Michael Moynihan: Letter on an anniversary

Michael Moynihan: Letter on an anniversary
Adam Gilsenan works up a sweat during round two of the Cycling Ireland Zwift League, a 12-race series that will run until the middle of June. With all normal race and outdoor training activity postponed due to Covid-19, the new eRacing series was launched on the online training platform Zwift. Picture: INPHO/Bryan K

Well boss, sorry I didn’t make it up last Wednesday, anniversary or not.

The graveyard is over two kilometres from the house, so a visit is out.

I suppose I could have flashed my ‘necessary worker’ ID, but I doubt any garda would have believed I was heading for a press conference in the cemetery in Kilcully.

You probably weren’t too bothered about not getting flowers; the regular update I give you on what’s happening in sport might have been more of a miss.

But the lockdown continues, and because of that there wouldn’t have been much sport to tell you about anyway.

That would have made a one-sided conversation even shorter.

Nothing to report on how the Cork footballers were going to translate that early-season form into the beginning of the Championship; no notion of where the hurlers really are after a couple of disappointing losses in the league.

This was supposed to be a month for club action, of course but nothing is going on. The course of the county championship is as much of a mystery now as it was six months ago. The lockdown has its long arm on everything. (And by everything I mean no whisper either about the up-and-down fortunes of your secret love, Man United.)

Not having sport to talk about is a small price to pay, of course. Everybody acknowledges that. There are plenty of people having a far tougher time at the sharp end of this whole thing.

People like your old mates in the fire
brigade, the doctors you worked with in SouthDoc — all of those people who are holding the line for everybody else. Putting themselves in harm’s way so the rest of us can be safe.

So are the people who work in shops, who drive trucks, the harbour pilots, the bus drivers.

All the people, in fact, who are keeping the country ticking over.

There’s a different sense of who heroes are now compared to even a couple of weeks ago: People may want to go back to a time when someone with a keen eye and reliable foot in a match was a hero, which is understandable in the circumstances. Nobody wants to trudge on in this half-light. Will their appreciation of real-life bravery fade in time? Whatever happens when normality finally returns, in whatever form that normality takes, will people really forget who the real heroes were at this time?

Hopefully not.

Years ago I remember you giving me a bit of advice which always stuck with me. The important thing is not to panic, you said: Always try to keep your head.

You said it was surprising how much of a help a simple thing like that is — just keeping your head in a crisis.

What was the context?

It could have been considering options when two points down and standing over a 20-metre free in the last minute.

It could have been what to do in a burning building with the ceilings start falling down around your head.

The advice works either way.

You’d appreciate the humour better than most if you were still around.

The Government announced plans to help artists last week, and one of the brainwaves was to get people to record themselves singing Ireland’s Call and to post the clips online to boost everyone’s spirits.

I suppose it tells you something that even in an apocalyptic worldwide pandemic there are some things that people still won’t do.

Anyway, I just reported in to tell you how little there is to report.

With luck I’ll have a few matches to tell you about on the next visit.

Or the visit after that, more like.

Until then we’ll keep the head. No panic.

A template for handling Trump’s bluster

I am sure that a lot of readers have moved far beyond the hunt for sports content of any kind, and are now well ensconced in a fugue state where they are searching for the sports analogy, the sports metaphor, the sports applicability.

Everything that happens, all that is reported, is parsed and sifted for its suitability. Will this work if I overlay a sports narrative on it?

Will that work if I substitute athletes and sportspeople for its main actors? TV reruns? The birds in the garden? The clouds wheeling in the sky?

Credit then to the reader who dropped me a line during the week to explain the method used for watching certain world leaders give press conferences on the pandemic.

He pointed out that the blustering against the evidence of our own eyes, the dismissal of contrary viewpoints, the constant championing of his own tactics, the denigration if not actual undermining aimed towards assistants and support staff, the hostility towards the assembled press asking questions, and more, there is a curious echo.

Of what, I asked.

In short, he said the kind of embattled European manager who takes an overachieving Asian or African side to the World Cup, only to be caught out by the better teams.

It works, too.

You can just about stomach Trump if you think of him rationalising a 3-0 defeat of his Ghana or Iraq side at the hands of Spain.

It certainly distracts you from the grim realities that he is dealing with.

Returning with (legal) caution

Enjoyed touching base with Jack Anderson over the weekend, doyen of sports lawyers and columnist here.

I put a few questions to Jack about the legal fall-out from the lockdown and he answered with his usual sharpness, and you’ll see the results here soon.

If you start muttering about legality and referring to Jarndyce v Jarndyce, etc, first of all I’ll be impressed, but then I’ll ask you to bear with me.

Yes, everyone wants sports to come back. But there’ll have to be a slight delay before that happens even if the all-clear is sounded. If sports bodies hurry back without getting themselves organised legally then further problems will pop up sooner rather than later.

I acknowledge of course that you would probably chew off a few expendable toes now to just take in a game in your preferred sport, but take your lead from Jack when the piece appears. Don’t rush it.

Rest in peace Tim Robinson

Very sad to see the passing of Tim Robinson last week.

Robinson was a classic case of the ‘heaven in a wild flower’ writer — someone who sees the vast potential hidden in what appears at first glance to be a limited-enough canvas.

For Robinson that was Connemara and the Aran Islands, both of which he described beautifully.

Capturing a sense of place is far more difficult than it appears, but he succeeded brilliantly in doing so.

He moved to the area in 1972, writing Listening to the Wind (2006), The Last Pool of Darkness (2008) and A Little Gaelic Kingdom (2011) to create his Connemara trilogy, while Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1985) and Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (1995) are his island books.

It was doubly sad to read last week that Robinson, who passed away in London, was desperate to get back to Connemara but was too unwell for the journey. He was 85. Rest in peace.


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