Yesterday’s All-Ireland senior football final marks the end of the inter-county season — this is a watershed for many, though anyone with an eye on the calendar will be aware of the ladies football and camogie deciders on the horizon.
But what yesterday really starts is a whole season of subterfuge, of discreet courting and snatched coffees, surreptitious phone calls . . . not a national proroguing of marriage vows, but the inter-county management courtship season: the IMKISS.
Granted, this is one of the more cumbersome acronyms you are likely to encounter, but it reflects the awkwardness of the process.
This is often overlooked by those of us unburdened by responsibilities in this sector. Consider the prospective manager, and his challenges.
He must present himself to the county board of his choice as well-organised, diligently prepared, with a host of expert professionals at his beck and call, each of them ready at a moment’s notice to hone the bodies and minds of the county players in order to create an unstoppable force.
If the prospective manager wants four selectors, he starts ringing them with invitations. Problems soon arise. One is on holidays, and another can’t take phone calls in work.
Does the manager have to wait until he can get their agreement before he goes to the board?
Wouldn’t it be worth the risk to name the lad on holidays because it’ll impress the board, and sure he’s a pal of long standing anyway, there’s no way he’d let me down...
Unfortunately, if the latter then produces a reason that rules him out after being announced to the board, then the prospective manager’s credibility plummets.
Well, presume the selectors are in place.
The manager wants someone to work on the players’ strength and conditioning, and thereby enters into a whole other world of vague reputations.
When the manager is making discreet approaches about the availability of a good S and C man, he soon discovers their objectively-determined expertise comes a distant second to their current standing.
Trainer Lifty McWeightface created a team of powerful athletes within 18 months . . . but that team crashed out of their championship early on the following year, so who gets the blame?
Where it gets tricky is that the blame pops up in the aftermath of that crash, which means that when our prospective manager is trying to entice Lifty to join his backroom team he’s unaware of the storm clouds gathering around his reputation.
So far so good. The manager has his selectors in place. He’s happy with his S and C expert.
What about the fixed notions of the county board he’s dealing with?
This is the unknown with a vengeance, the managerial equivalent of the old map designations beyond the known world, but instead ofHERE BE MONSTERS, the last word is often interchangeable with NOTIONS.
The manager must deal with at least one board member asking sensible questions — about the kind of training sessions which are planned for various times of the year, for instance.
There may also be some less than sensible interrogations, however.
In fact, a swift though unscientific poll from past managers of my acquaintance suggests on one level those questions are designed to put the candidate on their heels in a hostile environment - as happens on the sideline of a championship game.
But on another level they’re just . . . nonsense queries. None of which ask the most obvious question of all.
Who would be an intercounty manager?
Is there any end to the concussion fallout? I note during the week that one of surfing’s biggest names — Mercedes Maidana — was interviewed about the impact of concussion on her life.
Inside three months she’d lost her house, dog, husband and sponsorship.
A Canadian study of concussion suggested the sport encouraged risk-taking behaviours, as well as the denial and downplaying of the injury, and a reluctance to wear protective headgear, limited medical help and established protocols compared to major team sports.
Presumably you have seen The Shallows, the Blake Lively movie in which she takes on a huge shark while surfing alone at a remote Mexican location.
Granted, a half-ton of angry fish is not an issue for Irish surfers as they paddle alone off our own shores, but the implications of getting clobbered on the head by a Firewire board while surfing solo are sobering enough.
A tip of the hat this morning to Cork City, who showed the good rearing on Friday evening in Turner’s Cross.
By this I mean the club invited the Cork U20 Gaelic football team, who recently won a terrific All-Ireland final against Dublin, to be their guests at the clash with Sligo Rovers.
This is the kind of gesture which goes a long way, and which is made all the more effective because it’s so easily arranged.
A couple of phone calls and a touch of generosity and an ocean of goodwill gets generated (generated? created? spontaneously induced?).
It is also, unfortunately for those not among God’s chosen people, the kind of interaction which augments in Cork people the sense of effortless superiority sometimes vaguely ascribed to us.
This was once articulated perfectly to me in Dublin when, after some All-Ireland or other, Teddy McCarthy was chatting to someone outside Croke Park.
I caught sight of him across the road and stopped for a second, only to get a nudge in the ribs; a stranger in a red jersey nodded at Teddy and said to me: “Where else would you get it, kid?”
Off he went and I never saw him again. But I know exactly what he meant.
Given what’s happening across the water - proroguing, seriously - I am enjoying a particular apt book at the moment. After The Fall: Crisis, Recovery and the Making of a New Spain, by Tobias Buck.
Ireland isn’t the only country that had a crash, and Buck’s book is an interesting stroll through the Spanish experience.
I can’t be the only one who notices the Spanish accents on our streets and wonders why.
(Full disclosure: I enjoy those accents because I can close my eyes and imagine I’m back in San Sebastian).
Far be it from me to preach to you, but as an account of how a country finds its way in uncertain times, with political uncertainty accompanying a disastrous property crash, I found this hard to put down.
Quirke's Final Podcast: Kerry learn on the job. Gavin's gaffe. 'O'Shea is a joke'. Gough's big calls