doesn’t start on Sunday. Up Mayo.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Football Championship - A Pageant, Not a Product

The Championship: Philly seems to like it.

Positing the notion that a two-tier Championship is inevitable in Tuairisc earlier this month, the great Dara Ó Cinnéide wondered in passing how anyone could have the idea that the Championship could ever be a level playing field, with county demographics and traditions being what they are.

In light of this, it’s interesting to remember just why the back-door system was introduced in the first place. The original idea was that many teams were denied either the Championship itself or a good long summer run by the vagaries of chance, with the Cork footballers of the 1970s being the most frequently cited example. Had they not had the ill-luck to share Munster at the same time as the Kerry Golden Years team, who knows what could have happened?

And that’s why the back-door was introduced. Not to level the playing field for all, but in the hope that no more should a flower like that Cork team be born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air, as Mr Gray might have put it.

The back-door is with us sixteen years now, and the Law of Unintended Consequences has kicked in. The back-door Championship was introduced at a time that the economy was booming and the enforcement of the GAA’s amateur ethos grew increasingly token. So an initially-flawed idea – Cork were going to have face Kerry at some stage, after all – mutated into an even worse one and left us the mess we have today, where the GAA is having an existential crisis without properly realising it.

The whinging about the format of the Championship that (correctly) bothers Ó Cinnéide is based on the idea that the Championship is a sports entertainment product competing in a marketplace with other sports entertainment products like European Cup Rugby and the English Premier League. But it’s not. It’s something completely, uniquely different to that.

The things that make the Championship great cannot exist as part of a sports entertainment product. The Championship is written about as if the GAA exists to present a sports entertainment product. That is not why the GAA exists. The GAA exists to allow as many people as is practicable to play Gaelic Games as often as they wish. The inter-county Championship is a by-product of those thousands and thousands of games. The Championship is accident; the club games are essence.

This fundamental point is being lost in the hubbub as the GAA striates further between the haves and have-nots, and the separation will get even worse when the Super Eight series are introduced next year. The people running the GAA think the increased revenue will improve the Association. It will not. The increased money will destroy the Association by creating a professional division that will leave the ordinary club players behind. The ordinary club players and members who, after all, comprise the vast majority of the membership of the Association in the first place.

Under pressure of money, propaganda and carelessness the GAA is inching along a road where the needs of elite athletes will be prioritised over the needs of the thousands and thousands of fat bucks, slow bucks, clumsy bucks and hungover bucks who need and deserve the regular games that the GAA can provide them. The prioritisation should be the reverse.

Ewan McKenna, a man never afraid to speak truth to power, tweeted this after Tyrone walloped Derry yesterday:


But McKenna misses the point. The GAA isn’t about providing yet another dish to the armchair fan’s sporting feast. The moment its raison d’etre becomes the production of a sports entertainment product it’s all over for the Association.

McKenna will have his two-tiered Championship then. There may be two or three Dublin teams, two or three Ulster, two Connacht, two Munster, two Leinster. They won’t be counties though – they’ll be Lions, or Kestrels, or Wolfhounds instead.

There will be transfers and big money signings. The media will get proper media access, where players will dutifully remark that today’s performance was no surprise as everybody in the unit knew that if they executed their process everything would come right on the day. Hurling will go the way of having grammatical Irish in programmes – a fond yet distant memory.

Is the situation doomed, then? Is there anything that can be done?

Happily, the cause is not yet lost and there is something that can be done. Three things, in fact.

Firstly, close the back door. The Championship is a knockout competition like Wimbledon or World Championship Snooker. If you lose, you lose. Get over it.

Secondly, the GAA needs to remember it’s an amateur organisation, and that means bread-and-water diets for those who’ve been spending like sailors on shore leave. Either a budget cap or, better again, revenue-sharing as in the NFL of the United States. No more lawyering up to escape bans and most of all, proper and painful sanctions for those who would flout these laws.

Finally, it’s perfectly possible to accommodate those who want a more equal inter-county playing field by reconfiguring the League. Three divisions, home and away, promotion and relegation of course, maybe playoffs for the crack. The better players in each county get to test themselves against teams of the same level. The great Kieran Shannon of the Examiner has made the point many times that reworking the League will do more to address the uneven playing inter-county playing field than a hundred tweaks to the Championship.

The League can be run off between January and June, and then July-August-September are free for the pageantry of the Championship. Sports scientists and protein-shake aficionados will know that the best team is the one that does best in the League, while the Championship retains its ancient glory and stays true to the notion that a commoner may challenge a king, and that one crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Seán Fitzpatrick Trial Collapses - Irish Media Lets the Nation Down


To an institution, the Irish media made the wrong call yesterday. Everybody – Morning Ireland, all the papers, Newstalk and the rest – saw the Manchester bombing as the most important story of the day. It wasn’t. Not in Ireland.

The collapse of the Seán Fitzpatrick trial was the more important story from an Irish perspective, and the across-the-board failure to cover that properly is another erosion of the public’s faith in the institutions of the state – an erosion that can lead to the washing away of the state entirely if it’s not addressed.

Seán Fitzpatrick was the face of the Irish Economic Crash. He was chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank, the bank that lead the field in terms of funny business, and which had over-extended itself to such a degree that the Government felt it had no option but to guarantee all debts of all Irish banks in 2008.

For the past ten years, the feeling has existed that the crash was due to reckless banking practices and it seemed right and just that certain reckless bankers should pay for that. But the collapse of the Seán Fitzpatrick trial suggests that’s really not going to happen.

The reasons why the trial collapsed or whether or not the law that deals with white collar crime is fit for purpose are questions for another day. What I’m concerned with this is the media’s inability to realise the importance of this story concerning Seán Fitzpatrick and the collapse of his trial.

In trying to come to terms with how someone so very unsuited to the job is currently President of the United States of America in Monday’s New York Times, David Brooks had some fascinating things to say about the phenomenon of alienation. It was, after all, the alienated who voted for Trump – those traditional Democratic voters in Wisconsin whom Hillary Clinton could not be bothered canvassing, for instance.

Angry voters made a few things abundantly clear: that modern democratic capitalism is not working for them; that basic institutions like the family and communities are falling apart; that we have a college educated elite that has found ingenious ways to make everybody else feel invisible, that has managed to transfer wealth upward to itself, that crashes the hammer of political correctness down on anybody who does not have faculty lounge views.

Does that sound at all familiar?

Fianna Fáil suffered the most catastrophic election result in its history in 2011 as a result of the electorate’s anger at the crash and, despite a recovery in 2016, the party is still struggling to regain lost ground. The electorate, meanwhile, disenfranchised with the last government because of a Labour betrayal and a tone-deaf Fine Gael slogan, remains in hostile mood as it still struggles to understand if democracy works in this country.

That’s what makes the Seán Fitzpatrick trial so important. The nation was going to come to terms with what happened through that trial. The nation would have become more educated in how banks and the state interact, the system would be able to strengthen its regulatory powers, all sorts of good and healing things would happen.

Not only will those things not now happen, the establishment of the state – and remember always that the media is the Fourth Estate of the Establishment – doesn’t even seem to register the nature of the crisis.

People are quivering with anger over the collapse of the Seán Fitzpatrick trial. They turned on Morning Ireland yesterday morning to hear about it and all they heard about was Manchester. The papers were all Manchester, and that’s how it continued throughout the day.

Micheál Martin told the Dáil yesterday that the collapse of the trial was a damning indictment of the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Taoiseach agreed with him. But what does that mean, really? What is the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement? Where is it? Who’s in charge of it? To whom does it answer?

We don’t know. The Office seems just another quango, that just exists for the sake of existing, without ever doing anything. The nearest we came to finding out what exactly the ODCE does was from RTÉ’s Orla O’Donnell’s frankly terrifying account of why the trial collapsed which gained no media traction, not even in the “National Broadcaster” itself.

If your correspondent were in charge, Ms O’Donnell’s story would the front page story on my newspaper, the first story on my radio show. Instead; silence and the shrugging of shoulders.

The media are enjoying the soap opera of the Fine Gael leadership race or else hand-wringing about when we’ll have a Labour Party progressives can believe in. In the meantime, the poor sods who get up and go to work and pay tax and send the kids to school and hope they’ll have some future look at all this and wonder: what’s going on, and why doesn’t someone do something about it?

In their alienation, the citizens of the US took a chance on Trump. In whom will the Irish place their trust when the time comes?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mayo Championship Preview 2017

One of the perpetual debates that take place where two or more Mayo football folk gather is the one that looks back at the different teams that reached the All-Ireland Final in recent years, and wonders if that particular team let one slip away or if they were blessed to get there in the first place.

1996, above any, is seen as one that slipped away while 2004 vies with 2006 as years where Mayo were lucky to get as far as they got is the general feeling in the county.

Your correspondent, however, is nothing if not a difficult man and would argue that the 2004 and 2006 teams are under-rated, and it is the fact of their failing so badly on the big day that causes them to be judged more harshly than they deserved.

For instance, the 2004 campaign started in Castlebar with Galway going 1-3 to 0-0 up in the first ten minutes, and friends of your correspondent at the game contemplated turning to Buddhism, leaving all possessions behind and wandering the world with a begging bowl, anything but to have to watch any more of this.

But Mayo came back, helped in no small part by the arrival of David Brady from the subs’ bench, and later that summer put the All-Ireland Champions, Tyrone to the sword, again inspired by David Brady. You may cavil that Tyrone were still mourning their fallen hero, the great Cormac McAnallan, and of course that’s possible. But equally we’ve heard narratives going the other way too, that after a tragedy there was no way such-and-such a team were to be denied. Again, it’s one of these things that is only knowable in hindsight, and never at the time.

All of which is a long way of coming around to ask the critical contemporary question: did Mayo deserve their place in the All-Ireland Final last year, or where they lucky to get there?

Last year’s final was the reverse of the usual Mayo paradigm where Mayo play beautifully during the Championship and then blow up like the volcanic island of Krakatoa in the final. Mayo played like a drain all through last summer, only to rip off the disguise and give Dublin the fright of their lives in the Final. There was one Mayo supporter who could feel the hot tears of pride welling in his eyes looking Mayo’s defiance against Dublin. I know, because I was that Mayo supporter.

And then they lost, again, and then came this year’s League.

This year’s League wasn’t great. Armagh’s Oisin McConville was fairly withering in his assessment of Mayo on the Second Captains podcast after Dublin disembowelled Mayo on a Saturday night in March, and it was hard to argue cogently against any of the points he made. Where have Mayo got better? Why should we believe that Mayo are ready to that extra yard that has eluded them for so long?

The return of Galway to football’s top table casts a considerable shadow over the Mayo summer. Hopefully the team’s mind is focussed solely on Sligo, whom Mayo face this coming Sunday, but every supporter is thinking of that journey into the claustrophobic confines of Pearse Stadium, Salthill, three weeks later.

This isn’t the first time Mayo have gone to Salthill nervous after a poor League. James Horan’s second year in charge was such a time, when Mayo responded by buttering Galway up and down the seaside. But that was then and this is now. Mayo were young and hungry then; they’re not that anymore.

Mayo’s visit to the back-door last year was their best-ever campaign in the wilderness, but the difference between the front and back-door Championships for a team with Mayo’s miles on the clock can’t be underestimated.

In the front door, Mayo’s experience stands to them. Everyone they play knows who they are, has been watching them on TV for the past six years. There’s nothing the opposition can do that Mayo haven’t seen and aren’t ready for. If Mayo play a team with less experience, that’s what the young team will see.

But if Mayo play a team with less experience in the Qualifiers, what are the young lads thinking? It depends on who knocked the other team out. If they lost to a Division 4 team and half the panel are already in the States, they’re cooked.

However; if they’re Kildare, say, and they lost to Dublin, what have they got to lose? Dublin were always going to win but win just two more games are they’re back in Croker in high summer, exactly where they want to be! Isn’t that what we want boys? Isn’t that what all those long winter nights were about? Now come on and put these losers out of their misery!

Or whatever. Getting to Croker is a big deal for the up-and-coming team in a way it can’t be for a veteran team like Mayo. To be still playing football in August is an achievement for nearly every team in Ireland. It doesn’t mean diddly in Mayo. Sam or the Void for Mayo. There is no in between, and that’s a hard mark to make.

You may say that the Qualifiers did Mayo no harm last but there’s one more year’s mileage on the clock and fellas have to be wondering. Some of the selections and tactics have left supporters scratching their heads. If the team are scratching their heads too, Mayo are not long for the summer.

The Championship is about momentum. If Mayo beat Galway in Salthill, Mayo have some momentum.  They will still have to find an identity, but the League form will be on the summer breeze and another golden road opens up before them.

If Mayo lose or, worse, get hammered in Salthill, their momentum is zero and any young team with ambition will see them only as prey when Mayo are taken out of the pot. So; another light-hearted and carefree Championship in store for the sweet county Mayo, the finest county in Ireland.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

2017 Football Championship Preview

To consider this year’s football Championship is to long for the open competition of the Big Four era four or five years ago. The truth of the 2017 Championship is that there is Dublin, and there is the rest.

The Champions reign far above anybody else in the firmament and no circumstance can be imagined in which any path to glory can bypass them.

Kerry’s recent win over Dublin in the National League Final suggests that Dublin’s great historical rival may be on the way back, but being on the way and having arrived are two different things.

Kerry are the aristocrats of football – how could they not be? – and that made the artisanal nature of their game against Dublin so strange. One does not expect to see royalty with the shirt off, down in a hole, digging, but that’s exactly what Kerry did to do something, anything, to keep up with Dublin.

And more luck to them. Kerry people love to talk about beautiful football but that’s just blather for the tourists on the jaunting cars around Killarney. Kerry know that the only beauty is in winning, and whether that winning is done with the rapier or the broadsword is very much a secondary detail.

If Kerry and Dublin win Munster and Leinster – and goodness, what a shock it would be if they didn’t – they are not due to meet until the final and such a final would be a game everybody in the country could look forward to. But the chances of Kerry putting another one over on Dublin are slim.

A rare sight in contemporary football was to be seen in the League Final as Dublin’s Cian O’Sullivan, emperor of the Dublin defence, was utterly unable to figure out just what was going on. Kerry had found a way to get past him and for once O’Sullivan had little impact on a game. But what will Kerry do the next time, now O’Sullivan and Dublin are forewarned?

Jim Gavin gets insufficient credit for his tactical nous – Dublin have so many players the idea exists that all a manager has to do is roll them a ball and let them get on with it. But Gavin proved his worth in the All-Ireland replay. Gavin made three tactical changes for the replay, all of which worked. His opposite number made only one, and that blew up in Stephen Rochford’s face. Game, set and match, Gavin.

While Kerry are not in Dublin’s league, is anyone else in Kerry’s? It’s a hard case to make. For a time, it looked like Mickey Harte was about to do what only Seán Boylan has done, and build All-Ireland teams from two different generations. Tyrone faced Kerry in the 2015 semi-final and it is a fact that the Kerrymen were scared of a Tyrone returned to their opening-years-of-the-century glory – you could sense the fear in the players before the game, and the sheer relief afterwards among the Kerry support.

But the new model Tyrone lack the score-taking ability of their forebears and you can’t win games of Gaelic football if you can’t take your scores.

Donegal are still a threat, but that threat is lessening. There are hints of trouble in the camp and, while Michael Murphy is the best pound-for-pound footballer in Ireland, we are reminded of the remarks of Doctor Henry “Indiana” Jones, Junior, to Marian Ravenwood in their desperate flight from Egypt aboard the good ship Batu Wind – it ain’t the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

Galway were impressive in their win over Kildare in the National League Division 2 Final. They have forwards with that little bit of cut about them, and the day when Galway were too posh to press in defence are long gone. It’s been a long, long time since anyone outside the top flight won the All-Ireland however, and it’s hard to see Galway doing it this year for that reason. Seasoning counts in modern football.

For those who enjoy a longshot bet, I would consider Monaghan at 40/1. Galway are a shorter price even though Monaghan are now veterans of Division 1 and Galway haven’t played in the top league in years – this is the benefit of being glamorous, which Monaghan never have been. But if Sam is to go further than Dublin – and it’d be a really big surprise if he does – Monaghan at 40/1 looks the value bet to me.

Mayo? Tomorrow, friends, tomorrow. What’s one more day in a sixty-six year wait?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Education Policy and Teacher Conferences

An intelligent child participating in class, yesterday.

The second week of the Easter Holidays is conference season for the three main teachers’ unions. This year, the INTO meets in Belfast, the TUI assemble in Cork and the ASTI meet in Killarney of the lakes.

Your faithful correspondent’s crystal ball can predict the coverage of the difference conferences right now and save everybody a lot of gas. The biggest single topic will be money, of course. There will be stories about school divestment, all focusing on the urgency of the thing and none trying to figure out how two sides who want something to happen can’t make something happen.

And there will be earnest thought pieces about the need for greater emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in both secondary and primary schools. STEM advocacy is so popular now that it wouldn’t surprise your correspondent if the only thing stopping some advocate form suggesting STEM subjects be taught in the womb is the fear of raising a hare in the matter of the Eighth Amendment, and we’ll get plenty of that in days to come, thank you very much.

All of these motions will be discussed by mostly earnest people who have an interest in their profession and are trying to make it better. But there is an elephant in the room that is seldom discussed, and that was only drawn to your correspondent’s attention over the weekend.

While browsing in the top floor of Hodges Figgis bookstore on Dublin’s Dawson Street, your faithful quillsman got talking to a maths teacher, who was in there because, he told me, he likes to stay on his game and ensure he has fresh questions with which to challenge his students.

We got talking about maths in general, and the nature of the subject. I half-expected a jeremiad against Project Maths, a recent initiative of the Department that is roundly despised by any maths teachers of my own acquaintance, but no. This man told me that the single biggest problem that he sees in his classes is that the poor standard of verbal reasoning among the children means that some of them struggle to understand the question itself, to say nothing of being able to answer the thing.

Stephen Leacock wrote a much-loved essay called A, B, and C: The Human Element in Mathematics, in which he speculated about the real lives of those mysterious characters who appear in maths questions – A can dig a hole at twice the speed of B, who himself digs holes at half the speed of C. If C digs three holes an hour, how long does it take A to dig five holes?

A glance at current Leaving Cert papers suggests that these sorts of problems are all over the shop, as part of making maths more “relevant.” But what it’s actually doing is making maths harder, because the child doesn’t have the skills to read the question. It seems nobody was paying attention to that one.

It’s very hard to get to the truth of these things. Teachers can feel a little paranoid about people always having a go at them, and journalists find divestment so much more box-office than dull educational theorizing. But if this anecdotal evidence is generally reflective of the current state of affairs, this is a time bomb that can fracture the state even further when it blows.

It seems the notion of the homework-less school is more and more in fashion at the present time. And that’s fine, for those who realise that, while one agrees with it at supper in Sandymount, one has been reading to Meadhbh and Conchobar since they were toddlers and making damn sure they were literate before they even got to school.

But what about the kids whose parents don’t read, and aren’t literary, or well-educated, or even educated at all? The State education system is meant to provide a safety net for them, so that they are given the one and only shot at escaping a poverty trap – education. But the State is failing badly in this remit and politicians who claim to represent the disadvantaged and marginalized in society are too busy making jackasses of themselves time and time again over water charges and other nonsense rather than trying to do something, anything, useful for once in their careers.

Class doesn’t matter. This isn’t the 19th century anymore. Education is what separates haves and have-nots now, and it is legitimate to wonder who is shouting for the have-nots when it comes to education. Not one damn person from what I can see.

Enjoy the teachers’ conferences. I am not looking forward to the 1,500 word think-piece in tomorrow’s Irish Times drawing a shrewd parallel between the divestment delay and the Tuam babies cover-up, but I am grateful that I would be able to read it if I wanted to. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for that ability, and my heart breaks for those who will never get the opportunity to learn as I learned. God help them.

FOCAL SCOIR: One hour and forty minutes, of course.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Irish Politics Summed Up in Seventy-Seven Words

"The hospital was proposed in 2002/2003. One of my daughters was going into secondary school at the time. At the same time, there was a hospital proposed in Perth. That daughter of mine went through secondary school, went through medical school, went through internship and, two years ago, went out to Perth to work in the hospital. By the time she was working in the hospital, not a block had yet been laid for the Irish hospital."


Gerald Flynn, speaking about the projected cost overrun for the National Children's Hospital on RTÉ Radio One's Late Debate last Thursday, February 23, 2017.