In 2008, Paul the Octopus was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, before being moved to a tank at Oberhausen, in Germany.
Then, some genius decided Paul was a genius. The European Soccer Championships were on in Austria-Switzerland and Paul’s keepers tasked him with predicting the outcomes of matches in which Germany were playing.
During divinations, Paul’s keepers would present him with two boxes containing food. The boxes were identical, except that each was decorated with the flag of one of the teams for the upcoming match. Whichever box Paul ate from first was considered his prediction for which team would win.
Paul correctly chose the winning team in four of Germany’s six Euro 2008 matches, and all seven of their matches in the 2010 World Cup. At that point, Paul had an overall success rate of 85%, nearly as good as Brian Cody’s. The predictions were so accurate that Paul gained worldwide attention as an animal oracle.
It was the continuation of a psychic animal craze: Nelly the elephant; Flopsy the kangaroo; Shaheen the camel; Madame Shiva the guinea pig. Before the 2014 World Cup, in Brazil, ‘Big Head’, a 25-year-old male sea turtle at the Praia do Forte turtle sanctuary, gave it a shot.
‘Big Head’ was predicting World Cup winners by eating a fish hanging from one of the flags of two rival teams.
The loggerhead turtle could also predict a draw, by eating the fish attached to a ball. ‘Big Head’s’ strike rate, though, wasn’t as good as Paul the Octopus’s.
Baby pandas were also enlisted to make predictions during the World Cup, but Chinese officials changed their minds, amid concerns that the increased media attention would harm the health and safety of the endangered bears.
Still, it didn’t stop other animal oracles around the same time, which included prophesying penguins in England, and psychic parrots in Brazil.
Those stories got me thinking, this week. ‘I wonder, could I train an auld greyhound to predict who’s going to win a game in this hurling league’?’
With the way results have gone recently, you’d be better off trusting a kangaroo than your own instincts. There has been zero pattern to anything.
Tipp annihilated Dublin, who then wiped Cork. A week after being blitzed by Cork, Clare hammered Kilkenny. This league would make a liar out of Paul the Octopus and a gang of his oracle buddies.
Tipperary and Wexford have been ultra-consistent. Waterford have been solid. Every other team has been up and down like a yo-yo.
So much of it is down to psychology, but everyone needs to be really tuning in, from now on, because I always felt that round three was a game-breaking weekend.
For teams with one win in the bag, another defeat in round three really piles on the pressure. With two games still to go, a third defeat in your fourth games probably has you goosed, with one still to play. Apologies for all the animal analogies.
Yet, if you win this game, and you have four points with two matches still to play, you’re in a great place next week. Lads are confident. Everyone is buzzing again at training. And your sights have immediately moved from the threat of relegation to a quarter-final spot. The pressure that alleviates alone is huge.
Every team in Division 1A, bar Tipperary, is scrambling for those points this weekend, especially Kilkenny.
Yet, in a funny way, Tipp might be the most vulnerable team to a mental slippage.
Michael Ryan seems to have guarded against that insidious complacency, which derailed Tipp so often in the past, but tomorrow, in Thurles, will confirm whether Mick has moved a step closer to eradicating all those old mental failings.
Tipp have already been forewarned, after Clare’s victory against Kilkenny. They will also want to lay down a marker, in case they run into Clare again, in a Munster final, in July.
Everywhere you look, though, teams have motivation. Can the Dubs back up, this evening, what they did in Páirc Uí Rinn two weeks ago?
Waterford’s sightline may be different, but they’ll still be trying to win a game in Croke Park under Derek McGrath for the first time.
Waterford need to keep building those little blocks. I was there for the Tipp match and you could feel the energy drain from the crowd when the team was announced and big names were missing.
‘Brick’ Walsh and Jamie Barron were monumental losses, but Derek will be keen to get the show back on the road this evening.
The most impressive aspect of Dublin’s win against Cork was how they married savage workrate with the blending together of so many new and young players.
Outside of Liam Rushe and Eoghan O’Donnell, three of Dublin’s best five performers were Eoghan Conroy, Rian McBride, and Caolan Conway.
That will have done the world for their confidence, but it’s a huge ask for all those young players to back it up against a more seasoned set of boyos.
I expect Dublin to perform, but I fancy Waterford to win.
Two nights after that Cork-Dublin game, I was down in Mallow with the UL Freshers, for a game against UCC.
Some of the Cork supporters weren’t happy with my comments about the team.
“Jez, boy, you did us no favours there, boy.”
“I could only comment on what I was watching lads,” I said. I couldn’t very well say Cork were racing like derby winners at Epsom, when, in all honesty, it was more like watching novice chasers go around Fontwell Park. More apologies for the animal analogies.
I was as disappointed with Cork as anyone, because I expected more, after their Clare performance.
Tomorrow is a massive opportunity for Cork to show they can kick on again, but you can also picture the Kilkenny siege mentality kicking in, too. You can almost hear Cody’s words: “Hi, are these boys going to bate us in our own backyard, when our backs are to the wall?”
Kilkenny are still down bodies. Their back-up isn’t anything like it was, but I still expect Kilkenny to make it into an absolute warzone.
Given how stung the players must be from the Clare game, the hits tomorrow will have an extra sting in their ferocity.
There is every chance they will outmuscle a Cork squad that has so many young players. Kilkenny will bring championship-like intensity.
Will Cork be ready for that? I’d have my doubts.
For me, the box-office game of the weekend is in Thurles, tomorrow. Clare were very lively against Kilkenny.
Their support running was as good as we’ve seen from Clare in years. Aaron Shanagher’s goal summed that up.
Cathal Malone had about two other clear-cut options, before he passed to Shanagher.
The Kilkenny defence was poor, but Tipp won’t be that lax. Ronan Maher has gone to another level.
Paudie Maher is a beast.
Seamus Kennedy was very impressive against Waterford and has turned into an excellent defender.
If Tipp are really up for it, you’d have to fancy them. But will they be a small bit off, with two wins already in the bag?
It’s very hard to call, but it’s hard to call any game in 1A this weekend. I’d nearly give the boys in Oberhausen a call, only poor auld Paul the octopus passed away a few years back.
Maybe training greyhounds is the way to go.
‘Greg the psychic Greyhound’ has a nice ring to it!
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