Thursday, March 30, 2006

How to Fold A T-Shirt


Monday, March 27, 2006

Mayo's Sad Lexicon

An SeoigeachAn Spailpín Fánach is not a happy camper this morning. The stilly night of Dublin was rent by twin cracks at half-nine last Saturday - the first caused by the sound of 5,000 cans of Dutch Gold being opened simultaneously by the locals in celebration of their comprehesive tonking of the sweet county Mayo, and the second by the sound of all Mayo's hard work of the league so far going straight into the bin. And this morning, it got worse - Uncle Eugene performs an autopsy on the Green and Red remains in this morning's Indo and doesn't much care for what he sees, while Tom Humphries makes a fool of himself over in the Times, singing the blues once more.

And far off in the West, Galway stormed through hapless Meath in a scintillating performance that, combined with last week's no-less scintillating performance, indicates the Maroon Machine is beginning to purr at just the right time. What can your Spailpín Fánach do but cast his eyes to Heaven, send sincerest apologies to Franklin P. Adams, and then sing this pangyric to our new Gods and Masters, against whom all resistance is futile: Michael Meehan, Derek Savage and Padraic Joyce.

Meehan and Savage and Joyce

Three musketeers of Gaillimh are waiting:
Meehan and Savage and Joyce.
Three executioners, and no strangers to bating:
Meehan and Savage and Joyce.
Three bad hombres, and ready to battle,
To storm old Mayo, and make off with our cattle,
With nothing left but the sound of death's rattle -
Meehan and Savage and Joyce.

We met them last year when the was sun was hot shining,
Meehan and Savage and Joyce.
McDanger was held and Mayo shipped a hiding:
Meehan and Savage and Joyce.
They're all set again to do damage most dreadful,
And the county Mayo is first on their schedule,
And I don't think they'll stop 'til they've each got a bagful
Of medals;
Won't Meehan, nor Savage, nor Joyce.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

David McWilliams in the Phoenix

As regular penitents at this site will know, An Spailpín Fánach is quite a fan of David McWilliams. However, that does not mean that your faithful correspondent in entirely blind to some of the more rococo elements of McWilliams' style. This inclination towards the purple in McWilliams' prose is rather expertly parodied in this morning's Phoenix, which I recommend to all.

The Phoenix's own website is rather cat, I'm afraid, thus making linking difficult. However, An Spailpín Fánach has access to a scanner, and is not afraid to use it. They don't call me the Grand Moff Tarkin of Multimedia for nothing, you know. Enjoy.


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Monday, March 20, 2006

The Gaelic Supporters' Association

Dessie "Where's Mine, Boss?" FarrellIt's happened at last. The Kraken is awoken. Dessie Farrell and the rest of those Béal Bocht-ers in the GPA have sown the wind, and they are set to reap the whirlwind. The destruction of Senacharib will only be trotting after what's in store for the GAA after this.

To those of you who haven't been following the story, this is it in a nutshell: since the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884, people have been playing the games for enjoyment. If they were good enough to represent their county, they took that as a very great honour, and it was with reciprocal honour that they were held in their own communities. However, there are many changes in Ireland since Jack Lynch used to take the 11 or 13 bus from Dublin 6 to Croker on the morning of an All-Ireland Final during his playing days in the 1940s, and now money is everywhere in the GAA. The Gaelic Players' Association was formed some years ago ostensibly to ensure that the players got a cut of whatever cakes were going around; however, by the very terms of its charter, the Gaelic Players' Association, in seeing a distinction between the player that plays for his county as well his club and the "ordinary" club player, is on the verge of instituting a schism that may very well destroy the GAA as it's been understood for years.

Until this weekend, it looked as though if a schism were to happen, it would be with the Central Council of the GAA on one side and the GPA (the acronym by which the Gaelic Players' Association is known - the story that the original acronym, WMB, for "Where's Mine, Boss?" was shot down on advice from Frank Dunlop remains apocryphal). However, a document has come into the possession of An Spailpín Fánach that would indicate that the schism will in fact be a pincer attack on the fundamental tenets of GAA-dom itself, coming from supporters as well as players.

The document is styled "A Manifesto on Behalf on the Gaelic Supporters' Association." It's hand-written, in blue biro, on the back of a application form for EU headage assistance. Words and phrases in Irish are interspersed throughout, but the grammar is just shocking. There are tell-tale brown rings that tell us the authors are porter or Smithwick's men. All this builds up into a combination of circumstantial evidence that can only mean this document comes from the very beating heart of the GAA. Even more disturbingly, forensic analysis show traces of cigarette (Major, some Carroll's) ash on the document, meaning that not only were these men on licensed premises while composing this "Manifesto," but they were smoking while they were drinking. These are clearly desperate men, who will stop at nothing and fear neither God nor Man.

An Spailpín Fánach remains strictly neutral on the issue, but only quotes the document (or such parts of it as are legible) below, in order that we may have a frank and furter - oh, excuse me, my tummy is rumbling - that we may have frank and full debate on the issue.

Here is the text of this "Manifesto on Behalf of the Gaelic Supporters' Association."

"IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations who saw the thunder and lightning final of '39, Rackard's save from Ring in '54, Pat Spillane rising from the dead in 1980 and who really broke John Finn's jaw in the 1985 semi-final, our Gaelic Games call on us, the Supporters, to stand up for what is rightfully ours and only fair.

We, the GSA, don't want any special treatment. We consider it a very great honour to watch Gaelic Games, winter and what passes for summer, year-in and year-out. We are aware of the great traditions of the Association, and how honoured and privileged we are to have our own games to watch, and not be sitting like sheep in some ersatz boozer staring at the cowards, cheats and cry-babies of the English Premiership.

However, that does not mean that we don't make sacrifices either. Dessie Farrell and DJ Carey constantly point out just how ruinous playing inter-county Gaelic games is in their lives - even though Dessie Farrell must be doing it strictly from memory as there's no way in blazes he'll be playing Championship again and DJ is hardly paying for his Smithwick's with butter vouchers - and we'd like to point out that it's no bed for roses for us either.

Do you think it's easy to traipse around the county every weekend following the county team of your choice? Do you think it's some sort of laugh? The public probably think it's just a question of turning up on the day. Well, that goes to show as much as they know. The typical Gaelic Supporter spends at least three nights a week down in the pub, lorrying strong black porter and training for the weekend, and that's not even counting his Sunday at all. A typical weekend's training would be:

Tuesday, five pints, discussion of last Sunday's game and why don't those [expression deleted] on the Board pick a man from Glandawsleva, it's a disgrace I'm telling you, a [expression deleted] disgrace, and if I met one of them I'd tell him, and to his face, too;

Thursday, seven pints, discussion of this coming weekend's selection, debate as to whether the selection of a young man with relatively anonymous credentials has anything to do with the fact that the Board Chairman's wife's brother's neighbour was fond of his mother about twenty-three years ago;

Saturday, nine pints, a half-one, discussion of the county team, the opposition, who's driving, who's going up in the car, why do we have to give a lift to that [expression deleted], I don't care who works with him, he's the two ends of [expression deleted], what do you mean, don't be like that? Like what? I'll be any [expression deleted] way I want, you [expression deleted], I'm sorry guard, no guard, we're friends guard, it was just horseplay guard, no guard, I won't do it again guard, thanks very much guard, of course I remember you guard - didn't you break me jaw for me in the Ted Webb Cup in 1982? Oh no guard, no hard feelings now - it's a man's game, thanks guard, yeah, I'll see you up there, between the forty and half-way, opposite the stand, as usual.

Sure what space can a man make for wife and family and everything that normal people enjoy? All our spare time is et [sic] up with this thing, I'm telling you, it's all et up! We have no time at all for our own lives, and all the time swallowed up by football and hurling.

And that's before the game is even played a'tall! Don't you realise that it's not easy keep that up every week, when you'd much rather be home hearing about how we need new curtains and watching Eastenders and Dancing on Ice. And as for Sunday - for God's sake, only a crazy man would think about piling into a car on a bright summer's day with the dinner eaten since nine and the hay cut and the beautiful smell rising off all the freshly mown meadows in the county as we move up through the country with the hundreds of others, one man in the back reading the previews in the papers aloud to a hushed but doubting congregation and telling the kids about the heroes of your day and what it was like and how much better it all was and stopping off to eat off the brown tray in those strange Ating Houses in the midlands, but saying nothing because it's such a blast for the kids, even though Séamus is getting big now and he's a bit too cool to be travelling with the family, and heading for Dublin and that gorgeous amphitheatre that we built ourselves for our own games and no-one else's, and the colours and the pageantry and the hits and the skills and the roars and the sweetness and the bitterness and the long, sated, drive home.

Sure that's slavery, man, that's worse than slavery! The serfs in Russia before the Revolution wouldn't have stuck it! The savages in Africa, eating a missonary a day and two of a Sunday wouldn't think about it for a second! Dessie Farrell is right - it's all very well talking about honour and glory and pride and mórtas cine and all that, but how does all that translate into pounds, shillings and pence? The only way this hateful system of bonded indenture can survive is if the GAA, in combination with the Government - for what else is a Government to do but give us stuff, stuff, and more stuff - sets up an index-linked contributory pension hand-out scheme, deliverable in brown envelopes in Conway's of Parnell Street (and they say the GSA has no respect for tradition - hah!), and directly linked to each individual supporter's ability to sink porter and whine loud and long. Which supporters are eligible? Why, all of them! More! More! More! Me! Me! Me!"

And so the document ends. An Spailpín can only think towards the future, and shiver.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Buaille Bachaille ar an nGPA

Airgead - Dia Mór an GPA
Tá clú Tom Humphries mar scríobhnóir ar cursaí an CLG beagán níos ghile ná ba cheart dó, dar leis An Spailpín Fánach. Tá Keith Duggan níos fearr leis an bpeann, agus tá Tomás Romhar claonta chun dul síos boithríní dhall uairtheanta.

Ach tá sliocht den scoth scríofa ag an bhfear mór ar maidin ins an Irish Times, nuair a iarrann sé ar Dessie Farrell agus a chairde san nGPA suigh síos, agus a scith a ligeadh. Tá Tomás ag éirí beagán breán den mBéal Bocht an GPA, agus scríobhann sé go mbaineann i bhfad níos mó leis an gCumann Lúchleas Gael ná na h-imreoirí agus foirne idirchontae. Ní cheart dóibh bheith ag bagairt nó ag bacaidh i gcónaí ar a gcús féin - seasann i bhfad níos mó ná na príomhimreoirí faoi bhrat an Chumainn Lúthchleas Gael, agus ní cheart dó na príomhimreoirí dearmad a dhéanamh orthu.

Ní scríobhann Tomás faoi rud eile a chuireann ionadh ar an Spailpín, is docha toisc go bhfuil na speaclaí ghorm ar shrón Thomáis i gcónaí - níl an fadhb céanna ag an Spailpín, ar ndóigh. Seo í mo cheist: más cumann do na príomhimreoirí idirchontae amháin é an GPA, cén fáth go bhfuil Dessie Farrell ina cheannaire orthu? Nach bhfuil aimsir idirchontae Dessie críochnaithe le fada, agus mar sin, níl deontas breá ag teacht dó ón rialtas? Tá Dessie ar thaobh thiar den gcnoc, agus mar sin is duine den coitianta an CLG é arís - an lucht coitianta céanna a fuilingeoidh is mó má éiríonn leis an nGPA deighilt mhór a dhéanamh ins an gCLG idir an lucht uaisle agus an lucht ísle.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"The Pope's Children," by David McWilliams

David McWilliamsOne of the many strange things about how much Ireland has changed in this, the Celtic Tiger Era, is how poorly we understand it. We look back on the Old Ireland of the Constitutional Crusades and the Abortion Referenda and the weeping emigrants on the boat back to England after Christmas at home, and we look now at the New Ireland of the snarling traffic, the trendy cafés, the gaping maw of the property market and we think: How in damnation did we get from that to this? And where will it all end up?

David McWilliams attempts to answer all that in his book, The Pope’s Children, which was a massive best-seller before Christmas and is still charging off the shelves. The first three-quarters or so of the book are a tour-de-force, but the conclusion is weak and one of the basic premises either worryingly insightful or else deeply, deeply flawed. Whatever, as a book it’s a must read for anyone that has an interest in who the Irish are now, and where they are going.

McWilliams made his name as an economist of course, and wrote his name in letters of fire across the consciousness of the current active generation (The Pope’s Children of the title, those that were born around the time of the papal visit in 1979) when he confidently opined some years ago that the house price boom was built on sand and a massive crash was in the post. That crash may still be in the post, but it hasn’t arrived yet, and the chance existed between when McWilliams said it first and now for some smart boys to have got in and out of the property game and made a tidy packet in between time. Therefore, McWilliams is hated on two sides; by those that took his advice, and are now even further away from owning their own homes than ever, and by those that did make the investment and spent many sleepless nights wondering if they would be condemned to Ballier or the ‘Noggin for the rest of their days, unable to unload the houses they bought on a flyer. And it’ll be a while yet before people forgive that level of a fright.

All of which is unfair on McWilliams, of course. He’s an economist, not a prophet or visionary of the future. But in this, his first book, McWilliams is economist second but sociologist first – for the first two hundred pages of his book McWilliams takes us through Ireland as she is and not as we would want her to be, and a deeply depressing trip it is too. The growing majority of the Irish are now what McWilliams terms “Decklanders,” meaning people that live in those awful suburbs which now surround Dublin, starting as far north as Drogheda and Dundalk, sweeping West to take in great swathes of Meath and Kildare, and lurching south taking lumps from Carlow, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Wexford. They are all Dublin now, more or less, and, if the Irish were amphibious, no doubt there would be floating houses in a commuter belt out in the Irish Sea. As McWilliams points out, one of the great Irish put-downs, “blow-in,” no longer applies. We are all blow-ins now, as even dyed in the navy-blue wool Dubs uproot and more to Ratoath and Kells.

McWilliams outlines, in ghastly detail with a particular flair for the grotesque, just what it’s like to live in this strange commuter-ville, to spend so much of your life in a car, breakfasting on Nutri-grain and jumbo breakfast rolls, and spending weekends tramping around Woodies and B&Q trying to find some geegaws that will make the price of your property appreciate. Appreciation is about the one thing we do appreciate; every other thing that we took as a core value in other years – home, faith, fatherland – are all more or less by the wayside.

What separates McWilliams’ polemic from the gassing that that goes on over the ciabatta and cappuccino in the coffee bars of Ranelagh, Sandymount, Donnybrook and Kiliney by the sea-shore is that McWilliams backs up his argument. When the chattering classes discuss how Ireland has changed they’re inclined to look at it at the level of the soul – an interesting stance in a supposedly post-religious society. They talk about the fall of Bishop Casey, the clerical child-abuse scandals, something that happened once on the Late Late Show or those twin shibboleths of our times, our wonderful standard of education and the warmth of the Irish welcome for the executives of the multinational conglomerate. McWilliams ignores all that, and takes Deep Throat’s advice to Woodward and Bernstein – he follows the money.

When McWilliams outlines Deckland in its full horror, he has statistic after statistic to back it up. There is a huge gulf between what the Irish think they want and the reality of our desires. For instance, health is one of the great bugaboos of Irish politics, and will certainly be an issue at the next election. However, the stats show that the Irish spend more annually on sweets than they do on health insurance, suggesting that if the Irish were true to themselves, politicians would be better off promising Curly Wurlies and Crunchies instead of cancer screening and clean hospitals. The figures never lie.

How ironic, then, that McWilliams should ignore the figures in the final quarter of the book, and choose to abandon all reason to paint a picture of some sort of 21st Century Celtic Shangri-La populated by Hiberno-übermensch that will save us from the ersatz soulless horror of Deckland. McWilliams identifies what he terms the HiCos, the Hibernian Cosmopolitans, as the antithesis of Deckland – Micko to Deckland’s Heffo, ying to Deckland’s yang. The HiCo is a beautiful synthesis of the traditional Irish aspirations like our own language and our identity and our claiming a place in the world with the fact that our returned immigrants can now lace these traditional values with the cosmopolitanism that they picked up in London, Manhattan and Sydney. He draws a blissful image of the typical HiCo dropping the young fella off at his local Gaelscoil, stopping off for a free-trade coffee, making a few deals with a laptop hooked up a mobile phone, cooking the dinner with entirely organic vegetables and then settling down en famille to watch Laochra Gael on TG4, which this week features Bobby Doyle of Tipperary, the Holycross Hercules.

Up to a point, Lord Copper. McWilliams fails to explain just how these HiCos exist so separately from the heaving, sweaty mass, stuck on the M50, eating Tayto and listening to the Last Word. The only possible explanation is that HiCos have so much wedge that they have risen above the herd, just as the super-wealthy always do. But wealth is not the same as value – the wealthy are currently doing the Gaelscoil thing and the free-trade thing and the organic market thing and the supporting the GAA thing because these have become the fashionable things to do. Once the wind changes, so will the wealthy as they chase the latest thing. Evelyn Waugh makes all this quite clear in those marvellous novels he wrote between the wars – look out for them. Decline and Fall, and Vile Bodies. The names and locations change, but the fundamental human emotions and weaknesses does not.

The HiCo does not eat organic vegetables for his dinner while the Decklander cooks waffles and Donegal Catch because the two are operating from different value systems – if a Decklander has to get up at half-five, drop the kids into the crèche, drive in to work, work a full day, go back out to the suburb, pick the kids up again, get home and then start cooking the dinner at eight in the evening, he or she will do what’s quickest, and will not have time to stop off at the Farmers’ Market in Dún Laoghaire to buy potatoes that were fertilised by actual shite. Equally, if someone has a king-Hell mortgage to pay off, they’re not going to spend a tenner on a small little bageen of spuds at the Farmers’ Market when they could by a hundredweight in Dunnes’ for twenty-five yo-yos. Money talks, bullshit walks. That’s the lesson of life. Decklanders do not live in those beautiful HiCo aportments in Portobello, D8, that McWilliams describes so lovingly in his final chapters because they don’t want to – it’s because they can’t afford to, and no other reason.

So close but no cigar then to David McWilliams, but then trying to identify what’s happened to Ireland in the first place and then posit circumstances where it all has a happy ending isn’t the easiest conjuring trick in the book. Shame on him for never venturing outside The Pale as well, except for one story about property-aware scallywags in Cork city. For An Spailpín, that was the most worrying thing about the book – not that McWilliams did not leave The Pale, but that he saw no need to, that the entire country is being constantly drawn in to the capital.

A discussion for another day, perhaps. In the meantime, the only thing to say about The Pope’s Children is that it must be read. Flawed it may be, but the discussion on who we are is one we put off too much, and McWilliams’ book is an ideal place to start.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Have Mayo Finally Found a Full Back?

An tIolar Breá IorraisThe great Keith Duggan is waxing lyrical in this morning’s Times about Mayo’s win over Monaghan at Clontibret yesterday. He really is a joy to read, Duggan. However, all Mayo fans should beware of getting carried away by league results, as the National Football League is a rebellious bird – like Bizet’s Carmen, just when you think you’re getting on well with her, she’ll throw your flower back in your face, and run off with some bullfighter instead.

The best way to approach these league games is to, firstly, ensure that your team isn’t relegated, and secondly, try to learn what you can from each match. Then, if God is good and the luck is with you, maybe you’ll have a stronger team than you had last year, and might be able to keep it kicked out to the Kingdom next time out.

As a contest, that game against Monaghan was over after fifteen minutes, with Mayo cruising by eight points. David Heaney was charging upfield from the square, like one of those liberos that used to be all the rage among soccer cognoscenti a decade ago, and the entire middle of the Monaghan team, half-back, midfield and half-forward lines, were overrun by Mayo - Mayo wearing their traditional colours too, I should note. Every time you looked up there was another Mayoman striding through the Monaghan trenches with scoring on his mind.

When Heaney was sent off on the eighteenth minute, the prospect of Mayo clinging to the wreckage for the next fifty minutes was a depressing one, but Billy Joe went back to the square to man the redoubt, and Mayo waves continued to crash over the beleaguered Monaghan balustrades at the other end.

What Heaney did to get sent off remains a mystery. An Spailpín missed the incident, having been playing with his mobile telephone at the time, but the spectator next to me assured me that it was strictly handbags stuff. There was a bit of pushing and shoving, Heaney flipped a flipper at your man, the ref thought it was a punch, and sent Heaney to line. Flipping a flipper wouldn’t even have got anyone the line in a basketball game, but it is possible that the referee had been reading something-must-be-done! columns in the newspapers after the Dublin-Tyrone game, and it all went right to his head.

The spectre of refereeing consistency raised its head about ten minutes later when Ronan McGarrity clocked a Monaghan man with a right hook ten minutes after Heaney exited, stage right, but the ref either lacked sufficient bottle to send off two Mayomen within ten minutes in what hadn’t been a dirty game, or else thought that a punch from a basketballer doesn’t count as a punch at all, and is about the same as being slapped by a girl. Whatever the reason, Mayo escaped the ignoble stain of having three men suspended in a fortnight.

What is interesting, however, is how this inconsistency in referring will work out when Mayo play Dublin, in what is more than likely going to be a dirty game at Parnell Park. Paul Caffrey seems to have decided that the success of Dublin in the 1970s had more to do with timber from the likes of Mullins and O’Driscoll than talent from Keaveney and Hanahoe, and is intent on building a team in that black and blue image. How will Mayo react if the Dubs decide to come out fighting? Will Caffrey tell his charges – who may be simple and easily lead – that Mayo are a team of tough guys, and fire must be met with fire? One of the most chilling of the great Ger Loughnane’s coaching mantras was that the referee will not protect you – you must protect yourself. Patrons attending Parnell Park are asked to bring spare bandages and be aware of their blood type, should the need for emergency transfusions arise.

In the meantime, the Mayo focus turns to Fermanagh’s visit to Castlebar, a team that has been giving Mayo no small amount of grief in recent times. The suspensions of the two Davids should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance – with six league points in the bag, relegation is now highly unlikely, so Mickey Moran has free reign to experiment.

Experimentation is not needed in midfield, where the Stephenite pairing of McGarrity and Brady are clearly the first selection. James Gill played very well against Monaghan but the fact that Monaghan gained a foothold in midfield after McGarrity came off tells its own eloquent story. This is McGarrity’s third year of Championship, it’s Gill’s sixth. McGarrity has definitely arrived, while Gill has always struggled to establish himself. McGarrity wins.

Much more interestingly, the suspension of David Heaney gives Mickey Moran a rare opportunity to look at his options at full-back. Heaney only went back to fullback as a stopgap move a few years ago, and has never been happy or entirely comfortable there. Also, Heaney’s placing at fullback is a waste of his attacking potential, thus making it doubly-disadvantageous to the Green and Red cause. But, in the flurry of excitement after the sending off, as Billy Joe Padden, scorer of an excellent goal only ten minutes before, marched back to the square, were we granted a glimpse of the future?

It’s not easy being Billy Joe Padden. It’s not easy being the son of a legend. Billy has been outstanding in his Mayo appearances, and has done more than enough to stand apart from his father’s long shadow. However, no-one seems quite clear on where Billy should play. They say he’s too small for midfield, too slow for wing-forward, and Mickey Moran doesn’t seem to favour last summer’s experiment of Billy at full-forward. But, as An Spailpín craned his neck from the stand in Clontibret yesterday, watching Billy Joe marshal his man in Heaney’s absence, a little light bulb went ping! above my head. Have Mayo found their fullback?

Stranger things have happened. Didn’t one of the Down midfielders of the nineties finish his career at fullback? Didn’t Darren Fay finish his time in midfield, having started as a fullback? When we consider Gaelic footballers, should we consider them across the lines, or along a centre spine/peripheral model?

What is the one factor you want in a fullback, above any others? Tenacity. He has to be ball-hungry. He can’t give up, and know as his guiding principle that the square must be guarded as a miser guards his gold. Billy Joe has all the qualities to wear the number 3 for Mayo, and free up David Heaney for a spot further up the field. If An Spailpín is right, that’s three pieces of the puzzle solved in one go – the No 3 berth is filled, Heaney is free to roam and we know what to do with Billy Joe. If An Spailpín is wrong and Billy isn’t suited to fullback, better to find out now than to get torched in Croker in high summer. That’s the great thing about the League – nothing goes so wrong that it can’t be fixed next time out.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Slashhooks and Daffodils

Rocking the night, with Slashhooks and DaffodilsThere ought to be a law. An Spailpín notes that Ticketmaster are currently selling tickets for a Guns'n'Roses concert at the RDS this summer, despite the fact that only one actual member of Guns'n'Roses will be present. I mean, if you went into a bar and called a pint of stout and were only given one fifth of a pint, three and a spit fluid ounces, well, you'd say you were being done, wouldn't you? Eddie Hobbs, Joe Duffy, the whole damned lot of them would be on about it.

Guns'n'Roses imploded a long time ago, and should be left in their crypt. The nearest thing to them, as regards loud heavy metal music, is Velvet Revolver, famously featuring the ex-Guns'n'Roses guitar player, Slash, but that still doesn't mean that going to see Velvet Revolver is the same as seeing Guns'n'Roses in their pomp. If you were one of the thousands that were at them in Slane, good for you, enjoy the memories. If you were one of the parents who let their teenaged daughters off to see Guns'n'Roses at Slane, FOR GOD'S SAKE MAN, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!

An Spailpín was in a band once, you know. It was in London, before any of this Celtic Tiger malarkey, when Paddy was still working for Robert McAlpine and John Laing, and damn glad of the start. I'd noticed though, that even though the Irish were staying in very traditional Irish communities, they were listening to more and more modern music. So while they were still waltzing to come-all-ye's in the Galteemore, they'd be listening to Guns'n'Roses and Metallica on their walkmans on the Tube in. And I began to wonder - maybe there's something in this? Maybe there's something to be made by going one further than the Pogues ever dared, and fusing Rock'n'Roll, the most powerful force that Music has ever known, with the most powerful force that any of us had ever seen in our young lives - the JCB man himself, Seamus Moore.

We formed a band, and called ourselves Slashhooks and Daffodils. We got a gig warming up the crowd before Seamus himself would come on at the Crown or what-ever Mick bar it was, and we did that by singing about stuff that they all knew about from home, with an industrial strength boogie-woogie backing, of course. My God, the memories! The fists in the air rocking to our song about dipping the sheep back home on the land, Mr Bluestone. The shouts of recognition about being just an urchin living under the streets in rural Leinster, Portlaoise City. The impossible daring of our song about correct grooming for the hirsutely bottomed gentleman, Welcome to the Jangle - subtle as brick I know, but we're talking a crowd that paid a pony sterling to come in and hear Seamus Moore roaring about the Big Bamboo, so internal rhymes and Cole Porter stuff would have gone right over their heads.

The best song we had was one about an actor in the Richard Harris/Peter O'Toole mould, who used to like slumming it with the Paddies working construction when he wasn't playing in The Importance of Being Earnest or Lady Windemere's Fan down in the West End. How the crowd used to roar when we'd sing our tribute song for him, Pete Wilde O'Brien.

We got picked up too. An A&R man came to see Seamus one night - Jasper came to have a laugh at the thick Pats, but he wasn't doing to much laughing when two chippies from Ferbane, Co Offaly, told him they were going to bury him alive under the foundation of a new labour exchange at Cricklewood Broadway if he didn't sign Slashhooks and Daffodils to a recording deal right away. He signed, and we went to the studio to make our debut record. Because of our success among the Irish that were building up and tearing England down, we were going to call the record Appetite for Construction. God, were would have been big. Never happened of course, but that's another story.

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