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!

Hey Joe

The morning after Derry won the All Ireland in 1993 I was on Radio Ulster to promote some event or another. Joe Brolly was on immediately before me.

Joe was still in celebratory mode and totally and utterly irrepressible. I’m sure the listeners of Ulster didn’t know what to make of him first thing on a Monday morning, live from Dublin, unslept, unkempt and on a roll. I groaned, I felt like I was going on air after the Beatles.

Of course, Joe has been all over the media for the last few days. In case you didn’t know, he donated one of his kidneys to a fellow coach from St Brigid’s GAA Club in Belfast. Shane Finnegan has had kidney problems for the best part of twenty years and has had a harsh regimen of dialysis and treatment. His only hope was a transplant from a living donor.

According to various reports, his clubmate Brolly sidled up to him having heard this news, and said more or less, I’ll give you one of mine. His link with Joe Brolly is merely that he coaches a club under-10 team with him, and their children play together. Having lost his cousin and transplant patient last year, Catherine Quinn, wife of former teammate Danny Quinn, Joe Brolly evidently felt he needed to do something to help and this was the obvious way to do so.

Paddy Heaney explained today how the impact of losing his cousin Catherine last year affected Brolly deeply, how he was moved to do something by the thought of children possibly losing a parent. It was the noblest of causes.

Often we see celebrities, sports stars and the like involved with charities as patrons. The idea is that in PR terms if a celeb endorses something it will bring more press coverage, make for a better photograph. There is no doubt that many of these individuals are motivated by a genuine concern for helping others. There are others who realise their personal brand portfolio is helped by being associated with a few worthy causes. Whether they truly support the cause, no-one knows.

In the case of Joe Brolly, actions speak louder than any words on a page or a television studio. He is no ordinary Joe. He’s known to most of us GAA fans as a handy former corner forward with a penchant for winding up opposition corner backs and their fans by blowing kisses after crucial scores.

The kidney Joe gave away last week survived a few hardy punches over the years from defenders hailing from Dublin, Cork, Down and Donegal, but the most bruising (and most definitely the most inconsequential) from despairing Tyrone corner backs.

Over the last number of years of course Joe is probably the pundit that most of Ireland loves to hate and love. Although he has winding up Kerrymen down to a fine art, if you pick through the outrage and annoyance, there is a lot of wisdom in what he says. Most of the time. Those that hate him are on a sticky wicket now.

This interest in helping others, it’s not a new thing. For a long time he has been an advocate for and supporter of Blood Transfusions. His interest goes back at least to his encounter with Brian Óg McKeever, a young 17 year old footballer from the Steelstown Club in Derry City who suffered from the Leukaemia that eventually claimed his life in November 2008.

The club is since renamed Steelstown Brian Ógs in memory of their former player who succumbed to his illness, but left a legacy of courage, hope, and honour in the face of unsurmountable odds. The name is borne with pride to this day by everyone who wears the blue and gold of CLG Bhriain Óg Bhaile Stíl.

The experience clearly left a mark on Joe Brolly. Writing about the loss of such a young talent Joe said:

“Eamonn Burns told me once that Brian was the only footballer he knew who had Tony Scullion’s anticipation. What a pity we will not see him in the red and white of Derry. What a pity that the world has been deprived of a boy like that. The Steelstown club has retired the number five jersey. They have also organised a Blood Drive on December 15th next at their clubhouse on the Ballyarnett Road. The City of Derry rugby team, Derry City Football Club and the Derry senior football squad will be there to give blood.”

[Source: Derry Journal, November 2008]

It is a thought-provoking piece that I commend to you.

When I first heard the news about Joe Brolly filter and flitter through on Twitter at the weekend, I thought it was a wind up. I soon realised it wasn’t. As the week goes on it is hard not to marvel at the total humanity of the man. It is a stunning, stunning act of kindness.

Joe has a reputation for being outspoken at times controversial. But underneath that, is a guy who has done nothing less than offer his club mate the gift of life.

It is a humbling tale.

The US Coach John Wooden wrote that character is what you are, reputation is merely what people think you are. If we didn’t already, we now know what Joe Brolly is.

To Make You Feel My Love.

Today’s List

Jim Wells and his ill advised comments about GAA clubs. Aside from the bigotry and lack of understanding of these outbursts by DUP figures, they forget one basic fact about bag packing. If you don’t want your bag packed, pack it yourself. And while you’re at it, pack up your troubles in your old tin trunk and feck away off.

Speaking of packing up your troubles, I had heard via my daughter there was a wee girl from Gortin in Tyrone singing on X Factor. Now, let’s be clear about this, if she is from Tyrone, she could be the biggest crow in the Gortin Glens, but she would still get my vote. Even though I greatly despise the X Factor. Tír Eoghain vincit Omnia. However, and it’s a big however, the other day whilst following a link posted by a friend I watched Janet Devlin sing. I was totally transfixed. Unbelievable voice. Just shows the talent hiding in Tyrone and from Tyrone. I’m putting her X Factor number on speed dial.

I went out the other night after our match for a typical night of acting the tin pig with our senior camogie team. Has to be said that one of the best parts of being involved are the manic nights spent in bars in Portstewart talking shite and acting the fool, even though I’m too old, too tired, and too long in the tooth. On Sunday, the night ended with a lift home in the boot of Big Riko’s car. That’s what living is.

Cyclin’. Fuckin’ hate it. Next.

Today I got the house back. Peace at last, children off to school and although I love them dearly, I also love my mornings working alone in peace. Long may it continue. Next to buy a big supply of firewood, get the stove working and move easily between the two rooms. Drinking tay, coffee. Whatever it takes.

Charles Bukowski. Never read much of him before but bought his collected poems last week. Most enjoyable thing I’ve read since I bought Norman MacCaig’s Complete poems. Very different, both formidable tomes of pomes but both excellent. Nuair a tá me in a sheasamh ar mo thoin sa leithreas, tá athas mór orm.

Losing things. I lost my wallet three times in one day last week. Drives me crazy. Angela lost her iPhone for about 36 hours. She was going ape. I found it. I’m going to get a prize.

To Make You Feel My Love. . . The penny just dropped with me that this is a cover of a Bob Dylan song – I knew I’d heard it before. Adele does a great version. But I’ll finish with yer woman from Gortin.

A Letter From West Britain

A pint of plain is yer only man

Dear Charles,

We’re having the most wonderful time here in West Britain.

The native Celts are such a quaint people, very much like the Scots, but not at all like the Welsh.

I can understand why Queen Victoria was quite taken with the place when she came here. It is such a shame we left them with such wonderful buildings.

We went to this frightfully large football stadium called Croke Park where they showed a video of young men wrestling with one another.

The stadium was so large, one wonders what it must be like on the top floor on a breezy day. Exceedingly windy. A bit like sharing the bed with your father after some haggis and turnips when one is staying at Balmoral one would imagine.

The lovely gentleman presented Philip with the most beautifully carved ash. Will be excellent for beating Grouse next winter one thinks.

These dear people, the really have tried most awfully hard to make us welcome. One dear chap with a large tummy seized the royal forearm quite forcefully in Croke Park. I got quite a little shock to tell the truth. I thought Philip had overmedicated again. Thankfully a dear chap form the police removed his hand before he tried any funny business. Of course your father didn’t notice, he was busy looking at some young girls in short skirts chasing each other.

We also were taken to a large pub that makes its own beer. It was very amusing. The people there seemed to think one hadn’t seen beer poured before. One remembers your aunt’s mother and I cleaning up after Andrew when we converted the Hanover room into a country pub for he and his friends to play in. Those other awful chaps. Your father was most keen to drink the beer they served, but one reminded him that we had been advised not to use the WC.

The Glory of Her Ass

Last night we had some jolly Irish dancing and bagpiping. The accents are most dreadfully funny. One can’t understand a word they say.

Your father keeps talking about the Dear Micks, I fear he may have been talking too loudly when his hearing aid was out of battery.

Today we are going to the National Stud Farm. As you know that’s the real reason one came here.

Still, one thinks it has been worth all the other dreary nonsense if we can get a few of the horses sorted out.

I hope William and Catherine are keeping well. Her sister’s bottom has been causing quite an impression, one has been told by Philip. One hopes it won’t lead to another Anus Horriblis.

Is mise,

Elizabeth R

(Your Mother)