In the past week, two interviews with sporting behemoths , one Irish, one Norn Irish, were conducted, both of which caught the ear and the eye.
The first was with Rory McIlroy in the Sindo (Paul Kimmage was the interviewer) and the emphasis on the response was the I for Identity word.
Turns out Rory was gifted not only with a supernatural gift for golf but he was equally blessed with a political byepass. The lad does not seem to have a political bone in his sculpted bod. Lucky he. It must make life a doddle compared to those who are not so gifted; those who are cursed with the political virus, Iris.
Having a da who was associated with the local Hollywood Golf Course was, of course, a not insignificant factor in the nourishing of his first gift. The likes of Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus were also born with a similar silver spoon (or was it a mashie?) in their mouth.
Likewise, being schooled in Sullivan Upper might well ha e played a similar role in his second gif, the non-political one . It is a non-sectarian middle class school with a motto which reads like a quote from Middle Irish:
-Lamh Foisdineach an Uachtar.
Which is translated by SU as ‘With the Gentle Hand Foremost’.
That might have been ok when Harry Vardon of the Eponymous Grip was the Go-to Guru on Golfing Grips.
V that as it may, A glance at the sports catered for indicates too that both sides of the cultural divide in Norneverland are catered for: (deep breath) rugby, badminton, swimming, tennis, netball, hockey, table tennis, rounders, chess, (gulp) moutaineering, (gasp) softbal and, erm , golf.
And that completes the round up of the sports, not the least significant of which is, perhaps, the inclusion of that kernel ofthe GAA: rounders.
-Lamh Fosidineach an Uachtar.
If one were to reluctantaly cavil it would be at the absence of sulky racing (involving piebald poneis, sor). Does this indicate that the likes of, say, Sullivan John is not welcome to enroll in Sullivan Upper?
Sullivan John of course it was ‘whose bother James once infmaously got the rap of a hames down at the hairy ass fair in the County Clare’.
Moving on to the academic menu to,erm, Suss out what Sullivan Upper School has to offer on, say, the language element: while English, French, German and Spanish make the cut for the Weekend Fourball, as it were, there is no room at the in-tray for Paddy the Caddy in the shape of Larry the Leprechaun.
-No drafting or dragooning here into the regimented ranks of Darby O Gill !
Alumni of this school range from the sublime to the subliminal, from Robert Lloyd Praeger the legendary naturalist, to, erm, Johnathan ‘School’ Bell, the natural ledger wedger.
Moving from Sullivan Upper in County Downer to the opposite end of the Teddy Bear-shaped island for the second interview, the way, indeed, that R.L. Praeger once went .
This was the one which Mick O’Connell (somehow) acceded to granting the Off the Ball programme on Newstalk fm (in the guise of Ger Gilroy) on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
In an era (late 50s,/ early 60s) which was particularly rich with outrageously talented midfielders , including:
– Derry’s Gentleman Jim McKeever (who played football the way his near-namesake Jim Reeves sang songs at the time, with the same effortless authority) ;
-Down’s Joe Lennon who recently passed over (and whose brain ensured he didn’t have to strain himself in pointless effort);
-Dublin’s Des Foley the pin-up blonde farmer of the city slickers who excelled at football, hurling and – politics, when as a TD he ditched Fianna Fail when they ditched the Six Counties ;
-Galway’s Frank Evers, built along the lines of Galway Cathedral whose career for the Westerners was cut short when he signed up with the UN Police Service in the Middle East;
– Mick O’Connell from the Kingdom of Kerry was the King.
Truly was he the Michaelangelo of Midfielders, one blessed with an athletic frame and for whom the Florentine sculptor would have indubitably paid well over the odds to employ as a model.
If Paul Kimmage was so thrilled with his interview with Rory Mac that, in his own words, ‘he kissed the pavement on exiting the hotel where it was conducted’ there was a notable absence of the pogues in the second interview. Judging by the tone of O’Connell’s replies, his toin was not up for poguing.
We are talking about the tone tetchy here, bigly. One quotes from off the top of one’s head:
-Mick O’Connell, you were beloved of Kerry supporters during your stellar careeer.
-Who said that? And, ‘beloved’. What does that mean?
When the Gaelic Football teams of the century and of, the, erm, Millennium were being chosen, back in the day, the first name on the teamsheet on both occasions was the man known as Mick O.
His interview on Off the Ball was the antithesis of that modern media bacilus : the cosy sporting interview, the one made cosy by an uphostelry of horse feathers. This interview is by a country mile the most memorable,ie. honest, of sporting interviews to be broadcast – anywhere – so far in this century, indeed, in this, erm, Millennium.
The triangle of supreme sporting artists of the Big Ball back in the Ireland of the 60s consisted of three immortals: two from Belfast, one from Kerry:
-Mike Gibson, Georgie Best and Mick O’Connell.
All three moved with exquisive elegance, past undestanding by the mere man plodding down The Old Bog Road.
Here’s a not irrelevant item filched from the Ethernet:
‘Even those ignorant of Gaelic football were wowed.
Last August, reporting on a reception honouring O’Connell in Killarney, Kieran Shannon reprinted the contents of a letter published in the Dublin Evening Mail in 1960.
It was written by a Welsh visitor to Ireland who had seen O’Connell play against Cork in the Munster championship. (A forerunner of the British Twitter Reaction, if you will)
Sir, I have been visiting your fair country for almost 25 years now, often on the occasion of the Wales-Ireland international rugby matches. This year my party and I travelled to Killarney and therein lies the purpose of this letter. We went to see an Irish football match between Kerry and Cork and in the course of it I saw what I consider to be the greatest display that I have ever witnessed. I refer to Michael O’Connell. I know very little about Irish football but I know genius when I see it.
I rate this boy with such greats as Stanley Matthews, Finney, Kyle, Cliff Morgan and Babe Ruth and I have no doubt that if Michael O’Connell played rugby, he would surpass anything this island has produced. He has beautiful hands, uncanny anticipation, and strength and speed.
I am told he is only 21 years old and while I would hate to take a boy from the game he loves, I think his talent should be seen by a greater public in another code’.
One encountered Rory Mac and Mick O on one occasion each.
The Four-Major winner to be had only just turned professional when one joined his gallery at the Shanghai Open about ten years ago. It wasn’t a huge gallery, in fact it consisted of roughly and precisely, erm, two: The Perkin and a Kiwi, who turned out to be a golfing nerd who had had heard of this new kid on the back nine. He had been following the County Down boy’s amateur career with unusual interest, from afar, very afar.
Rory Mac was still only a Hollywood Starlet, wearing the Red and Black of Down as it were. (Black as in, say, the Black Dahlia). For the record, that particular Shanghai Open was won by a Dungannon dude, name of Darren Clarke.
One’s one encounter with the now Four-Score Mick O’Connell was at the opening of the (gasp) Dublin Wax Museum almost forty years ago. He was there as a guest, featuring as his wax model did in the Sports Room. The fact that he actually turned up was a news item worthy of itself.
As a sporting icon and limelight shunner who had never spoken once to the media during his ‘stellar career’ (see above) it came as no surprise that he did not exaclty wax eloquent on his occasion.
At least on a verbal level. Instead, he used the opportunity to influence the ‘movers and shakers of Dublin society’ by standing in the lobby of the Wax Museum and distributing leaflets. Leaflets putting forward the viewspoint of what the modern monochrome media on Liffeyside would now diss as ‘the Alt-Right of Reglion, Roman-style’.
While memory can aspire to be a Paul Daniels tribute act betimes, still one is on safe ground when one states that Mick O’Connell was the only live original model of the wax figures that day engaged in leaflet distribution.
This did not totally surprise: Mick O has never lived his life in the Orthodoxy’s back pocket. He was, after all, was he not, the young captain of the winning All-Ireland team of 1959 who left the Sam Maguire Cup behind in the dressing room, in his hurry to catch the train to Killarney, the taxi to where his rowing boat was moored, which our hero would then oar on the last lap back to Valentia Island.
And he was, was he not, the young engineering student at UCC, a few years before that, who, depsite obtaining a First in his fresher year exams, decided he had enough of academic life. Resulting in his Professor making a pilgrimage to the island in a futile bid to make the undergraduate undergo a change of mind.
To conclude: the interview with Newstalk fm was not the only one Mick O gave last week: the other was on the Saol o Dheas (Helen Ní Shé i mbun an mhiocrafoin) programme on Raidio na Gaeltachta. Now, here’s a thing:
Not only was it in a different language (a reminder that Mick O was ambidextrous with both feet on the field of play) but it seemed to be with a different person entirely: gone was the tone tetchy and in came the tone genial, even outreachy genial. Gone was the double whammy, and in came the bonhomie.
This is not uninteresting for a number of different resons, one or two of which will suffice.
The Nay-sayers and other Neo-Know Nothings of the monoglot media on Liffeyside (see above) love to justify their dissing of Leprechaun by rechanting their one mantra ad nauseam:
-Peig Sayers. Peig Sayers. Peig Sayers. Peig Sayers.
This was the unfortunate sean-bhean bhocht whose autobiography of life on the Blasket Islands (it conveniantly near-rhymes with Blast-it !) was on the (compulsory) Leprechaun rung of the Leaving Cert course. It had become an object of ridicule long before it was metaphorically burned off the course by the, erm, liberated studentry of the Free Southern Stateen, egged on by the M and Ms of the monchorme media (see above).
This was an uncanny throwback to May 10th, 1933 when the Main Office of the Press and Propaganda for the German Student Union burned up to 25,000 volumes of ‘unapproved literature’ in a ceremonal conflagration of ‘Cleansing’ or ‘Sauberung’.
Since then, so far as one can tell, this vacuum in the FSS school curriculum has not been filled. Nature has been unnatrually passive, it seems, So, what to do? Here’s a dodge which An Pearcán would like to pass on, free, g. and for n., to the Roinn Oideachais, oops, the Dept of Education and (gulp) Skill-sets in the not at all inappropriately named Marlborough Street Dublin 1.
Make a documentary on Mick O for distribution to the schools. It can be bilingual to avoid the hint of the mandatory, a bone to the Dobermanns of Discrimination Watch . Sprinkle it with clips from his recent interveiws.
-Coaching? Yerra, what are you talking about ! I learned by example. I watched a lot of games played in the locality growing up. What more coaching do you need?
Thus, the fetish of coaching could be linked in with, f’rinstance, the fetish of compulsion.
Point to the glamour of Valentia (es tan espanol!), rather than look north to the, erm, blasted Blaskets (home to An tOileánach of An Béal Bocht infamy) look south to another island in the North Atlantic – Madeira – home to another footballing Oileánach, a muchacho name of Ronaldo of the double breasted suit six sizes too small.
(Try pegging stones at that docu the way they pegged stones at the buke of the poor rebuked P. Sayers).
Actually Valentia, though shelter-seeking Spanish sailors have never been unknown on the island, is a Goebell-garbled version of ‘Béal Inse’ / ‘Mouth of the Island’ is known locally as ‘Oileán Dairbhre’ (‘The Island of the Oak Wood’) and Mick O calls it nothing else in his RnaG interview.
In this way it could be twinned with, say, Doire Cholmchille (say hi! To the critically acclaimed G. Campbell Academy of Advanced Linguistics) or even, tripleted with, say, Cill Dara (say hi! To the Doll House on Kildare Street).
Mind you, looking at Mick O at 80 and then look at him at 20 and the island might be known as Tír na nOg. The difference is (gulp) miminal. (Gawk for yourself). And he looked 20 at 20. Tír na nOg, land of the Leprechaun. Tiocfaidh ár Lá Lá Land.
Go maire tú an Céad, Mick O agus – cupla bliain sa bhreis le haithri a dhéanamh leis An Bheith !
(May you reach the Ton, Mick O and – a couple of extra years to sort things out with The Big Guy !)