America Got Bin Laden. . . and Other Tales Of All Ireland Madness

24 September 2013
Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 17.01.37The 16th Man and Referees in General

What is it about All Ireland winning managers? Is the stress of the job sucking the enthusiasm and enjoyment out winning? Is the winning of Sam Maguire not a time for unabashed celebration? Last year it was Jim McGuinness seizing the headlines at the post match press conference. On Sunday it was Jim Gavin who let rip at refs who he considers all season have had it in for the Dubs. “Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well. . . We play the game with certain values in the squad and we play the game the way we believe it should be played.”

Tis a pity that in the warm Autumnal afterglow of victory that the manager can’t just focus on the positives rather then dwell on perceived slights. It was he who said before the final: “For me, the most important thing or maybe the most enjoyable, is those few moments you can reflect with the team in the confines of the dressing room in the depths of the stadium afterwards.” Enjoy it Jim, it’s what you’ve put your life on hold for.

The Foul Count

And. . .  live from Sesame Street we have the Count: ‘HA Ha ha ha. . . and today’s number is 30 and today’s letter is capital ‘C’ for cynicism.” That’s what the Count thought of Sunday’s game. Do you agree? With all of Dublin’s attacking play they out fouled Mayo by 30 to 12. And the end with the game in the mixer and 13 players on the field, the All Ireland champions did what other teams did all season and disrupted, fouled and delayed Mayo as much as they could to hang on to what they had. Perhaps they learned that from that Tyrone match they played in the league earlier in the year. . . or are we just being cynical.

The 30 Seconds That Were(n’t?)

Not since the assassination of President Kennedy and the Grassy knoll has there been such a conspiracy theory. What did referee Joe McQuillan say to Cillian O’Connor before the fateful free? And where did those 30 seconds go? You wouldn’t see the likes of it in the hurling final. . . . Today in the press the Cavan whistler states unequivocally that he told the player that there was 30 seconds left: “I simply said ‘there’s 30 seconds left’ and that was from the moment he asked me. I said it three times, I’m sure plenty of players heard me and I was on an open mic to all my match officials.” That ends the matter surely. But with twelve Dublin players behind the ball, he wouldn’t have scored a goal anyway. Or would he. . .

The Parade and Other Traditional Routes

Some Mayo people basking in the DTs of defeat have raised the question as to why the Dubs always get to kick in to the Hill 16 end and why they broke away from the pre match parade early. Was it because there were a lot of Mayo folks on the Hill? Well we all remember the last time another team warmed up into the Hill, Pilar Caffrey dozed into John Morrison and Mayo dietician Mary McNicolas was knocked rotten by a flying O’Neills size five. Twas mighty craic for the supporters as seventy or more grown men ran about like kids in a playground. But seriously folks, Croke Park is Dublin’s home patch so surely people should just let them warm up at the Hill 16 end if they want to. If teams aren’t going to observe the tradition of the pre match parade then is it time to get rid?

Osama Bin Laden: ‘My Role in Mayo’s All Ireland’

A videotape has emerged, apparently recorded in a Cave in the Tora Bora in Afghanistan by the late Osama Bin Laden, predicting that Mayo will win Sam Maguire and that all other curses and piseogs are subject to a fatwa. Seriously though, what of Mayo County Council Chairman’s rallying cry ‘America got Bin Laden, Mayo will get Sam Maguire. Is this fair? After all, one is an outfit with extremist fanatical supporters pursuing a series of grievances real and imagined; the other is a former Al Qaeda leader assassinated by the United States. Extremists Abu!

The Writes and Wrongs

Given the important of language and clear communication in business, it is remarkable the poor quality of some of the material that makes it into print.

I was looking the other day at the website of one graphic design and digital communication agency. Apart from the self indulgent pen pics of their personnel the overall content of their own site was thin on quality copy. They have well over a dozen members of staff. Creative this, director of that, lead creatives, not so lead creatives. Nowhere did it mention among the staff’s portfolios the skill of writing.

Graphic design as a discipline cannot neglect the written word. It is a tired cliché to say a picture may say a thousand words. That is if it is a decent picture. Otherwise that is a get-out clause for material that is lacking coherent content. A key part of design is typography. Typography is the art of arranging type to make language readable and accessible. It relates to the cut and design of letters and the space between them in sentences. It is self evident therefore that words are important. Yet why so often are words the poor relation of visuals and graphics?  A highly professional business will retain the services of graphic designers, PR executives, photographers and so on yet they will write the copy themselves.

As Red Adair said: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

This would be a fairly typical approach in my experience. Certainly some of the rambling incoherent nonsense that used to pass for staff submissions for promotional material when I worked at the University of Ulster showed little evidence of the stellar academic careers these people were supposed to have on their CV. And unbelievably the Faculty of Arts contributors were invariably among the worst. Scientists tend to be matter of fact if not obsessed with their gadgetry and kit. But that scientific brusqueness is better than purple prose and verbose diarrhoea directed pagewise by over sensitive and easily bruised academic egotists.

Breathing some life into copy can be a tricky assignment. The treatment that you can actually give it really depends on the attitude of the client. If they are of the view that you just need to get it out there then no matter how much the writer explains the value of good communication it can be a wasted exercise. Another problem can be adding someone to the project team who fancies themselves as a bit of wordsmith.

I had that with a client who introduced a self styled proofreader who then took issue with content written for a youth audience. My difficulty with this was that firstly it was written in a specific style for a specific purpose and secondly the client had agreed it. It was a debate going nowhere so it ended pretty quickly with an exit stage left.

It is not enough is writing to just pitch up with the pen and start writing. Any assignment requires research, background on the business and some sort of spark to ignite the creative process.

I have long standing clients that have bought into a specific way of describing their products and their brands. They are happy with it because I have explained the approach and the rationale. They in turn have a specific style and tone of voice that works across a series of print and new media. They took a chance at the outset on an approach that was quite different and it has paid off for them and crucially worked with their target audience.

For one client, specialising in industrial painting techniques I wrote their website in iambic pentameter. For another project, a script for an animation I mimicked the rhyme structure of Dr Seuss’s Lorax. I wrote a blog piece for a client that was directly drawn from WB Yeats Easter 1916.  In discussing this with Angela she asked why? Had I explained this to the client. Was I being too clever for my own good. What is the point of these literary devices?

Well the point is that it gives me a discipline within which to operate. It defines the borders of the job. It offers form and structure. And it can lead to inspiration from a piece of comparative writing whether that be in literature or poetry. It may be for example that one word is the prompt required to pursue a specific theme of writing.

For another client – a men’s clothing company, I used the Odyssey myth to describe the protagonists journey from a shopping expedition to a decadent night out. For another client the point of inspiration was the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris with its luxuriant confectionary descriptions.

My brother in law frequently cites a great saying of his parents: there’s no right way to do the wrong thing. It’s very true and it’s also very easy to write the wrong thing.

When’s an Irish Cow not an Irish Cow?

When It’s Being Milked at the Ploughing Championships.

When are Irish cows not Irish Cows? Well the answer would appear to be when they are milked at the Irish Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska in Laois. Glanbia refused the milk because it wasn’t Irish.

And before you say pull the other one, it’s not because it was robots that were doing the milking.

No, it was because the herd was from the North.

One of the main attractions at Ratheniska this week is a full-scale Lely robotic milking parlour complete with a herd of 40 cows. The state of the art equipment means cows are milked when they choose freeing up invaluable time for dairy farmers allowing them concentrate on other farm duties according to Lely sales manager Tomas Cooney. It’s fascinating stuff.

But in a case of silly Nordie cows, the question arose of what to do with the milk they produced? Glanbia refused to take it away from the exhibit because the cows were from the North. Not Irish milk they said. We can’t touch it they said.

Tyrone based producer Strathroy Dairy answered the Cows’ SOS and sent a tanker all the way from Omagh to collect the milk. They now have to do so for the duration of the Ploughing event.

Visitors to the exhibit have been enthralled as the cows are each being milked up to three times per day. The cows are milked in what the company calls a “free choice” system, where they choose when to be milked.

“Cows are more relaxed as they are allowed to express their natural behaviour and have the freedom of choice to be milked at any time of the day or night, mimicking the behaviour of a cow suckling a calf,” explains Mr Cooney.

The autumn-calving herd of cows have been on site since last Friday to allow them to settle into their new surroundings and get into a normal milking routine. This is the first live robotic milking demonstration to be held at a trade exhibition in Ireland. Unfortunately, no cows were available for comment.


I took Hub to the Vet’s today and

Had her put to sleep. First, we went

To the beach for a final walk. The

Dog didn’t know what I had planned for her.

No-one did. It was better

That way.


That’s the deal you see. I made a

Pact with myself the day I

Brought her back from Armagh as

A pup, lepping and squealing round the car

Black, shiny new she was happy

That day.


She sat intent behind me in the car

Head erect looking straight ahead,

Facing her fate unflinchingly,

No-one would have known

She was sick and in truth it was better

That way.


When she arrived here and the one year old

Boy kicked, tussled and fought the bit out.

Dog the little man’s best friend. Now she haunts

Old family photos like other dogs before her,

Sticking a snout in here, there

Every where.


Her coat was gleaming back, shining

The picture of healthiness, she tagged

Dutifully along into the vet’s

It broke my heart I couldn’t

Bear what I had to do

That day.


My daughter the animal lover had

A soft spot for her Hub and

Every morning hugged Hub before

She had anything to eat. When I told her

The news she wisely said better

That way dad.