Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reading Johnno: Deconstructing the Sultan of Spin

An bainisteoir ina dheoraíOne of the many fine passages in Flann O'Brien's masterful novel The Third Policemen concerns the narrator’s attempts to retain his sanity while Policeman McCruiskeen is showing the narrator his inventions, each more fantastic and reality-bending than the next. The narrator desperately focuses his mind on the mundane, such a whistling tunes, mentally reciting poetry and wishing he was coiling stout rope on a boat in the South China Seas, anything but to be here watching this madness, in order to keep his mind from becoming unhinged by the remarkable things before his eyes.

One gets a very similar feeling reading John O’Mahony in the papers, or seeing him being interviewed on the television.

Johnno has mastered the art of the media interview. Whereas current Mayo manager Mickey Moran either runs and hides from the media, or else just turns up to have a good whine (“Galway were very rough”, “club games have my life’s work ruined”, “why is everybody writing us off”, “John Morrison invented in the internet,” and so on and on and on), Johnno, our Manager-in-Exile, keeps talking all the time. But clever Johnno has mastered a very special art – at the knee of some swami high on a barren mountain top no doubt, like that whiskery buck that was in Kill Bill II - of saying less and less the more he talks. The misfortunate reporter only realises when he or she gets back to the office and reviews the tape that Johnno spent twenty minutes saying nothing at all. If not even less than that.

Mastery of what the military spooks call Black Ops, and what the GAA man calls being cute enough, or way ahead of you, is one of Johnno’s many gifts. Which is what makes Johnno’s column this week in the Western People so odd, and what makes an Spailpín sit back and wonder: What the Hell is Johnno up to now?

On the face of it, Johnno abandon's all previous fence-sitting to lay his cards in plain sight on the table. Johnno reckons that Mayo simply have to turn up on Sunday, and brush the Laois threat casually away from their regal presence. McGarrity and Pat Harte will bottle up Clancy and Quiggers handy enough, the Mayo backs will incarcerate the Laois dangermen of Sheehan and Munnelly to the degree that they be as twin Napoleons, exiled on Elba away from the reigns of power, while a fusillade of long balls launched from half-way and further back will rain down on the Laois goal, manna from the Heavens on which Conor Mort will feast, and be full sated.

An Spailpín Fánach doesn’t see it that way. And he’s willing to bet his Doctor Martens’ boots that neither does Johnno.

As An Spailpín sees it, Johnno is doing a little bit of spinning here. Johnno reckons the long ball is the way to go, and the long ball paid rich dividends indeed during his first few years with Galway. What is not the way to go is this short hand-passing out of defence – in the unusually direct words of the great man himself, “it would be suicide to try and carry the ball from one end of the field to the other with five yard passes.”

Suicide, no less. But short hand-passing out of defence is exactly what we will see from Mayo on Sunday, and the only long balls that will be whizzing about little C-Mort’s head will be those launched by Ciarán McDonald’s infamous and talented cos ciotóige, as ever. Everything else is more than likely going to be pass the parcel, as that’s the Mickey Moran way.

This does not mean that Johnno is tugging Mickey’s chain, of course. All he’s doing is pointing out how easy it will be on Sunday for Mayo to beat Laois by playing a long ball game. If Mayo do not play this way, and end up being beaten by Laois, no-one will be more surprised than Johnno himself. Sure wouldn’t any eejit know those five yard passes are a disaster, and all the more so with Laois there for the taking?

Which means that when you deconstruct the narritive, as the academics delight in saying, this article from Manager-in-Exile is really saying: I haven’t gone away, you know.

If I was Enda Kenny, I’d be sweating. The last thing any boss wants to do is recruit a man who’s smarter than himself. That doesn’t leave poor Enda with much of a pick but that, of course, is another day’s work. Dia is Muire linn, Maigh Eo.

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