Ash-fuelled R&R moves to hell or to Mayo

WHEN the Icelanders were building their banking bubble they took deposits from savers and speculators all across Europe but especially from England and Germany.

When their bubble burst (and we know the feeling) they were reluctant at first to repay the screaming savers.

Now they are putting down a volcanic ash deposit all over Europe and beyond.

That volcano is under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier and you should know that, quite apart from blocking European airspace, it is also emitting 300,000 tonnes of CO2 daily, almost exactly the carbon emissions which we were able to produce when the Celtic Tiger was farting healthily. Never mind that now.

Sport of course has been hard hit right across the world. The entire F1 caravan of millionaires are stranded somewhere in China at precisely the time they want to rush under-performing cars back to the factories of Europe.

Scores of professional cyclists are stranded in Turkey even though they are due to begin racing in Belgium tomorrow. Poor old Liverpool have been ordered to get to Madrid any way they can for their Europe semi-final against Atletico which they will almost certainly lose. Barcelona and Lyon have had to take to the roads for their Champions League semi-final games. Big golf tournaments like one in Morocco have already been cancelled. Just about all sports fixtures have been adversely affected by the Icelandic deposit.

One hard luck story involved a €1750 taxi journey from Paris to Madrid on Monday for English horseman Oliver Townend, the eventing champion.

This was in addition to heavy expenditure already for trains and coaches from England to Paris. Townend has already won two “legs” of what would be an eventing Grand Slam. The last leg is the Rolex sponsored Kentucky event. His horses are already in Kentucky but unless he could get on a flight out of Madrid last evening he would miss the event, the potential Grand Slam... and a cheque for ! £250,000.

Many such sporting dilemmas were being threaded through all the cancellation and airspace closure news yesterday.

But surely from a domestic point of view, the most dangerous cancellations on the GAA front involve the Dublin and Tipperary hurlers. Spent and battered from successful but exhausting league campaigns, both camps were scheduled for recovery in the European sunspots before the championship demands much more from both of them.

And that is getting closer by the day.

But the Icelandic eruption has caused a disruption to the travel plans of both and the manner in which they are coping has, in my view, raised major issues, especially for the Dublin hurlers.

Manager Anthony Daly has not put one cog wrong since he took over the metropolitan side. But, for God’s sake, Dalo should have known far better than to divert his hopeful charges at this crucial stage to the loss-lands of County Mayo of all places. Mayo is for praying not for playing is one way of putting it. Its GAA environment is loaded as heavily with loss as European airspace is with volcanic ash. It is a beautiful county indeed, its shrine at Knock and its Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick are powerful places for retired sportsmen to say their twilight prayers in, but it is not the right environment for young hurlers to prepare themselves for the eruption of championship passion. It is a county famed for miracles but, as we all know, the natives have not been able to avail of an All-Ireland for the better part of a century, their defeats after perennial bright springs, have always been bitter and total come autumn as manager John O’Mahoney TD knows only too well.

The nearest element to an eruptive force in Mayo is actually his fiery colleague Michael Ring who can spurt verbal lava often in the Dáil.

Maybe he should be enrolled in the management team for the Championship?

Anthony Daly should remember the bitter cut from a Tipperary mouth from his own playing days when his Clare team were advised to stick to the music and singing rather than the hurling! He should change his R&R plans even at this stage and bring his charges to Kerry rather than Castlebar. There are no holy mountains down there like Croagh Patrick of the pain and bleeding bare feet.

The Reeks are big and pagan and hungry, just like the footballers bred in their shade, and they try to kill about everyone that tries to climb over them every chance they get.

The sporting environment is different and there is a chance that the weather might be kinder too.

Liam Sheedy is bringing his men to Kildare I believe. That choice of venue, rather than the unavailable European sunspot, is not really as crucial as the other destination.

Tipperary still know how to win just as well as poor Mayo know how to lose.

It is a genetic thing, not really connected to volcanoes at all, and the crucial Kelly hamstring can heal just as quickly in Kildare as anywhere else.

This Icelandic deposit will pass away sooner or later and the world of sport will get back nearer normal. But the important strategies are being put in place now and they will have crucial consequences for us all.


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