A train of thought on hurling’s biggest day

I thought it was all over for trains and GAA supporters, and I thought I had the exact moment the romance had ended: when Cork decided to go by bus to Dublin.

A train of thought on hurling’s biggest day

You may not recall the precise details, but a couple of years ago Cork decided that if they were playing in the capital, it made more sense to get a bus to their Dublin hotel than taking the train.

As a member of management explained to me, everyone getting off the train in Heuston had to be rounded up, someone had gone to get a coffee, someone left their bag on the train, someone else had just popped into the toilet... it could be half an hour before the bus was nudging its way out into the traffic, and the pantomime happened all over again at the team hotel.

With a bus, and the motorway, there’s just the one decanting - straight from bus to hotel. Simple and efficient.

Yet a little less romantic as well. Paul Rouse of this parish often points out that the GAA - and other large-scale sports in the UK - benefited hugely from the explosion in rail travel in the latter stages of the 19th century in particular.

The train meant getting fifty or a hundred miles up the road was no longer an expedition worthy of Scott of the Antarctic: you could go, cheer on your team, and be back by teatime.

This led to a rich culture springing up about the train to the match. Val Dorgan’s peerless book on Christy Ring captures the barely-suppressed excitement of the early morning All-Ireland special to Dublin from 1950s Cork, not to mention the awesome temptation of pulling the emergency cord as the train emerged from the tunnel in Blackpool.

In Kerry the trains to Dublin for big games had poems composed about them by the likes of Sigerson Clifford, The Ghost Train To Croke Park.

Con Houlihan said it left Tralee at midnight (“kind of”) and got to Dublin at five in the morning (“kind of), and the good people in Radio Kerry made a fine documentary about it a few years back as well ( http://www.terracetalk.com/downloads/88/The-Ghost-Train-to-Croke-Park ).

While the independence of a car brings its own joys, such as the lack of loudmouths telling you who’ll win, it has its own drawbacks - parking, traffic, a lack of loudmouths telling you who’ll win.

The intense sociability of the train is its winning quality, not the convenience or the cost. You run the risk, true, of sociability carried a little too far, which is far less fun than it seems.

In Eamon Sweeney’s excellent The Road To Croker, about a year following the championship around the country, his account of a train trip from Thurles to Cork after a Munster championship game shows the aftermath of a summer Sunday that Michael Cusack wouldn’t have considered, and one that is depressingly familiar.

People give out about St Peter in the Bible, denying Jesus three times. If the person doing the asking was on a train and had an inter-county jersey on him and was asking, through a cloud of cider fumes, if he was the b*****ks who wrote for the paper, then I understand his reticence.

Funnily enough, the place where the legendary train journey survives still is Dublin. Yesterday you may be sure there were people talking about being wedged from Sandyford to Ranelagh, and the camera shot of the kids in county tops with their faces squashed against the Luas window is now a hardy annual.

Will they be writing poems about The Ghost Luas From Grangegorman in years to come, though? Hardly.

Con Houlihan noted the essential appeal of train travel, the romance conferred by distance, all those years ago on the original Ghost Train: ‘One morning as the train slowed down coming through Ballyfermot, a fisherman from Portmagee woke up and said, “Don’t some people live very far away?”’

Hurling could learn from the Dublin playbook

The managerial vacancies in a couple of counties have attracted the usual names in the usual order. No surprise.

What is surprising is how slow county boards have been in adopting Dublin’s lead. Pat Gilroy as a hurling manager was such a counter-intuitive move that I fully expected officials all over Ireland to pick up on it, if only out of a sense of ‘I’ll show these hurling snobs what for, I’ll get a football man in’.

Dublin deserve huge credit for putting their money where their belief in modern management principles is. By that I mean the most logical interpretation of what a manager is.

If the coach does the skills work and the strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist, physio et al look after their own areas of interest, surely the manager is the one overseeing, delegating and orchestrating the general direction? That being the case, does he really need to have played the game at the highest level?

Or does she?

Poring over age-old killer

My book this week is one I hummed and hawed about, because while I respect the likes of Killing For Company and Fatal Vision, they’re a bit... uncool, shall we say?

That partly explains my tardiness with picking up I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by the late Michelle McNamara.

Not a trained police officer, McNamara spent hours upon hours scouring online data and information in an effort to identify the Golden State Killer, a notorious serial murderer in California in the ’70s and ’80s.

I bought it eventually because I recognised some of the areas from my own time in California. Commuter towns like Walnut Creek and Concord were home to a particular type of home design McNamara described later as a ‘predator’s paradise’ — single-storey houses with blank frontage but whose living spaces, open to the rear garden, showed the killer who was at home and what rooms they were in.

Having rolled down those kinds of streets myself, and noting how eerie they could be, this book had me double-checking the locks, and I mean that as a compliment.

Clothes maketh the man

You didn’t see me on The Sunday Game last night, and I’m sure you somehow struggled on to enjoy your weekend nevertheless, but I still feel I have to share something with you.

Given the speed with which pundits on said show give a nod on social media to the shops outfitting them, I just want to do the same for the sake of full

Footwear: three-year-old sandals known in my house by its youngest occupants as “the stink”.

Shorts: Marks and Spencer’s finest, complete with adjustable waist technology, for which much thanks.

Top: a green t-shirt from Penneys which cost, I believe, the princely sum of €2.50.

Source of this cutting-edge fashion: me. Thanks Michael, for kitting me out.

You’re welcome, Michael, don’t mention it.

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