Friday, April 25, 2008

Bás Tithe Tábhairní na hÉireann

Tá alt spéisiúl brónach sa Washington Post ar maidin ar meath tithe tábhairní na hÉireann, go mórmhór sa gceantair tuaithe. Tá cur síos san alt ar na h-athrú atá ann i saol na hÉireann anois, i rith ré an airgid, agus conas ab ansa le daoine na hÉireann sa lá atá inniu ann fanacht sa bhaile lena mbuidéal Chardonney in ionad dul síos an bóthair agus bualadh lena gcomharsana sa teach tábhairne.

Is brónach an scéal é, go h-áirithe don seandaoine, nach bhfuil slí bheatha eile acu ach an teach tábhairne áitiúl. Is féidir gloinne fíona a thabhairt dóibh, ach ní maith leo é, go h-áirithe i gcomparáid le pionta breá phóirtéir.

Rud amháin nach bhfuil san alt, afach, is é an t-athrú a rinne athrú an dlí maidir le tiomáint agus daoine ólta. Ní fheiceann an dlí an dífríocht idir fear óg agus deich Jaegarmeister caite siar aige, suite isteach ina ghluisteán mór ag scréadáil siar an bóthair, agus an seanfear cneasta soineanta, atá ag tógail pionta lena gcomharsanna tar éis a phinsean a fháil aige. Tá coisc ar slí bheatha na bhfear sin go léir, agus is eagóir an scéal é.

Chuala do Spailpín Fánach scéal ar fear amháin a bhí níos glice dóibhse siúd go léir. Chuir na Gardaí lámh air agus eisean ag dul abhaile tar éis pionta nó dó a ól lena pinsean. Isteach os comhair an breitheamh leis, agus cuireadh coisc tiomáint air. Bhí an fear seo buailte go maith in aois, agus eisean ina chónaí ina aonar ar a fheirm. Níl dífríocht ann idir coisc tiomáint agus cuireadh faoi ghlas do fhir cosuil leis. Ach bíonn an dlí dall, deirtear.

Ach tháining mo dhuine ar seift. Tagann sé isteach sa bhaile anois gach Aoine, mar ba ghnáth leis, agus tógann sé a chuid pionta fós, báil ó Dhia air. Tagann sé isteach lena asal agus a chairt, mar a théadh a sinsear roimhe, agus a mhallacht orthu go léir. Mo cheol thú, a seanduine cóir, go máire tú an céad! Fad atá an cloigín á úsáid ag muintir na hÉireann tá dóchas linn fós.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Kerry on the Cusp of Everlasting Glory

Dara Ó Cinnéide has a fascinating – and frightening, for those who can read the runes – piece in Saturday’s Foinse about Kerry and their three in a row chances this year. On the face of it, Ó Cinnéide was talking down their chances, but the subtext of his piece was clear for those with eyes to see – Kerry are basking in the bright dawn of another golden era, and it’s not three in a row they’re thinking about. It’s five.

The Kerryman, as we all know, is a creature incapable of telling a lie. The only thing is, he tells more than one kind of truth. This is what makes dealing with one so difficult; this duality is what enables the Kerryman to condemn the roughhouse Northern tactics from one side of his mouth, and appoint Paul Galvin as his captain with the other. Therefore, when An Spailpín studies and reflects on Ó Cinnéide’s pieces – and Ó Cinnéide really is the best analyst of football writing or broadcasting today – it’s important to remember that An Cinnéideach speaks to two constituencies, the country and the Kingdom. And while he says the same thing, what they hear – or are meant to hear – in the country is not the same as what they pick up in the Kingdom.

This week Ó Cinnéide is writing about how premature it is to talk of Kerry as three in a row contenders. He marshals three arguments against this contention:

  1. Tyrone looked like being lords of all in 2005, and look what happened to them.

  2. Monaghan should have beaten Kerry in the quarter-final last summer.

  3. Sometimes the best team still loses; vide, 1982.

How endlessly fascinating. Firstly, it can be a source of comfort to the good citizens of the O’Neill and Faithful counties that they managed to annoy the Kerrymen to such an extent. Secondly, and possibly more germane to our current analysis, Ó Cinnéide here offers an unguarded insight into the Kerry mentality.

One of the reasons that Kerry are as successful as they are is that Kerry want it more. Jack O’Connor said after the 2006 All-Ireland that Kerry’s one year of hurt was a greater goad to them than the fifty-years-and-counting were to Mayo, and O’Connor was correct. Thirty-plus All-Irelands or no, every single loss stings the Kerryman. Not only are they bitter about Tyrone a few years ago or that crushing loss against Offaly in 1982, they’re still sore about losing to Down in the sixties. Pat Spillane was bitching about Down in the sixties and they things they didn’t do to poor Mick O’Connell on George Hook’s radio show once; Hooky isn’t enough of a GAA man to ask Pat how he knew, as he would only have been a child at the time.

The bitter tang of defeat is as much a part of the Kerry football heritage as catch-and-kick, Paddy Bawn and Valentia boatmen. Like the Spartans of old, Kerrymen like to see character, and nothing builds character like adversity. As Marvin “Shake” Tiller remarks in Dan Jenkins’ classic American football novel, “Semi-Tough,” it’s not a question of who wants to win, because everybody wants to win. It’s a question of who fears losing the most that makes the difference.

Long time readers of Ó Cinnéide – and it’s to his pieces that An Spailpín always turns first on a Saturday morning – are aware that Ó Cinnéide is sore about the break in the Kerry football tradition that occurred in the late eighties and early nineties, when the golden generation hung up their boots and it wasn’t quite clear who was going to replace them. Ó Cinnéide’s own generation learned that winning is not a right, and traditions don’t just happen, they must be carefully maintained. And the reason that An Spailpín is both swept away by Kerry’s dedication and cowed for his own hopes of seeing his own county win an All-Ireland before it’s time to dance with the Reaper is that Ó Cinnéide clearly senses that Kerry are on the verge of Great Things, and the chance mustn’t be let slip from their grasp.

Ó Cinnéide’s piece on Saturday wasn’t about counties other than Kerry’s chances of winning an All-Ireland this year – it was a call to arms for Kerry to screw their courage to the sticking-post, and prepare for great deeds ahead. Not only have Kerry the best football team in the country, as Ó Cinnéide himself admits, they have profound talent coming through. And they enjoy an advantage that Mick O’Dwyer’s teams did not have, and that is the ridiculous back door system that comforts and protects their imperium. Reader, do you really think that, if the back door existed in 1983, Tadhgie Murphy would not have been fully punished for his temerity later in the summer, or that twelve Dubs would have pushed Kerry around the way they did Galway?

There are a few teams in contention this year. Galway could come good, Derry have been knocking at the door and, being of his generation, An Spailpín Fánach can never quite bring himself to write off Meath. But not only must they match Kerry for players, they must match them for heart. The most chastening thing for the rest of country, looking at Kerry and their football tradition and their tremendous desire and pride in their colours, is that if the current Kerry team do indeed win five in a row, they’ll more than likely deserve it.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Mystery Trains

Two cities, both alike in dignity, on either side of the Atlantic where we set our scene. But it seems the public transport authorities of Chicago and Ireland have differing views of how to handle breakdowns.

On Wednesday of this week, both the Chicago Transport Authority and Irish Rail suffered a mishap. In Chicago, a train coming in from the airport got stuck in a tunnel downtown. In Dublin, the Sligo train got stuck at Clonsilla, a north-western suburb, blocking the Maynooth commuter route.

In Chicago, the mishap happened at ten past eight, and normal service was restored by noon. In Dublin, the mishap happened at noon, and normal service was cancelled for the entire day.

The Chicago Transit Authority says their fault was mechanical, while Irish Rail says theirs was a signalling error. An Spailpín Fánach has no reason to doubt either. But the reaction to the outage on either side of the Atlantic is instructive.

In Chicago, not only did the CTA make the Blue Line trains free for the evening, to make it up to their customers, it didn’t even make a big deal of the gesture – it’s the final sentence in the press release on their site.

In Dublin, what did Irish Rail do? A big fat nothing, as far as I can see. Like they always do. Public transport authorities in this country like to say, when confronted by the latest commuting horror in the city, that this is the price of progress. No, it’s not. This is the price of being lazy and complacent. They have a recorded announcement at the stations where “Iarnród Éireann would like to apologize to all their passengers for any inconvenience caused.” The Chicago Transit Authority was sorry enough to reimburse commuters. That level of remorse has yet to manifest at Irish Rail.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Slighted Shepherd: The Neglected Presidency of the Late Doctor Patrick Hillery

Sacrifice is a word that occurs often in Irish history. Isn’t it rather sad that it’s only after his sudden death today at the age of eighty-five that the nation is finally beginning to acknowledge what an extraordinary servant we had in our sixth President, Doctor Patrick Hillery.

It’s been a shibboleth of Irish public life for the past eighteen years that Doctor Hillery’s Presidency was somehow deficient. That it lacked panache, as Garret Fitzgerald put it to John Bowman on Saturday View this afternoon. This is a longstanding wrong done to the reputation of a good man, for Doctor Patrick Hillery is none other than the man that saved the very office of the Presidency itself, and possibly did so at the cost of his own career and ambitions.

What’s vital to remember here are the circumstances in which Doctor Hillery arrived in the Park in 1977. Doctor Hillery’s predecessor as President was Cearrbhall Ó Dálaigh. Ó Dálaigh was an intellectual, and like most intellectuals, he had trouble mixing with the hoi polloi. There were many abrasive incidents between Ó Dálaigh and Liam Cosgrove’s Fine Gael and Labour coalition Government in the 1970s, and matters came to a head in the autumn of 1976 when the then Minister of Defence, Paddy Donegan of Louth, addressed the army at a function and told them that the head of state, President Ó Dálaigh, their commander in chief, was a “thundering disgrace.”

Legend has it that Donegan used earthier language than that, but the sanitised version is bad enough. The office of the Presidency, which is above politics, in theory, had been sullied by a cabinet minister. Donegan offered to resign; Liam Cosgrove refused his resignation, and as such Ó Dálaigh himself was forced to resign in order to preserve the reputation of the highest office.

The only way that the office of the Presidency could be saved was to appoint someone who could be trusted as a safe pair of hands, who would keep a hand on the tiller until the stench of the Donegan affair had died down. And Paddy Hillery was just that man. If anything, he did the job too well, and the excellence with which he carried out his brief became the stick that was used to beat him in 1990. Robinson campaigned for a “Presidency with a Purpose;” the implication being that the incumbent had no purpose, and was a waste of space.

A terrible slur on a great man. How great Hillery could have been we’ll never know, of course, but we do have some indications. Doctor Hillery was the man that negotiated Ireland’s entry into the Common Market as Minister for External Affairs; the legacy of that is everywhere. But more fascinatingly, we have the extraordinary footage of the 1971 Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis that gives us a glimpse of a Taoiseach that perhaps we deserved.

For people that grew up with Patrick Hillery as President, he was the Quiet Man of Irish life. You’d see him on the news in morning clothes at the Park, taking tea with papal nuncios or giving new ministers their seals of office. As such, the footage from 1971 is extraordinary.

The 1971 Ard Fheis took place in the wake of the Arm Trial, when Kevin Boland et al had been exonerated, and now it was payback time for that faction. The party was on the verge of a split, as tempers frayed and flags were waived. A livid Patrick Hillery takes the microphone and screams – screams! – at the delegates “you want Boland? You can have him, but you can’t have Fianna Fáil!”

Extraordinary. Who knows what Hillery could have done when his term as EU Commissioner ended, if he were to return as Kingmaker after Jack Lynch retired? But he was asked to subsume all ambition in that regard, and to save the State and its chief office. Which he did excellently and well, and it’s a pity that he had to die before that could be acknowledged properly.

Doctor Hillery was a guest on Diarmuid Ferriter’s fascinating Judging Dev radio series before Christmas, when he and Doctor TK Whittaker discussed what it was like working for Eamon DeValera. How extraordinary to realise that Patrick Hillery entered politics as Dev’s running mate in Clare. Hillery’s career ran as a rich seam of gold through the political life of the past fifty years, and all we did was take him for granted. An Spailpín can only hope that, keen golfer as he was, as Doctor Hillery looks down on events at the US Masters tonight from that Great Banner in the Sky, he can forgive a thankless nation that failed to acknowledge a pearl greater than all their tribe. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Support Guide Dog Training at this Weekend's London Marathon

Roy Keane is not the only Irish celebrity with a grá for the guide dogs. In a synchronous moment, as the Sunderland manager was here in Dublin last week, An Spailpín’s friend and heroine Orpha Phelan was yet again stomping out the hard training yards to raise money for guide dog training.

Orpha is running the London marathon on Sunday to raise money for the Guide Dogs Association. I can think of no more noble charity, as I can think of few things more terrifying than being blind. John Milton said that eyesight was “the one talent which is death to hide,” and he found out the hard way. Milton himself went blind in 1652, at the age of forty-four, having seen the light fade for many years before that. That’s what writing by candle-light will do to you.

There were no guide-dogs in Milton’s day. These extra-ordinary animals are a twentieth century invention, and it’s horrifying to think of what life could be like without them. Consider making your way home from the office today without being able to see – how do you turn off the computer? Get out the door? Navigate the streets?

The idea is beyond terror, and yet people do it, every day, thanks to these extraordinary animals. In a civilised society, guide dog training would be part of social services, and would not be reliant on big hearted people like Orpha running marathons; perhaps we have a few steps of evolution to go yet.

But we haven’t evolved that much yet, unfortunately, and so Orpha will assemble early on Sunday morning with the other competitors at Greenwich, south of the Thames, with the twenty-six mile course stretching out before them. The course follows the great river itself, as in the lovely Ewan McColl song covered so beautifully on teh first Planxty album, Sweet Thames Flow Softly. First, the runners must face to Woolwich, turn, then back to Greenwich, and then cross the river after the half-way stage at Whitechapel and Limehouse, where Holmes and Watson found the game afoot so many times. Into Millwall then, where the congregation at Cold Blow Lane used to delight chanting “where’s your handbag, Dunphy?” at Roy Keane’s erstwhile biographer every Saturday in the 1970s.

Down and around by the Isle of Dogs then, before turning back east, smashing through the Wall at twenty miles and charging on back into Whitechapel, Holmes and Watson having successfully solved mysteries concerning specked bands, red-headed leagues and smashes statues of Bonaparte, before finally staggering into the great City of Westminster and collapsing, exhausted, at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Mrs Windsor should come out with a tray of tea and cakes; it would be the least she could do.

Reader, close you eyes, and imagine never opening them again. Then feel relieved and grateful, and click here to donate now to Orpha Phelan’s campaign to raise money for Guide Dogs. Best of luck M.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

So. Farewell Then, Charlton Heston

The late Charlton Heston, who died last night at his home in California after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, remarks in his autobiography In the Arena that his single greatest asset was his face.

Some people’s faces fit, some don’t. One of the reasons put forward for the decline of the Western is that so few actors today would look well on a horse. It’s hard to imagine Tom Cruise, for instance, holding Fort Apache with Henry Fonda and John Wayne. Some people’s faces are of their time – Stephen Spielberg has remarked, for instance, that the biggest challenge in casting Saving Private Ryan was finding actors who faces looked like 1940s faces. Tom Sizemore’s role as the Sergeant tells how well they succeeded in that endeavour.

None of that applied to Heston. Heston’s biggest gift was that face, the face that represented Everyman. Or at least, Western Everyman – Heston’s portrayal of the Mexican policeman Miguel “Mike” Vargas takes the theory to the tipping point. But Touch of Evil excepted, who else but Charlton Heston could have represented mankind at every stage of his evolution, from Moses through to El Cid to Michelangelo to the Omega Man to the astronaut George Taylor, the last man standing on the Planet of the Apes?

Charlton Heston was born John Carter in Evanston, IL, eighty-four years ago. He got his first big break in 1952 in The Greatest Show on Earth, the circus movie directed by Cecil B de Mille, where Heston played the circus manager. The movie is remembered primarily for Jimmy Stewart as the clown – he never takes off the makeup during the movie, an extra-ordinary thing to ask of an actor of Stewart’s talent and star-wattage. Four years later, De Mille hired Heston to play Moses in his Technicolor remake of the Ten Commandments – a movie that looks a little outré now, but that must have been just like hearing the voice of God then.

And then, in 1959, came Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ, as Lew Wallace’s original novel was titled. Ben-Hur had been made already, as a silent movie in 1925, but by 1959 Hollywood was on the crest of a Bible-movie wave, starting with The Robe and Quo Vadis in 1950s and ending when The Greatest Story Ever Told wasn’t in the 1960s. Ben-Hur was the pinnacle of those movies, epic in every sense of the world, and it is the movie for which Heston will be forever remembered.

It is a pity to reduce Heston to that one picture, however, great and all as it is. An Spailpín always considers The Big Country, directed by Ben Hur’s William Wyler a few years before Ben-Hur itself as a particular treat. Heston is part of a tremendously strong ensemble cast and plays Steve Leach, a ranch foreman who has the hots for the rancher’s daughter, the rancher’s daughter, however, having no interest in getting involved with the help. Watching it, it’s hard not to wonder how Heston would have fared had he been cast against type as Henry Fonda was in Once Upon a Time in the West.

For cineastes who wish to look beyond the Prince of Hur, An Spailpín Fánach posits the view that Heston’s greater legacy will be the three hugely influential science fiction movies he made in the 1960s and 70s – Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega Man. The Omega Man was remade recently with Will Smith, re-titled I Am Legend, while Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes remains the nadir of an otherwise stellar career. Soylent Green has not been remade, of course, because that future is more than likely already here.

Heston in despair on the beach on the Planet of the Apes, looking at the sunken statue of liberty, represents us all. It is one of the iconic images in all cinema, and only Heston, with his Everyman face and gloriously gravely voice, could have carried it off. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oidhreacht Bertie Ahern

Fuair do Spailpín Fánach ríomhphost ó fhealsúnóir atá ina chara dom ar maidin, agus eisean ag smaoineamh ar imeacht Bertie Ahern. Ba chóir do Bhertie a cheacht deireanach a fhoglaim ó Chathal Ó hEoghaigh dar leis, agus luaigh ar Othello ar a lá deireachach. Ach in ionad na focail Othello a luaigh Ó hEochaigh, "rinne mé chuid séirbhise ar son an Stáit," ba chóir do Bherite tagairt a dhéanamh ar Iago: "seo mar a chuirim mo sparán i m'amadán dom."

Tugaim faoi deara gur duirt Enda Ó Cionnaigh gurbh iad eachtra Mahon a mbeidh ina oidhreacht ag Bertie Ahern. Tá an mí-cheart ag Ó Cionnaigh agus, mar is gnáth leis, ní thuigeann sé an uair. Agus Bertie tite ar a chlaíomh anois, tá a oidhreacht slán go deo na ndeor. Is cuma cad a thárlóidh ag Mahon as seo amach. An scéal is measa a dtiocfaidh amach, mura a bhfuil an dubh ina bhán againne go deo, ná gur ól sé braoinín fíona altóra, nach raibh sé ar thóir na mbuachaillí altóra. Ní fear olc é Bertie Ahern mar duine; agus eisean ina Thaoiseach bhí an tír níos saibhre ná mar a bhí riamh, agus thóg sé síochán don Tuaisceart. Is mór-éacht ceachtar acu; lena cheile, níl duine ar bith comh mór le Bertie Ahern i stáir na tíre ná Dev féin, b'fhéidir.

Bhí réalt óg Fine Gael, Lucinda Creighton, ar an raidió aréir, agus ise ag cáineadh an dámaiste a rinneadh Bertie Ahern ar mheas polaitíochta in Éirinn. Is fíor dí go bhfuil meas polaitíochta níos ísle na mar a bhí riamh, ach níl ar Ahern amháin atá an locht. Cá raibh an freasúra nuair a bhí Bertie faoi bhrú? Cén fáth nar ionsaíodar air i rith an toghchán an bhliain seo caite? Mar ní chóir daoine ina gcónaí i dtithe gloine cloig a chaitheamh. Tá an boladh bréan ar na polaiteoirí mar tá an boladh céanna orainne go leir? Nuair atá cúpla punt sínte amach duinn - "duit féin, a mhic, meas tú," - agus an sméideach tugtha duinn, nó nuair a fheicimid seans cúpla punt a dhéanamh ar leathaobh, cé againne a dhiultaíonn? Sinne atá leisciúl, agus gach uile duine eile ag baint gach pingin rua.

Ach tá rud níos measa ag cur isteach ar an Spailpín anois, agus mise ag iarraidh radharc a fháil ar na blianta romhainn. An bhfuil an polaitíocht tabhachtach fós in Éirinn? Cén fáth nach bhfuil freasúra ann? An bhfuil an Tánaiste ina fhíor-fhreasúra? Mar tá níos mó seans ag leas-cheannaire Fianna Fáil dul ina Thaoiseach ná mar atá ag ceannaire an fhreasúra faoi láthair, agus ní fheictear fógra dá laghad go n-athrófar an scéal.

Beimid ag céillúradh an tÉirí Amach i gceann ocht mbliana, agus bunús an Saorstáit i 2021. Cén cuma a mbeidh ar an stát ansin? An mbeidh na Poláinnigh bogtha ar aís anóir? An meid roinnt maith Gaeil imithe leosan, ar thóir obair, mar a d'imigh a sínsear leis na blianta, agus na tithe breá nua folamha ar a gcul? Cad í Éirinn - tír neamhspleach, nó ceantar iarthair na hEorpa? Labhraitear roinnt bhladair faoi fhobairt na tuaithe, ach cad atá ag tárlú ach go mbogann gach aon duine go Bleá Cliath ar thóir oibre? Sin an fadhb is mó, níos laidre ná cúrsaí eacnamaíochta nach bhfuil faoi smacht tír bheag cosuil linne ar aon anós, atá os comhair an Taoisigh nua.

Maidir le Bertie féin, fágaim an focal deireanach le Uinsin de Brún, agus alt ar scríobh sé san Irish Times ar an 23ú lá Meitheamh, 2004. Scríobh sé faoin meid foighne a bhí ag Bertie Ahern, gurbh é an bua is mó aige gurbh fhéidir leis gréim a choinnéal ar a chuid foighne agus gach uile duine ag ionsaigh air, do dtí go ndéantar an beart. Agus leabhar Jonathan Powell foilsithe le déanaí, ag taispeant comh deacair a bhí díospóireacht sular ndéarna an beart i Stormont, is cóir duinn cuimhneamh ar sin. Tá súil agam go mbeidh gach bua is beannacht ag Bertie Ahern i bhfómhar a saoil. Rinne sé roinnt oibre ar son na hÉireann, agus ní thógfar uaidh go deo í.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

John Maughan, Colm Coyle, and the Butterfly Effect

John Maughan fell on his sword as Roscommon manager last night. The writing has been on the wall for some time. Maughan was always an odd fit in Roscommon, as any Mayoman might be in that fiercely proud county, and once the results started to go wrong the rope was always going to be twisted for him.

It’s unfortunate, too, that this ugly business has developed between Maughan and the Roscommon supporters. GAA supporters can be astonishing in their levels of abuse. It should be noted, however, that Roscommon has some of the best supporters in Ireland. We often read in the papers how winning an All-Ireland is “necessary” for some counties in order to promote Gaelic football in those counties; this is not necessary in Roscommon. Even now, when Roscommon’s May 18th Championship fixture looks likely to make Salthill look like Normandy in 1944 you may rest assured that, even against daunting odds, the Rossies will be there in numbers, chests out, primrose and blue flags fluttering amidst the shot and shell.

Perhaps John Maughan himself will be there as well, doing radio commentary with RTÉ. Whoever is the new manager of Roscommon has a free throw at this Championship; if he succeeds, meaning beats Galway, then he’s a Messiah, and if he loses it was all Maughan’s fault anyway. It’s hard to win.

No-one knows how hard it is to win more than Maughan himself of course. Now, in 2008, having been run out of Roscommon, run out of Mayo in his second coming and having walked out of Fermanagh, John Maughan is synonymous with being a loser. He is hated in Mayo for falling out with players like David Brady, Kevin O’Neill and Peter Butler. And all the incredible, genuinely incredible achievements of his career as a manager are eclipsed by the fact that Mayo did not win an All-Ireland while John Maughan was manager.

Before Ger Loughnane led the hurlers to glory in Clare in 1995, John Maughan managed the Clare footballers to victory over Kerry in the Munster Final. Astonishing. Three years later, post the Jack O’Shea and committee management eras, Mayo were languishing in Division 3 of the football league – one division below where Roscommon are now, you’ll note – and Maughan led Mayo to a League semi-final and an All-Ireland Final replay. There was strolling room on Hill 16 when Mayo hammered Kerry by six points in 1996, and the porter was sweeter on Dorset Street than it’s been before or since. Who remembers that now?

Critics of Maughan say it was his inflexibility that cost Mayo those All-Irelands. Without that inflexibility, that frightening drive that he could summon, would Mayo have got there in the first place? On the evidence of the prior four years – humiliated in Tuam, humiliated by Leitrim, humiliated by Cork, humiliated by Donegal – not hardly. In his marvellous book on the recent history of Mayo football Keith Duggan recounts Maughan training regimes with Clare, where he shamed the panel by having his wife, Audrey, outrun the Bannermen on the beaches, and with Mayo, when Maughan devoted himself to getting Anthony “Fat Larry” Finnerty fit. It’s Full Metal Jacket stuff, but it got results.

But not the result. The ne plus ultra result.

It’s untrue to say that it was inflexibility that cost Maughan those All-Irelands. What cost Maughan everlasting glory in the county Mayo was the fact that Colm Coyle was able to point from seventy yards – on the half-volley! – to draw the first game in the miracle summer of 1996, and then got sent off instead of John McDermott in the second.

Everything else follows from that. The performance against Kerry in 1997 was abject, and by then the novelty of not being on our knees had worn off in Mayo. It was time to pick holes. By the time Mayo lost another Ireland, in 2004, the County Board spent 2005 waiting for Maughan to slip up and when he did, it was so long, thanks for nothing.

Colm Coyle is at the heart of the butterfly effect that saw John Maughan run out of Roscommon this morning. The butterfly effect is that phenomenon of Chaos Theory that states a butterfly’s wings flapping in Hawaii can cause, ultimately, a hurricane in Kansas. And so it’s come to pass. If Colm Coyle had not pointed that shot, Mayo would have held on to win their first All-Ireland since the ‘fifties, and John Maughan would never have been manager of Roscommon, because we’d still be buying his porter for him in Mayo. That’s the difference.

How thin a line is it? This thin: before, in their infinite wisdom, replacing it with Des Cahill’s rather disappointing Road to Croker, RTÉ had a magnificent GAA magazine show called “Breaking Ball.” One of the segments of that show was called Heaven and Hell, where great GAA figures relived moments of either Heaven or Hell from their careers. Coyler was on once, and they asked him to shoot from seventy yards, to see if he could do it again. He didn’t get close of course, and fell around laughing at some of his attempts, in the way that only the man that has the ballast of the All-Ireland medal in the back pocket can. And at the other end of the continuum, the scorching wind of Coyle’s seventy-yard shot still buffets and reverberates around John Maughan.

It’s easy to point a finger at John Maughan now and damn him as inflexible, as callous, as aloof, as tanned. If it’s any relief to him, Maughan can identify his butterfly moment, the seemingly inconsequential moment at the time whose reverberations have got bigger and bigger as the years march on. Reader, who among us can do the same? You may call John Maughan loser, punk, bum and tanned if you must, but remember: there but for the grace of God go we all.

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