Friday, June 29, 2007

Jack O'Connor and His Mysterious Legacy

The attitude of Mr Jack O’Connor, former manager of the Kerry football team, and Professor Henry Jones, father of Indy, the heroic archaeologist, seem at odds with regard to the worth or otherwise of the written word. Currently, Jack is backtracking furiously on recently published extracts from his about to be published autobiography, relying as heavily on the “misquoted” line as his teams did on the grandeur and might of Daragh Ó Sé in the middle of the pitch. How exactly one can be misquoted in one’s own autobiography remains a mystery.

Professor Henry Jones is a horse of a different colour. You will remember when the venerable Professor, as portrayed by Sean Connery in the motion picture, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was being mistreated so badly by the evil Colonel Vogel in that schloss somewhere on a mountain in Austria. Colonel Vogel wants to know what the Professor’s diary would tell the Professor that it would not tell the Nazis. The Professor takes a few shots, to show he’s hard, and then spits out that the diary “tellsh me that gooshe-shtepping moronsh like yourshelf should trying reading booksh inshtead of burning them.”

Take that, kraut! Pow! Sigh. If only we had someone to answer Jack as bravely.

The GAA is ill-served by its histories. There has been a traditional distrust of putting words on paper to record great men, deeds and movements – how odd it was that Val Dorgan felt he had to ask Christy Ring’s brother, after the death of Christy himself, for the family’s permission before even thinking of writing the only biography we have of the greatest hurler who ever lived. Jack Lynch said in his noble graveside oration that Ring’s story would be told as long as hurling is played, which will be forever. Well, not if the story isn’t written down Jack. Nobody will be able to remember it. Who would know anything of the death of the Republic and the rise of Octavian if Cicero hadn’t been such a scribbler?

Your correspondent has been daring to hope lately that the relative torrent of new GAA books would help tear down the old “tell them nothin’!” edifice. That when people saw how marvellously Denis Walsh chronicled hurling in the 90s in his definitive Hurling: The Revolution Years they’d be more willing to go on the record with what they thought and felt about the things they’d done and seen.

Sadly, like the man who believed Cork bet and the hay saved, it seems your correspondent hoped too soon. Jack O’Connor won two All-Irelands in three years; it’d be interesting to see what he thinks about the events of those three years – the rise of the Gooch, Moynihan and the Ó Sés in their pomp, the Ulster revolution, even if he felt any little stir of pity for those poor helpless eejits from my own part of the world. Instead, the extracts in the Irish Times last Saturday were worrying, as it seems like the book would only be an exercise in point-scoring and cough-softening by a man that holds grudges with a steely grip. Now, in the light of yesterday’s interview on Radio Kerry, as reported by Colm Keys in this morning’s Irish Independent, it isn’t even that much.

What are we to believe? When future generations come to sit in judgement on the O’Connor era in football, where and to whom can they look for the truth?

Not this book, it seems. If Jack O’Connor isn’t willing to stand behind what’s in his book then it seems optimistic on his part to expect people to buy it. What is possibly more distressing is the notion that the book isn’t what books should be, a testament to history for the generations to come, but a grubby exercise in cashing-in on O’Connor’s part. That in this greedy generation, he’s breasting up to Dessie Farrell and the boys of the GPA in the where’s mine, boss? queue for lucre.

John Milton wrote in 1637 that rewards were only to be judged by the pure eyes and perfect witness of all-judging Jove – An Spailpín knows this because he read it in a book, and he’s pretty dang sure that Milton, contrarian that he was, didn’t go on telly the week after Lycidas was published to say it was all hype, need the few shillings, you know yourself. I hope whatever scores Jack O’Connor has to settle he has settled by the publication of this book. It’s hard to see anything else coming of it. Such a pity.

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