Friday, July 31, 2009

RTE Doing the Pure Dog on It

An Spailpín Fánach has noticed a certain repetition in the national broadcaster’s news focus. He is not looking forward to the new RTÉ schedule.

6:01 – 7:00 Six-One News
Followed by sport, weather and paedophile line.

7:00 – 7:30 Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Reality TV show where victims of child abuse in state run schools have to spend a day with George Hook or Gerry Ryan and are asked at the end if maybe Letterfrack was all that bad, really.

7:00 - 7:30 Nationwide
Victims of child abuse in state run schools suffer further trying to figure out. When. Michael Ryan. Will finally. End. A sentence. Instead. Of. Wittering on. And on. And on. And on.

7:30 – 8:00 Breaking Ball
Jacqui Hurley investigates the affect of child abuse in state run schools on the Seathrún Uí Mhurchiú Cup, and always pronounces “t” as “d.” You’d bedder believe id!

8:00 – 8:30 Trish’s Paris Cafeteria
Trish Deseine cooks fabulous and mouth-watering dishes for les enfants des écoles d’état who have been victims of abuse.

8:30 – 9:00 No Frontiers
Kathryn Thomas goes to the end of the bloody world because if she hears one more thing about victims of child abuse in state run schools she is going to scream.

9:00 – 9:30 Nine O’Clock News
US Correspondent Charlie Bird reports from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about how former victims of child abuse in state run schools are rebuilding their lives in Hawkeye State. They flash back something rotten when they hear old Charlo lowing in their ears.

9:30 – 11:00 I Dreamed a Dream
Colm O’Gorman presents a gala variety show live from the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, featuring victims of child abuse in state run schools singing their favourite songs from the musicals!

11:00 – 12:00 CSI: Ireland

Grissom and the gang wish to Christ they were back in Las Vegas with the regular perverts.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kerry Still the Banker on Monday

The mood seems to exist among the cognoscenti that Dublin have evolved and Kerry have devolved as potential All-Ireland winners during the course of the summer, and that Monday’s eagerly anticipated All-Ireland quarter-final will be confirmation of this fact. An Spailpín Fánach isn’t quite convinced, and will be making his way to Ladbrokes this week to snaffle up that rarest of opportunities, Kerry at an odds-against price.

It’s hard to make too many predictions without seeing the teams – it’s hard to predict the future anyway, as a general rule – but it seems entirely reasonable to assume that Bryan Cullen will start at centre-back for Dublin. Ger Brennan got the line against Kildare, and Cullen had something of a stormer when he came on.

However, An Spailpín’s abiding memory of Cullen is the 2006 semi-final against Mayo, a game Bryan Cullen started as favourite to win the All-Star at centre-back, and finished as a trophy on Ger Brady’s wall. Is Cullen improved from that? He’s a fine footballer certainly, but is he capable of fulfilling a back’s primary function, which is to defend? And if he is – how come he hasn’t been first choice to start for Dublin all summer?

The narrative of the new and improved Dublin is one that we hear every year, but it’s hard to know just how much scrutiny it bears in this wet summer of 2009. Certainly, Dublin’s Championships have ended disastrously for the past thirteen years, if not winning the All-Ireland is considered a disaster. And if Mayo can be said to be deeply psychologically scarred by getting turned over in the All-Ireland final, surely it’s worse if that happens in a quarter-final, as happened Dublin against Tyrone last year?

Dublin’s Leinster Final win against Kildare has been identified as a turning point for this year’s team, but were Kildare all that good? Dublin won the day by springing the old guard – Cullen, Whelan, Ryan, Quinn – from the bench, men who’s benching in the first place was hailed as Brave New World material. In what way are Dublin better?

Bernard Brogan is having a cracking season at full-forward certainly, but what will happen when he meets a full-back of the old school? Is it Brogan’s destiny to be another Ray Cosgrove?

All these questions surround Dublin, even though they are not being asked. While only one question concerns Kerry, really, and that is: Have they got it in the belly anymore?

Jack O’Connor said, after Kerry crushed Mayo in 2006, that Kerry’s one year of hurt counted for more than Mayo’s fifty-five, and bitter pill though it was for Mayo, it was God’s own truth. Kerry were playing at a level of intensity that day that Mayo couldn’t dream of, and Mayo were left shattered in Kerry’s wake.

If Kerry can summon that same pitch of intensity, Dublin are in for a game of it. If Kerry can’t, if they really are old and tired and all banged up, then Dublin will certainly beat Kerry for the first time in 32 years, when the Brogan brothers’ father scored a famous goal in what remains one of the most epic games ever seen at Jones’ Road.

If, however, Kerry can get back on track then Dublin may find themselves reaping the whirlwind. One of An Spailpín’s abiding memories of that 2006 final is of the first ten minutes, when Kerry tore right up the middle of the Mayo defence and administered the coup de grace within the first ten minutes of the game. Bryan Cullen and Denis Bastick are the men charged with shoring up the middle of the Dublin defence – are they up for it? How will the Dublin forwards fare if they are not afforded the amount of time of space that Meath, Westmeath and Kildare provided?

Dublin have an advantage in midfield, where they can loose Ciarán Whelan and Shane Ryan from the bench when their starting pair begin to tire. (To start Whelan and Ryan would be an act of folly on Pat Gilroy’s part – if they do start, it’s advantage Kerry, because Dublin then have less cards to play in the final quarter). But that said, An Spailpín still can’t get over how fat Darragh Ó Sé was when he came on against Cork, and can’t get it out of his mind that Kerry have been playing a long game all summer. Just like cute Kerrymen do.

The impact – choice word! – of Paul Galvin is not to be underestimated either. Galvin plugs into a remarkable fury when he plays football, but the events of last year seem to have had their impact, and he is currently channelling that fury to its most productive level. Galvin is an outstanding player, and could be a difference-maker on Monday.

The point has been made in this space before that the Dublin v Kerry rivalry exists more in legend than in fact but the game on Monday does capture the imagination. It’s marvellous to see real bullets being fired after the phoney war of the first three months of Championship, and there is a real edge to the prospect of seeing a great Kerry side being taken out at last.

But just because Dublin have their best chance of a green and gold scalp since Liam Cosgrove was Taoiseach does not mean that they will take it. The notion that Kerry “have a performance in them” is not true – it’s just something journalists like to write as insurance against looking stupid – but your correspondent expects Kerry to have too much firepower for a Dublin team that might not have quite got there yet.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Chathair Draíochta

Go lá deireadh an tsaoil, cuimhneoidh An Spailpín Fánach ar soilse an bhóthair idir Baile an Chláir na Gaillimhe agus cathair na Gaillimhe, agus mar a ngeallaidís dó faoin gcathair gheal a bhíodh os a chomhair.

Théinn go Gaillimh ó Bhéal an Átha ar bhus gach oíche Domhnaigh fiche bliain ó shin, beag nó mór, agus ba chathair draíochta domsa í, agus mise as baile don gcéad uair riamh. Is cuimhin liom fós ag siúl chun an mBóthar Ard trí Sráid Dhominic, agus faitíos orm roimh gach chuile rud a chonaic mé. Bhí siopa ghluaisrothar ann agus siopa prátaí bruite mar comharsan bealdoras aige, agus fir le gruaig fhada agus mná le gruaig ghearrtha.

Thit mé i ngrá leis an gcathair leis na blianta - bhíos faoi gheasa aici. Bhi sí chomh mór im' aigne an uair sin mar Los Angeles féin a bhíodh ann. D'iarrfainn na ceisteanna céanna ar Ghaillimh mar a n-iarradh Jim Morrison ar a chathair draíochta féin - an bean bheag an áidh í, cathair an solais, nó aingeal eile dul amú, cathair na h-oíche - cathair na h-oíche!

B'fhearr liom na h-aingil tite an uair sin. Bhídís níos rómánsacha. Anois, agus an ghruaig ag éirí liath liom, seans gur chóir leanúint tar éis na mná beaga aerigh, ach bíonn gach rud go soiléir agus duine ag breathnú siar. Tá ceangal láidir idir Gaillimh agus cathair Mheiriceá eile, agus is é sin Nua Eabhrac. Ní gá duit bheith rugadh i Nua Eabhrac nó Gaillimh chun dul leis an gcathair - tá spiorad, nó blás, nó meoin éigin, a cheanglaíonn le cuairteoirí a n-insíonn do daoine go bhfuilid buailte ar a mbaile tar éis an saol.

D'fhilleas ar Ghaillimh naoi nó deich lá ó shin, chun breathnú ar an bpeil. Ní théim go Gaillimh faoi láthair, mar a théinn ins na laethanta atá imithe. Nuair a bhíodh duine i ngrá, is chóir fanacht saor ón gcailín má theipeann ar an gcumann. Mar an gcéanna idir an Spailpín agus cathair na Gaillimhe - rinne mé iarracht filleadh ag deireadh an aois seo caite, agus mo shaol fásta a chaitheamh cois Coiribe, ach theip orm. Tháinig mé go mBleá Cliath agus táim anseo fós. Níor shíl mé riamh go gcríochnóinn anseo, ach tá níos mó na deich bliain tugtha dom don bpríomhchathair agus tá an pingin ag titim. Go mall, ach ag titim go deimhin.

Ach cé go bhfuil sé níos soiléire dom go bhfuil todhchaí mise i mBleá Cliath, cloisim i gcónaí seanphort draíochta na Gaillimhe, mar a gcloiseadh na mairnéalaigh cailleacha na gcloch i seanscéalta na Gréigise fadó, agus na cailleacha ag iarraidh na mairnéalaigh dul i gcathú agus a chailleadh ar na clocha.

Ar ais sa gcathair draíochta ag an gcluiche, agus cúrsaí peile á bplé agam, siar i bhfad i gcúl m'aigne, chuala mé an seanphort. Fuair mé an seanbhlás binn i dtithe tábhairne na Gaillimhe, ar a sráideanna leathana, fiú amháin ina siopa nua agus a tithe nua atá, in a mbealach féin, gach pioc chomh gránna leis na tithe ar imeall Baile Átha Cliath agus ar thógadh ar an bhfáth céanna, saint agus airgead.

Tá fios ag gach duine go bhfuil rud éigin in uisce na Gaillimhe, ach tá rud éigin neamhghnáth, draíochta, ina haer freisin. Níl fios agam cad é, ach táim faoi gheasa ag síod an iathair fós. Sa ngluaisteán ag dul thoir ar na bóithre bhreá nua oíche Dé Domhnaigh, chuala mé na seanghuthanna arís. Pill, pill, a rúin...

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mayo Win the Nestor Cup: All Else is Jam

Concerns that Championship 2009 "hasn’t sparked" may be safely put to bed. The dross has been boiled off the qualifiers leaving an intriguing final round of marquee matches in prospect, while the four provincial champions wait on their quarter-final opponents in regal splendour, looking more potent and complete as a set than provincial champions have done since the wretched qualifier system was introduced eight years ago.

For the first time in a long time all four provincial champions look favourites to win their respective quarter finals. They are not nailed on, of course; would Pat Gilroy or Mickey Harte be able to suppress the tiniest shudder of dread should Kerry get by Antrim and be drawn to face either of their charges, bearing in mind the special fury the Kingdom reserves for Dublin and Tyrone? But accidents aside, right now the most likely semi-final line-ups are Cork v Tyrone and Mayo v Dublin.

One of the many delicious prospects that guaranteed football in August brings is that one may look at the game’s princes straight in the eye, as equals rather than subjects. Tyrone are the best of the four provincial champions of course. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying attention. However, against the grain of popular current opinion, your correspondent would fear Cork much more than Dublin.

An Spailpín rather fancies either of Galway or Mayo’s chances against the Leinster Champions. But Cork are big and strong and have survived tougher tests over the past few years than Dublin. Cork are worthy of having eyes kept on them.

Of the nine qualifiers left in the Championship, An Spailpín Fánach views Kerry and Galway as easily the most dangerous. Kildare received a lot of plaudits for their display against Dublin but there seems a very clear gulf between the team that played in the first half of the Leinster Final and the team that were present for the second. Kerry may be wobbling but not until we hear taps sounded over the descending casket can the thirty-five time Champions be counted out.

An Spailpín has heard it said that Galway were between poor and shocking on Sunday in sunny Salthill. Not from where I was looking. Galway broke even in midfield where they were expected to get cleaned like the herrings for which they are known, and were within one kick of forcing a replay after being behind for the entire game. A lot of teams would like to be that shocking.

The real questions over Galway concern tactics, and the wisdom of withdrawing Seán Armstrong so far from the front line. Because, as has been noted here before, Galway have some stone killers upfront, men who can pop them over all the live-long day and anybody who’s licking their lips at the prospect of facing Galway for the rest of the summer may end up dining on ashes by the time the referee blows that all-too-final whistle.

All of which reflects well on Mayo, of course, who were just terrific. After the disappointments of the past two years Mayo are Connacht Champions and the summer now stretches into August and possibly beyond. If Mayo had lost, platters would have been sent to the County Board with demands for John O’Mahony’s head by return of post. When he wins a Connacht Championship he deserves praise of the highest.

From here on in for the volatile and hopelessly passionate Mayo fans, everything else is jam. The people of Mayo have tortured themselves in the past over not winning All-Irelands, rather than celebrating still playing football in the height of summer, and having football to talk about while drinking the bottle of cold tea in the meadows. It’s very hard to buy a doughnut that doesn’t have a hole in the County Mayo. Time to deal with that, and move on.

There are issues with the Mayo team, of course. Some players didn’t seize the day the way others did. What harm? They still won, and now they have something to chat about at training while they wait for the quarters. Win-win. While the fans enjoy the taste of jam, the players know the object of a knockout competition is to take each contest as it comes, and last as long as you can. If you’re the last men standing, well, so much the better.

FOCAL SCOIR: There has been some press coverage of Conor Mortimer’s t-shirt tribute to the late Michael Jackson, or Micheál, as Conor styled him. It’s all my hat. Conor Mortimer is an amateur player playing football by the seaside. If he can’t have a laugh while he’s doing it, then we should all chuck it in and retire to the monasteries and convents. The really funny thing about Conor’s mischievous message is that Conor is a GPA man, and we know how much the GPA membership equate playing football in high summer with suffering and pain. But then Conor was never what you’d consistent, I suppose.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Connacht Final Will Observe the Immutable Laws of Physics

Neutrals who are interested in adding that certain spice to their enjoyment of this weekend’s Connacht Final could do worse than invest a thoughtful tenner on the draw at the tempting price of 15/2. Every way you attempt to make a case for one team or the other, a corollary more or less instantly presents itself. It’s like a perfect GAA representation of Newtonian classical physics, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Mayo’s midfield advantage versus Galway’s more economical use of possession. The promise of Mayo youth against the All-Ireland winning experience of Galway. The Mayo backs, the Galway forwards. One steps out, one steps in again. If Croke Park are already distressed with Roscommon and Wexford drawing and screwing up their schedules, you can imagine how they’ll feel if they hear the Connacht Final is to replay in Caisleán a’Bharraigh on Saturday week.

The talking point in Mayo coming up to the game has been the possible absence of Ronan McGarrity through injury after sinister work in a club game. A bitter pill indeed for McGarrity if the worst-case scenario proves true, and it would be hard to blame him for noting the irony that he is never so popular as when not actually togged.

Ronan McGarrity has been a fixture on the Mayo team for five years when available for selection, but all you hear about him is grousing. Can’t kick, basketballer, townie, soft lad. And then when he’s missing, now because of a broken cheekbone or two years ago because of cancer, there’s suddenly a great big hole where that soft cosmopolitan basketballer with no feet used to be. The misfortunate McGarrity could be forgiven for ruefully reflecting that if only he could manage to get kidnapped by the Taliban or caught in an accident at a nuclear processing plant he might finally win an All-Star.

Mayo are still expected to edge midfield, as Galway have struggled there in recent times and Mayo have more options. But of course you can win midfield and still lose the game, as happened Kildare on Sunday. Down the years, Galway forwards have proved better at making the most of possession – that is to say, registering scores – than Mayo. As such, Galway not require the same level of midfield dominance that Mayo do.

Galway’s formline coming up to the Connacht Final has been difficult to understand. They looked magnificent in the monsoon against Kerry last year in Croke Park, the game where Michael Meehan came of age in a performance worthy of his natural genius. Galway started the league where they left off in the Championship and then suddenly their form dropped off, drawing with Derry and losing to Mayo in Tuam. A few weeks ago the nation was treated to the very unusual sight of Galway needing a last minute goal to finally see off Sligo. Aristocrats haven’t been under such pressure since Robespierre, Marat and Danton formed a rather devastating inside line for Paris Sarsfields.

The worrying thing from a Mayo point of view is that while form goes up and down, class and quality are constants. If scores are level on seventy minutes and P Joyce gets the ball within sight of the posts he can break Mayo hearts. He’s done it before. Cormac Bane destroyed Mayo on his own in Salthill two years ago. Armstrong, Meehan, Nicky Joyce, Conroy – there isn’t a glugger among them. And not all of those fellas are even guaranteed starts. The seams of forward gold run deep in the land of the heron choker.

It’s interesting that the games that John O’Mahony has lost against Galway have been down to Galwaymen seizing the day. Padraic Joyce in Castlebar last year, Bane in Salthill two years ago. Mayo travel to Salthill this year in the interesting position of having an inside line that can potentially match Galway for firepower. The opportunity is there for Aidan Kilcoyne or Aidan O’Shea or Barry Moran to seize the day and announce their presence in a way that no Mayo forward has since John Casey did in the almost-miracle year of 1996. And that’s a very heady prospect.

Optimism has risen in Mayo after Roscommon got such a terrible hiding in Castlebar, and suddenly your correspondent understands what people from other counties mean when they talk about Mayo fans getting carried away. Because potential doesn’t always pay off.

One of John O’Mahony’s pet phrases from his time in Galway in 1998 was that the opportunity of the lifetime only lasts for the lifetime of the opportunity. Aidan O’Shea looks like he could be wearing green above the red for the next decade, but life only exists in the now. Sometimes tomorrow never comes. You have to deliver today.

If Mayo win their first Connacht title since 2006 then the year will be a success and the pressure will be off John O’Mahony whatever happens in the rest of the summer. Should Mayo not win the All-Ireland – and it’s entirely possible that they won’t – there will be grousing, but a win in Salthill means that Mayo will have won something, and whoever does eventually beat them will have to be pretty hot stuff. The faithful can live with that.

But for Mayo to win Mayo’s young guns have to find their marks. Because Galway have a heady enough combination of stone killers, wily old foxes and out and out superstars to punish them if they don’t, men willing and capable of leaving Mayo beached once more by the seaside wondering about what might have been.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 13, 2009

And It Makes Me Wonder - How Does It Affect You Blokes?

An Spailpín Fánach has been rather shaken all week by those pictures in the papers of Robert Plant receiving his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from His Royal Highness Prince Charles of England last week. Robert Plant is the lead singer of what was once the heaviest, meanest, most badly behaved band in the world, and now he’s hob-knobbing with royalty. He has received the ultimate endorsement from the establishment.

The bizarre thing is that Plant now is exactly who he was thirty-five years ago when Led Zeppelin were at their height, although he might now, after Leonard Cohen, ache in the places where he used to play. It’s the establishment that has sold out.

Daniel Finkelstein was attempting to explain the bizarre reaction to the death of Michael Jackson in the London Times last week, and he concluded that this is who we are now. That there is no such thing as a generation gap repeating every generation – that there was only ever one generation gap, between the generation that had fought in World War II and the generation that grew up in the ‘sixties, and the ‘sixties generation has won completely.

The values of the ‘sixties generation – peace, love and understanding, but maybe a little woolly on the details - are now the dominant values in society. Hence the bizarre attempt to portray Jackson, a man born black but who died white – insofar as he was recognisably human by the end at all, God love him – as a civil rights hero.

And the more you think about it, the more correct you realise Finkelstein is. AC/DC challenged Led Zeppelin’s reputation as the baddest rock band on the planet for a while in the ‘seventies, not least when the late Bon Scott was their lead singer, but was it Hell’s Angels and ne’er-do-wells that were in Punchestown last week rocking to Whole Lotta Rosie, or was it bankers, accountants, solicitors and other shining lights of the petit bourgeois?

As a hint, Hell’s Angels would have brought their own bikes, and not be standing around, looking at their watches, wondering why the 12.40 bus was ten minutes late and remarking that it wasn’t good enough and a stern letter would be written to the Irish Times in the morning. Rock and roll is now the music parents play to scare their children.

An Spailpín Fánach has his doubts about the viability of the culture that has Led Zeppelin as the ne plus ultra of music, but the Brown government over the water is relentless in its attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator – due in part, one fears, to its inability to appeal to anyone else. When Elizabeth II was crowned the music featured Vaughan Williams and Sir William Walton, but Prince Charles’ first wife was waked to the strains of Elton John. Is Robert Plant - or Sir Robert, who knows - going to give Ramble On a run-through when they finally give Charles the key to the car?

I quite enjoy Led Zeppelin myself, of course, but it’s no harm to keep them in perspective. Which Rolf Harris does so devastatingly this clip. Take it away, sport:

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mean Streets

I live on a side street that joins a main road. When I was on my way home from work this evening, I saw a little old lady crossing the side street. She had one of those wheeled walkers that are getting more common now, and she was pegging it – going as fast as she could.

I thought it was too bad that an old woman was so worried about the traffic that she was hurrying like that at a green light, at a rate beyond her capabilities. But what confused me was that after she had crossed the road, the old lady continued hurrying – nearly skipping along after the walker, struggling to keep up, like a child with a scooter that’s too big for her. And I couldn’t figure out what was making her hurry. So I stopped to look.

There was a bus coming up the side street. The bus route goes up the side street and then turns left into town. There’s a bus stop about fifty or sixty yards from the traffic lights, and this is where the old lady was headed. And she was pegging it because she wanted the catch the bus.

Now. I am aware that the bylaws and regulations and the book says that drivers are only allowed stop at the authorised bus stops, but this was an old woman. She was clearly not in the prime of health, having the walker in the first place, and I thought she might even take a tumble trying to work the thing. Did the bus stop?

The bus stopped alright. But he didn’t stop to pick her up. The driver drove on to his authorised stop, and then sat there waiting at his convenience like My Lord’s Bastard while the little old lady scuttered along on her walker, like a hen trying to fly.

It's been a sour evening. I'll be glad of the rain.

Technorati Tags: , ,