Anyway, Hugo McNeill gave a seriously impressive interview on the stage about Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid — how attractive Ireland was as a venue, the support of the GAA, the potential involvement of the diaspora, and the strength of the competition from France, in particular.
The first time I saw McNeill in the flesh was not when he was terrorising opposing international rugby defences in the eighties, but a few years after his playing career.
I was on the Dart when I realised the chap in the suit who had just given up his seat to an elderly lady was the same Mr McNeill; the elderly lady seemed so smitten that I expected her to offer him his pick of her daughters, frankly.
McNeill’s comments were impressive because while he naturally stressed the positives that would accrue for Ireland if the tournament were to be awarded to the country, he refrained from promises of vast riches for the nation if we welcomed the world’s rugby supporters.
This is a more attractive display of restraint than you might imagine, particularly given the potential for long-lasting damage that a vast sports tournament can wreak.
If that sounds bleak, consider the infamous case of the Montreal Olympics, which left a debt that took the city a mere 30 years to clear.
If that sounds remote, cast your mind back to last summer. According to the website Deadspin, the Rio Olympics — remember that great event, sports fans? — have left what you might call a mixed legacy, if the elements of the mix were bad and worse.
The Barra Olympic Park, which had nine venues, had to be taken over by the Brazilian government and nobody knows what will happen to it. The Deodoro Olympic Park, which hosted rugby, equestrian sports and more, has been shut down.
The famous purpose-built golf course is barely used by locals and is also in danger of being shut down.
A cable car built for the games and intended to benefit locals after the torch passed has also shut down.
There are obvious pitfalls here that Ireland can’t fall into.
The infrastructure is already in place, more or less, while the smaller scale of the event over a greater geographical area makes the risk of disaster that much lower (nobody seems to be considering the prospect of thousands from the Southern Hemisphere making London their base, but that’s for another day).
But consider this your warning: the first time you hear someone spout on about the economic dividend, feel free to use the word ‘Montreal’ to frighten them.
Or ‘Rio’ to terrify them.
Where are the great Irish sporting musicals?
As advertised here previously I picked up Ron Chernow’s Hamilton before Christmas, which lives up to its advance billing. It’s also, of course, the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical of the same name, which recently relocated to London.
This seems at first glance the least likely musical source, the activities of an obscure 18th-century politician whose main driving force was the establishment of a national central bank and secure federal funding . . well, stay awake at the back if you can.
Of course, some of the greatest hits in musical theatre have been reaped from unpromising ground. One focuses on a group of singers dressed as cats, while another drills down into an obscure anti-monarchist rebellion in France a couple of hundred years ago (though frankly I prefer the Harrison Ford movie that the latter inspired, if anyone can name that).
Which brings me (eventually) to my point - where are the great Irish sporting musicals? If I, Keano is anything to go by this is surely a fertile field - that particular venture has run and run in Dublin and Cork - and, as cited above, a spat between sportspeople on an obscure Asian island would not strike one as the most obvious subject matter for an evening’s musical enjoyment.
Sharpen your pens, devotees of the ‘I feel a song coming on’ genre.
An own goal at 0ireachtas meeting
The guiding lights of the GAA, FAI and IRFU appeared before an Oireachtas committee early last week, and there seemed to be some surprise the members of our Upper and Lower Houses did not, in fact, tear out their larynxes with their bare teeth and drape themselves in the fresh skins of the three administrators.
This surprise is misplaced. Your columnist spent a good deal of time — years, in fact — listening to Oireachtas committees ask some outstandingly bizarre questions (to this day, the query about building a tunnel under the Irish Sea from Britain to Ireland, and its associated costs, stays with me. So does the suave French minister who put a full-on charm press on a female Senator and the… well, we were all a lot younger and scattier then).
Nothing human is alien to me, therefore nothing Oireachtas-associated surprises me.
What many observers have picked up on, however, was the lack of gender balance at that Oireachtas committee, which became all the more pointed when the three gents in the spotlight were asked about… gender balance.
I’m aware the fig leaf which can be proffered is that none of them represent a separate women’s sporting association, but even if only as a matter of perception, querying three middle-aged men about women’s representation and gender balance has all the hallmarks of an own goal. And the questions being asked have nothing to do with that.
Different side to Kafka
If you’re looking for something to read over the week ahead, try a new biography which outlines some of the lesser-known highlights of a famous writer’s life.
I have learned the man in question loved swimming but not football, and he strolled around town with his arms behind his head to get attention. He dreamed about becoming a “Red Indian” but disliked museums and the theatre.
He liked films and — ah — lively nightclubs full of working ladies. He was a bad timekeeper and illustrated a collection of erotic fiction, while he was also an avid swimmer, a hiker and a biker. Neither Ernest Hemingway nor Norman Mailer, but Franz Kafka.
It sounds like Kafka: The Early Years, Volume Three by Reiner Stach (translated by Shelley Frisch) might be worth checking out.