ADRIAN RUSSELL: Inspiration from political field of dreams

IS there a silver lining in the economic storms at our doorstep? Now that we’re poorer, will we produce better teams?

In Race of a Lifetime — the ripping account of the thrilling 2008 US presidential election — we’re taken inside Barack Obama’s campaign tour bus hours ahead of a potentially game-changing debate with Republican hopeful John McCain.

The scene fizzes with activity. Nervous aides push last-minute notes into the nominee’s hands, Democratic party gurus peek in the door in an attempt to gauge his mood, Blackberry devices buzz in anticipation of the night’s televised action.

Asked how he felt, a visibly-relaxed Obama, sitting back in a baseball cap while watching a basketball game replies: “I’m LeBron, baby.”

The 44th president was, of course, referring to the then-Cleveland Cavaliers star (he’s since switched controversially to Miami Heat) — the paragon of cool and guile.

Obama later took the court and dunked the debate.

Sport inspiring politics — it’s nothing new. And there’s a lot of it around at the moment. While another Ponzi Scheme of consensus is constructed, we’re encouraged daily on the airwaves and in print to ‘pull on the green jersey’. On Wednesday, while inside Leinster House, Brian Cowen was preparing to host talks between his government and the two main opposition parties — the latest tactical move in this soul-destroying economic match — An Taoiseach could’ve taken inspiration from a team not too far from his own desk.

And they were very much wearing the green jersey.

“We were victorious again today,” says Senator Mark Daly from Kenmare, after he answers my call on Wednesday evening, “the Oireachtas won again.”

Just like last year, the parliament fielded a team with plenty of width; politicians from both left and right wing backgrounds, some would argue, laced up the boots in Irishtown Stadium in a lunchtime friendly match between members of the Oireachtas and representatives from a range of embassies based here.

The game was part of an admirable European-wide initiative, aimed at tackling discrimination and racism, which is supported by FIFA and promoted by the FAI.

But though the expenses are good in politics we believe — we’re a few rungs below Premier League-level bling here.

“In the day that was in it with Brian Cowen meeting the other parties for discussions, we came together as a coalition ourselves and performed very well,” says Daly.

“We had (Fianna Fáil TD) Niall Blaney as captain; our colleague in the Greens, Paul Gogarty, played — he’s very fit and plays a lot of football; Deputy Michael D’Arcy of Fine Gael; and Chris Andrews (FF).

“And Gerry Steadman represented the Taoiseach’s office and in fact scored for the Taoiseach’s office,” adds 37-year-old Daly.

Though Cowen comes at these international problems from a GAA background, having played football with his club Clara and, indeed, Offaly in the 1980s, he might take heart in the soccer performance from those he files into the chamber with three mornings a week.

“We togged out because all across Europe today there’s initiatives going on to highlight racism in sport and working positively to stamp it out really. It’s organised by FIFA and we took part last year too and its a very worthwhile initiative,” says Daly.

“There’s certainly lessons to be learned from the experience. We all performed very well together and when you’re representing Ireland — as we are — you take it seriously. Today, we were literally on the same team.”

And for those optimistic Labour supporters amongst you (or indeed pessimistic Fine Gaelers) hoping that there might be scope for a rotating Taoiseach arrangement in the next government there was some solace to be taken in the arrangements in a hard-fought victory for our elected representatives this week.

“We all took turns in goal — because everyone knows that’s boring as hell,” said Daly, before running through the performances of those around him.

“I played in defence. I was playing in a Kerry Barrett Cup final recently at corner-back and I did the same (on Wednesday). But I was in defence mostly and I had a few lads afterwards from the embassies come over pointing at their shins and saying ‘look at that’. So we got stuck in.

“But, of course, I think the Fianna Fáil lads performed the best — though everyone did their bit.

And did Paul Gogarty — a man who forged a reputation in the wider public consciousness with a now-infamous expletive-filled rant at Emmett Stagg in the Dáil — pick up a booking for foul and abusive language?

“No, there was no yellow cards for remonstrating with the referees,” Daly confirms.

Now that’s inspiring. Twitter: @adrianrussell


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