If you think you saw me getting my hair cut last Saturday afternoon outside Páirc Uí Chaoimh, relax. It wasn’t the heat. That was me.
I wanted to write a column about haircuts, and sports haircuts in particular, but I gave up soon enough.
A column wouldn’t clear your throat on this subject. A multivolume opus might scratch the surface, but distraction is always a possibility. Once you start digging the excavations go on and on.
Confining the terms of reference to the GAA, for instance, instantly brings up a few hardy annuals that are mentioned every time haircuts come into view (to wit: Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Hughie Emerson, Ciaran McDonald et al) before you progress to any substantive discussion.
For instance, only a few weeks ago I was chatting to Johnny Callinan about hurling helmets and he confessed that in his 1970s pomp, his hair was too long to accommodate the headgear comfortably.
It’s true that when you look back at team photos of that vintage the hairstyles straggle and stream before giving way in the next decade to quiffs and mullets that would be right at home in Mississippi.
(Side issue: how come sports teams generally pick up on the hairstyle of the moment about half-a-decade after that actual moment lands? Answers here on the lid of a pomade tin.) The full mane or heavy curls — the GAAfro, as I like to call it — is hardly an issue nowadays, particularly for hurlers, and specifically for minor hurlers. When the final whistle goes and the helmets come off there’s a striking similarity to the hairdos, what I like to refer to as the full-on Cillian Murphy Peaky Blinder, with a light fuzz north of the ears and a fountain of hair flowing outwards from the top of the skull.
All of which is interesting yet not particularly helpful, I hear you say. Happily, the universe obliged me, because I noticed a mail offering free championship haircuts ahead of the Munster final on Saturday evening, courtesy of minor championship sponsors Electric Ireland. (I dithered for a bit about the ethics of accepting a free haircut from Electric Ireland, but when I set that against decades of paying electricity bills, the sniping from my conscience subsided.)
Thus I fetched up at the little haircut tent just off the Monahan Road last Saturday, untidy thatch ready to be shaped for the championship ahead. And in fairness to the chap who got out the razor, he was in championship mode himself, because he got through the job at hand with brisk efficiency.
When I was finished, one of the stewards gave me a thumbs up.
“You’re ready now,” he said.
“I am,” I said.
For what, though?
Truth be told, I felt a little buzz after the bazzer. That connection to minor teams was the key element because the tight ‘cut sparked a reminder.
Of the time when you were a teenager but also in adult teams and what the summer meant: heat and blistered feet, games on the weekend and a sneaky fried egg before training during the week, bruises blooming on a Saturday and fading to yellow the next Friday, the unique way the shadows play on a field in July and August.
It was worth the stroll for that haircut and that feeling. I hope those minors enjoy the summer.
- Number one blades and Lees jerseys to firstname.lastname@example.org
We asked, you answered.
Last week I brought up the mail we received about a medal which belonged to a C. Neenan of Lees GAA club, dating to 1923: the family which owned it wanted to see it return to the Neenan family.
C. Neenan was of course Connie Neenan, synonymous with St Finbarr’s club, having provided it with the grounds in Togher which bear his name (Páirc Uí Naoidhneáin).
The Lees connection is interesting — this club was a force to be reckoned with in the late 19th century and the early decades of the 20th before declining. They were still strong enough to win a county senior title in 1955, and players such as Paddy Tyers, Weeshie Murphy, and Donal O’Sullivan starred for them.
The lifespan of such clubs — Nils and Commercials are others in that vein in Cork, though no doubt there are comparable stories in other counties — is a particular interest of this column, and the kind of rabbit hole I happily fall down any day you like.
Still, none as interesting as the Connie Neenan story. More of that another day.
I note the possibility of Glasgow Rangers playing Cork City in the Europa League, though such an encounter is far from definite.
For instance, Cork are awaiting the winners of Luxembourg’s Progrès Niederkorn encounter with Cardiff Metropolitan University, while Rangers will have to overcome either Prishtina of Kosovo or St Joseph’s from Gibraltar.
Personally my money would unequivocally be on Progrès, as I bow to nobody when it comes to analysis of the Luxembourg leagues, but I welcome any polite disagreements.
I noted also a short-lived rumble on social media about playing the game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, though the simple fact that the playing surface in the stadium is to be replaced over the coming months puts paid to that possibility.
That may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Reports during the week suggested that the visiting supporters’ ticket allocation might be under 500 for any Rangers-City game in Turner’s Cross. The prospect of thousands more being accommodated in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and those thousands sporting that particular combination of red, white and blue while/before roaming the streets of Cork and heading down the Marina would have a lot of Leesiders swallowing hard.
Of course, the calendar may be more favourable for a Munster-Saracens encounter in a different European competition altogether. When those Champions Cup games kick off in the autumn the stadium should be ready for business on the field of play. Will an oval ball be needed in Ballintemple?
A book I plan on picking up soon is The Chain by Adrian McKinty, a thriller about a child who’s kidnapped. There is a twist. The kidnapper/kidnappers will only release the child if her mother kidnaps another child, and if that child’s parents, in turn, kidnap another child...
McKinty’s backstory convinced me to pick up a copy. He grew up in Belfast and won a scholarship to Oxford, wrote some books but struggled to make ends meet, eventually getting evicted and driving an Uber to get by. He wrote a fan letter to the great Don Winslow, who was encouraging and constructive: he put McKinty together with Shane Salerno, and The Chain emerged, to be met by a ‘low seven-figure deal’ from Paramount.
The novel will be published next month and will feature a blurb from Winslow on the cover: “This is Jaws for parents.” Sold.