After more than eight years of this column, the arse long torn out of it, maybe it’s time to start taking requests.
Following one too many explorations of Corkness lately, Ger McCarthy noted on Twitter that it would be more in my line to fully consider Tippness. A condition he preferred to describe as ‘Tippsy’.
Of course what Ger is after is a study of arrogance. Of pride before a fall. Of getting ahead of ourselves. Analysis of ‘one-in-a-row syndrome’. Of savage hunger quickly sated. Of presumption that unravels into recrimination and bloodletting. Delirium fading into brooding introspection.
Or we could retread the well-worn laments of a modest, landlocked people, boxed in by envious neighbours, revelling in our every setback, when all we want to do is enjoy a bit of success when it arrives.
The kind of persecution that inevitably invites a certain paranoia and fatalism; a fear that there will soon be a heavy price to pay for any moment of great jubilation. So we might as well enjoy it while it lasts.
But, after a trip home last week, through the bunting at The Ragg, past the murals and mannequins in Borrisoleigh, and on to Templederry, I was struck again by another important ingredient of Tippness.
The seven-year-old nephew, since they got the smart telly with the YouTube app, has developed a chronic addiction to goals videos.
He’ll watch them for as long as he is let. Goal compilations. Messi, Ronaldo, Gooch. But mainly hurling. Ten Eddie Brennan finishes. Shane O’Donnell’s best goals. Seamus Callanan crackers. Goal after goal to the customary progressive house soundtrack.
And there has been a practical side-effect to this immersion. When we ventured outside for a few pucks, things initially progressed along traditional lines, over and back, 30 yards apart. Before, without prior warning, he started running at me, soloing, and drilling shots from worryingly close range, a state of affairs I wasn’t entirely ready for, truth be told. But it was important to put my body on the line. For this lad was Tippsy. He was drunk on goals. Like all of us really.
Ever since Babs took over the first time, and asked backs to put a name and address and message on every ball, Tipp have got goals. Forwards, in turn, have straightened their runs, lifted their heads, taken on the extra pass, and gift-wrapped presents for one another. Perhaps we were first beguiled by RTÉ’s Mike Dunne and his iconic, nasal ‘ohhhh, what a goallll!’.
Through Nicky and Fox and Kelly and Lar and Seamie and Bubbles and John McGrath, finishers in blue and gold have improvised and chanced their arms and gone for broke. From Nicky’s sidefoot to Kelly’s rasper into Dónal Óg’s rigging to Bubbles’ sliderule bouncer against Galway, we have served a chef’s plate of delights.
In the eighties, Nicky’s ‘Maradona goal’ sparked a million unsuccessful emulators and a dangerous epidemic of dropping the hurley in under-12 arenas. Nowadays, Seamie is a record-breaker gripped by his own addiction. And every goal is branded ‘guaranteed Tipp’, embossed with the authentic stamp of Eamon O’Shea.
It is perhaps our truest form of self-expression, this refusal to take ‘the sensible option’. It is an investment in ourselves by a people starved of outside investment. It is our one flirtation with sophistication.
And of course it can jar with our natural shyness and reticence. Our reluctance to draw attention to ourselves. To be acting the great fella. So this exuberance involved in goalscoring can sit uneasily with some traditionalists. In Nicky’s book Beyond the Tunnel, he mentions running to the crowd after scoring a goal, then recalls the great Mick Roche calling to his father’s shop soon after to issue a reminder that Tipp players shouldn’t be ‘seen to do that sort of thing’.
God knows what Mick made of Joe Hayes ‘tumbling the wildcat’ after netting against Limerick — Clonoulty’s answer to Hugo Sanchez. If Hugo Sanchez had suffered with arthritis. Nicky also realised early that this way of life wasn’t building any bridges with the neighbours.
When I think back on that Waterford game we really rubbed it into them. Goals were flying in almost for fun and we started playing flashy, arrogant hurling. If you were on the wrong end of it you could see why people hated us.
Just as with all addictions, sometimes things get messy. Against Laois this year, when the extra passes weren’t going to hand, it started to look a bit self-indulgent. A bit unnecessary.
And in the semi-final, Sean Cleere seemed hell-bent on curing Tipp of their compulsion once and for all, by disallowing as many goals as he could. Yet Tipp were only ever honouring the age-old regard for goals.
In an old Scene magazine interview, reproduced in Val Dorgan’s biography of Christy Ring, who regarded going for goal as the only sensible option, and point-scoring a cowardly opt out, the Cork legend argued: “Make it a game of goals only. Too many points are picked up from what should be non-scoring long distance positions.”
And if we may venture briefly into Corkness, Patrick Horgan has now got in touch with his inner Ringy to end a Rebel goalscoring vacuum that extends back to the days of John Fitzgibbon, Tomás Mul and co. As for tomorrow, Kilkenny share Tipp’s regard for the goal.
Shefflin always straightened his run. Brennan and Comerford and Power eschewed the sensible option. Tomorrow, TJ will invest in himself, and Colin Federer will be ready to serve an ace.
Yet, somehow they just don’t seem as beguiled by it, at least not as much as they are with fronting up, and getting in your face, and all the other things Jackie Tyrrell likes to talk about. They are less Tippsy, more sober.
Perhaps there is a wormhole on YouTube devoted to compilations of genuineness.