MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: The straight shooter is going out of fashion

Here’s the way the Dublin County Board informed the world that All-Ireland-winning manager Jim Gavin would remain in place until the end of the 2021 season.

“Dublin GAA are delighted to announce that Jim Gavin has agreed to remain as manager of the Dublin senior football team for another three years, until the conclusion of the 2021 championship.

“Chairman Sean Shanley remarked: ‘Jim has contributed so much time and hard work on a voluntary basis to the Dublin team and I thank him and his backroom team for their continued efforts and dedication.’”

The reason I include this brief statement is simple. More than one media outlet referred subsequently to Gavin extending his contract with Dublin, a description sharply at odds with Shanley’s reference to the voluntary basis of his association with the team.

This is not a screed on Dublin’s dominance of Gaelic games, more a signalling of concern at the lack of clarity in reporting about it. Referring to a contract isn’t a slip of the tongue like mentioning when the All-Ireland hurling final kicks off, but something a shade more pernicious, because suggesting there’s some form of legal contract where there isn’t is a dangerous road to go down, for one thing.

For another, it’s the kind of loose, unattributed description which can establish itself in the public mind. (And don’t come at me, lawyers both real and imagined, about what constitutes a contract. You know what I mean here.)

For all I know Gavin has a squadron of barristers advising him on his terms and conditions as Dublin football manager, but I doubt it. If these ‘negotiations’ take much longer than a cup of coffee and a handshake I’d be very surprised. Then again, accuracy in description is something that’s rarer than you think.

For instance, last week also threw up Ulster and Munster in the PRO14, and an early controversy emerged when Ulster winger Robert Baloucoune was lucky not to get a red card for a challenge on Darren Sweetnam; the latter was in the air when tipped over by Baloucone’s tackle and needed attention, but the Ulster player got just a yellow card.

eir sport pundit Eddie O’Sullivan didn’t beat around the bush when asked for his opinion: “I’ve seen red cards for less — by the letter of the law he should be gone.”

To this untutored eye, O’Sullivan looked on solid ground, but such is the spread of on-the-one-hand this, on-the-other that, it was almost a surprise to hear someone offer such an unequivocal declaration.

Straight talking is out of ashion nowadays in a lot of sporting areas. You could finesse this as being a little different to the disdain now shown to facts on both sides of the Atlantic by the likes of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. It’s all the more insidious because not only can denying the obvious truth be a strategy, as practiced by that pair, so can the opposite.

Consider this rumination about soccer, from an interview which was also published last week.

“There’s a footballing spiel now, fashionable buzzword I’ve never projected those words because I’ve always felt that football’s language should be reasonably simple...

“I could invent a new phrase. Seriously. High pressing, for example. It’s a good term and one that’s almost self-explanatory. Fine. It wasn’t called that a few years ago. It’s about trying to take the ball off the opposition as close to their goal as possible.”

Wise words indeed, and applicable in more sports than soccer. A pity we didn’t get that kind of straight-shooting from Martin O’Neill all along.

Champions Cup faces Brexit tangle

I mentioned Nigel Farage elsewhere here — apologies, because the festive season can be testing enough without being reminded of that nonentity, though you’ll probably be reminded of him all over again with a Christmastime showing of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (tip: watch when the SS guy gets his face melted.)

But Farage’s monument, Brexit, is due to come into force the same weekend as the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, so you may need to take notice of him.

Over the weekend Paul Rees of The Guardian outlined an apocalypse of visa tangles, work permits, different governing regimes and passport controls that would make a team manager weep.

And a travel agent. And a supporter.

Consider — at a minimum — that three of the four Irish provinces may be subject to different visa requirements and you get a glimpse of the potential headaches.

Departed Marshall in a league of her own

Sad to see the passing of Penny Marshall last week. You will remember films she directed such as Big, with Tom Hanks, and Awakenings, with Robert de Niro and Robin Williams, in a long career as an actor and success as a director.

Kudos also to novelist Laura Lippman for pointing out a backhanded swipe given to one of Marshall’s movies in the New York Times obituary of the director.

“Probably going to spend the entire day, off and on, thinking about A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN being called “sentimentally spunky” in Penny Marshall’s NYT obituary,” Lippman tweeted.

Then she added: “You know what’s sentimentally spunky? FIELD OF DREAMS. That movie is drenched in sentimental spunk.”

Now this I can get behind. The glancing blow of condescension in the obit is the kind of thing that would inspire you to take up the torches on behalf of A League Of Their Own sight unseen. The widespread reverence for Field Of Dreams, on the other hand, is enough to inspire a case dysentery.

Lippman’s description - ‘drenched’ - of the latter film is reminiscent of one of the contemporaneous reviews, which described watching the film as an experience akin to being hosed down with warm syrup.

In fact, an interesting piece could be spun out of the unsympathetic brother in Field of Dreams - Timothy Busfield, who wants to buy the bankrupt farm - as the hidden hero of the movie, just as Mr Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life is not trying to bail out the banks (shut it - every female relative of this columnist).

Anyway, the only place Field Of Dreams wins is in terms of music, and in particular Jessica by the Allman Brothers, which plays as the VW van rolls in Mass Avenue. A League Of Their Own can only offer Madonna’s This Used to Be My Playground, but it’s the only ground the movie concedes.

Season’s greetings

Best wishes and season’s greetings to all readers, and many thanks to anyone who got in touch during the year, even the people who rang the office to abuse me.

Just a note: we have caller ID, so I have your numbers. Why no, I certainly do not intend to ring anyone in the wee small hours over Christmas to ask their opinions of the sports events of the day.

Please don’t forget there are many people who are not looking forward to the holiday season for many reasons; corkpennydinners.ie and alone.ie do fantastic work all year round but could both do with your help at this time.

If you can, remember those organisations, and many like them, this week.


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