Meehan given top marks by Canty

Frightening was the word used in description.

Over coffee with Graham Canty a few subjects rolled around for discussion, and one in particular popped up: as a defender who spent years tracking some of the best forwards in Gaelic football, I was interested in hearing who he rated above every other attacker.

The answer surprised me a little.

“We haven’t seen him at his best, because he’s been down with a serious ankle injury, but he was back this year and I was delighted to see that, and he and his team-mates came very close to turning us over. I always thought Michael Meehan was a super, super player.”

Canty is right about Meehan’s potential — and his injury woes.

Go back a decade and the Galway youngster was coming out of a fabled underage and schools career, and looked certain to dominate the senior championship for years to come.

However, Canty, whose retirement from inter-county football was announced in this newspaper on Saturday, offered a cameo from this season as proof of Meehan’s enduring quality.

“He had a 13m free at the end of our game against them this summer, and we were lucky we had a four-point lead at the time. We had I don’t know how many lads back on the line and he still buried it.

“The ball clipped the underside of the crossbar on the way in, and what a lot of people didn’t realise is that two of our tallest players were underneath it as it went in, and they didn’t get near it.

“It was bordering on unstoppable: I didn’t see it going in, though it was only a couple of yards away. I only saw the ball when it was in the back of the net.

“Meehan’s power, his pace, accuracy...he’s just a lethal finisher.”

Frightening was the other word he used. Good enough for us.

What does Roy think about it?

Welcome to the world of sportainment.

Champagne all round, everybody! The imminent arrival of the O’Neill-Keane partnership has been viewed the wrong way round by almost every observer, with their pettifogging attention to games, and tactics, and potential attendances at matches which may now be in a position to provide enthralling sport.

This is entirely the wrong approach. The O’Neill-Keane partnership — already christened ROYMON by a pal of mine who should know better — is in a different category to sport, and to entertainment: hence my mashing of the terms above: sportainment (copyright).

What this does in particular is it provides a blank canvas — a Keanevas, if you will — for every half-conscious chancer around to provide their views of the pantomime.

Expect plenty of sub-Camille Paglia guff about the hotness of Roy’s array of beards; lie back and luxuriate in the analyses of Martin O’Neill’s touchline antics, never mind the symbolism of his rugby top of choice.

Above all, though, will be the spurious psychological codology about the new management team. Although Martin O’Neill’s well-established interest in serial killers would seem to be the more fertile ground here, that presumption only lasts as long as it takes one to form the thought: what would Roy think of this? Pontificating about Roy Keane’s thought processes seems to be one of the most inclusive sports we have. Everybody is an expert. Everybody knows how he’ll react to this, that and the other. The challenges of fame and celebrity are many and varied, but it is one question that you’d love to see Roy Keane answer.

What’s it like when everybody thinks they know what you’re thinking? All of this has been augmented, or exacerbated, of course, by the revelations in Alex Ferguson’s new book (what, by the way, is the story with all the sycophantic Sirs we see preceding Ferguson’s name even in the Irish media? Is this a republic or isn’t it?).

Speaking as a man with a dog in the hunt, as it were, my first observation is that anyone who can shift 115,000 copies of his new book in one week, as Ferguson did, is someone who wields a serious influence on people’s thinking.

What has been eye-catching is the willingness in some quarters to ascribe weight and relevance to Ferguson’s views on Keane, however, and the scant attention paid to the former Manchester United manager’s breezy dismissal of the Rock of Gibraltar controversy — even though that issue was at the core of Keane’s final bust-up with the manager. I’m not as hung up as some on Ferguson’s ‘socialism’, mind you, or the apparent contradiction between those beliefs, his personal fortune, and his support for the Glazers: face facts, that’s the kind of socialism we’d all subscribe to.

As for the new dispensation with the Ireland soccer team, though: gentlemen, start your controversies.

FAI dream team have God onside

According to The Daily Telegraph, at least the O’Neill-Keane axis has one immense advantage.

It’s a Catholic partnership. The first impulse is to plead the growing multiculturalism of Ireland, but one runs the risk of a backfire a la the politician I heard once in Leinster House saying that his party was so inclusive “we even have a Jew-man inside in it”.

It would be more proper to acknowledge truth of the interview process: thanks to my investigative powers, I bring you the actual questions asked of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane by the FAI interview panel.

Will you undertake to include at least one priest among each squad that you name? Will you subject anyone caught out after curfew to the Spanish Inquisition? Can you institute a strict adherence among the squad for Ash Wednesday? If our Holy Father the Pope tells you to pick Andy Reid, will you do it without question? Before sending out the team for vital World Cup qualifiers will you play tapes for them of Fr Karras in The Exorcist saying ‘The power of Christ compels you’? And finally: if we leak five or six against the Germans or some other crowd of Godless Lutherans, is there anything to be said for saying another mass?

Conor has done state a great service

Late to the party, but kudos to Conor Cusack on his blog post last week on depression, and a stellar performance on Prime Time subsequently.

Last week here we suggested that support and restraint would be appropriate as a response to the recent passing of Galway hurler Niall Donoghue, and that’s been the case.

Conor Cusack’s stark candour and eloquent descriptions, however, have foregrounded issues of mental health in a way that has to be applauded.

We tweeted it last week and repeat it here: he’s done the state some service.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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