Thrills ‘n’ spills rolling with the Firebirds

Nothing like a good documentary to get people talking, I notice.
Thrills ‘n’ spills rolling with the Firebirds

No, not the one you’re probably thinking about, which I have flagged here relentlessly.

On this occasion I refer to the Irish roller derby documentary Revolutions, directed by Laura McGann, which was recently released — and screened in the Triskel in Cork, not surprisingly.

The last two words arise because in my ignorance I didn’t realise Cork was a hotbed of the sport.

Hence my trekking to Little Island a couple of weeks ago to meet up with Megan Cronin of the Cork City Firebirds.

“We’re six years on the go, so we had a celebration a couple of weeks ago which included a scrimmage.

“That’s a friendly game, and we had people from Waterford, Dublin and Galway come down for it — you have mixed teams for the afternoon, starting with a cherry-popper: that’s for people who haven’t actually scrimmaged properly yet, so we put them in against people who are on the same level.

“In the second game we’d have players who’ve been playing for a while, so again, they’re all at a level when they play each other.

“We’re a women’s team because we don’t have enough men at the moment.”

Cronin told me that the big attraction for many people is the fitness element to roller derby: “It’s a unique way to stay in shape. I don’t love the gym myself, I find it very tedious to be going round and round in a gym, whereas here you have a few stretches, get the skates on and there’s the contact.

“The first time there’s contact it’s pretty terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating, and you don’t realise the strength you’re building the whole time when you’re training and playing.

“There’s also the camaraderie, everyone on the team has a laugh with each other — we take it very seriously but we also know how to have fun, we went out that night together to celebrate the team’s birthday.

“What a lot of people have in common when they start roller derby is that they don’t know the rules, so there’s a big emphasis on knowing the rules properly.

“The day before we had the scrimmage in Little Island, for instance, we had a rules test, and you had to know the rules to be allowed to play.

“Strength might appear to be a big factor, and it can be, but if someone physically strong is a slow skater then you can strategise around that — ‘if I act now I can block them’, the tactics come in there.”

If you have a vague memory of a recent Hollywood movie which featured the sport, your mind does not deceive you, says Cronin.

“It’s a female-friendly sport, though there are men’s teams as well — but it’s predominantly female, which would be the case in the US.

“A lot of people would be aware of roller derby through the film Whip It,

there’s an ‘oh yeah’ factor because of that, though there are differences, not only is that on a curved track, but there are a lot of bloody noses involved — we’re very big on safety!

“Roller derby also accepts transgender people, people who are transitioning from man to woman — if they want to play on the women’s team, they can. We’re all about acceptance and body positivity and body acceptance, and it’s probably important to convey that — if transgender people are looking for a high-contact sport, the people in roller derby will accept them, particularly as that community of people might find another sport more difficult.”

You can get in touch with the team on facebook Cork City Firebirds while Revolutions featured at the Galway Film Fleadh over the weekend: keep an eye out for it.

History will be the judge of Lions concept

I’m afraid Donal Lenihan of this parish fairly skewered the Lions concept during the week when he posted a picture on Twitter of all the wool that could be shorn from a single sheep.

Well, he either skewered the Lions or New Zealand’s nightlife. History will be the judge.

History will also judge the success or otherwise of the Lions concept, which seems the target of many a kick these last few days.

I am not blameless in this regard, as the marketingese used to strip out any microbe of personality in the official release about the Lions’ player committee on social media use.

What’s surprising to me is the sniggering and pointing at the commercialisation, while the breathless calculation of agent percentages and per-week wages in the Premier League, to take a non-random example, is seen as proof of its superiority.

In the Lions-New Zealand context the lampooning of on-field interviewers using the word ‘immortality’ after the second test is well-deserved; the urge to get some of these chaps to dial it down a notch can be overpowering.

Though I notice the nonsense purveyed by sundry outside-various-soccer-club interviewers during transfer deadline day, for instance, is viewed as good knockabout fun and part of the general gaiety of some nation.

Funny that nobody’s a media critic when some poor soul is trying to work out if a random motorist is a want-away striker trying to get into some grim training gulag in the English midlands or just, you know, a random motorist.

Different strokes, I suppose.

A good book makes holiday time off a joy

I enjoyed my week off, thanks for asking. I brought Javier Marias’ Written Lives with me, which was hugely entertaining: his description of Joseph Conrad’s tendency to meet visitors while still slobbing around home in an old yellow dressing-gown was a little disapproving, while my reaction was more along the lines of, doesn’t everyone?

First place in the holiday reading list, however, went to Ferdinand Mount’s English Voices: Lives, Landscapes, Laments. Betjeman (‘the whim of iron’, very good), Peel, Amis, Heath, Methodism, they’re all there.

Random class example? The comparison between Pepys and Jeffrey Archer, but there are dozens of others.

A courtesy or a case of flagging resolve?

In the course of rambling around the southern half of the country I had occasion to admire the flags of half a dozen counties in the most unlikely of places, not to mention the club colours which pop up before you come to the ‘community alert area’ sign which usually denotes the start of a distinct zone.

What gave me pause was the good humour obviously shown by opposing zealots in leaving many of said flags and banners intact. A small indicator of courtesy or evidence of a nation’s increasing laziness?

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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