LARRY RYAN: Observe Wayne for real skin in the game

Wayne Rooney

It was the week of the trojan horse. And what crept out in the dead of Wednesday night might have changed everything.

For a caper that enthrals so many, it is curious that there are so few conversational narratives around Gaelic games. Maybe you could even boil it down to three.

The urgent need to restructure every single competition the GAA organises is, of course, a matter that is with us today, yesterday and always.

There is also the even more pressing imperative to sort out Gaelic football, once and for all.

And then there are The Sacrifices. Also referred to as The Demands.

For a long time, when right-thinking people have reflected on their blessings — perhaps their family, friends and health — they invariably spare a moment to acknowledge their greatest good fortune; that they never made the county.

That they were spared the hardship.

This week, just like every other week, it was decided that The Sacrifices and The Demands are greater than ever.

At least that was how they sold us Skin In The Game; the RTÉ Two documentary that followed around Lar Corbett, Mikey Carton, Eoin Cadogan and Anna Geary during the summer.

If SITG did indeed set out to highlight The Sacrifices and The Demands, it has to be said that it didn’t do a great job.

But surely something very different actually happened. Surely Jacqui Hurley, who presented and produced the show, went to her bosses and asked them for a few quid to film GAA stars going about their daily business?

And RTÉ asked Jacqui why? And Jacqui, maybe panicking a little, muttered a few words she knew they’d understand; The Sacrifices and The Demands.

And with those boxes ticked, and the funds released, Jacqui made the controversial exposé she’d always planned; she showed us Young People Enjoying Life.

So we saw Lar forge ahead with his impressive efforts to single-handedly turn around the Thurles economy. We watched Cads eating healthily and going for a swim on a nice day. We got a feel for Mikey’s sensible work-life balance and, along with many visitors to YouTube, we watched Anna do Bikram yoga.

They all got to play a bit of sport too, in front of big crowds roaring them on.

It nearly, God forbid, looked glamorous.

And as we heard how Lar’s mammy washed and organised his gear for him, Lar might, inadvertently, have given us a motto that perfectly encapsulates the complicated relationship between effort and reward and between the GAA and its players.

“It’s a system that works well for both of us.”

And with that much acknowledged, you wonder can anything be the same again.

For true insight into hardship and sacrifice, we had to look across the water this week. The glory days of genuine insight might have passed over there, now they have had to go easy on the phone hacking, but there’s still the odd morsel to be squeezed out of old pipelines.

Notably, as the hacking trial at the Old Bailey revealed; Wayne Rooney’s old mobile phone password.

Like many people who opt for a partner’s name, or a football team, or the make of their first car, The Roon also appears to have chosen a great love. He went for ‘Stella Artois’.

If we can dismiss, for a moment, the possibility that Wazza’s chief fascination away from football is pre-Wimbledon warm-up tennis, we might consider this another chapter in what may well be football’s greatest untold love story.

The love between The Roon and what he likes to call ‘the bevvies’.

Now, there is no suggestion at all that this is an unhealthy, addictive relationship. As we saw last Sunday, when Wazza is motivated enough to run around, he can run around more than anyone. This is not a sign of a man who has lost his grip on this illicit romance.

No, the vibe here is of tender wistfulness for a love lost.

We were first touched by this sorrow in a Sky game a few years ago, when Wazza was injured and stationed in an Old Trafford executive box. A pint soon appeared in front of him which The Roon, craftily, decanted into a smaller glass, possibly to evade detection. Then, just as he was about to slug gustily, something told him the camera lens loomed. He slumped. Drinkus interruptus.

His autobiography holds similar vignettes. The holiday romances. “The scales in the club gym tell me I’ve put on a few more pounds than expected. Seven. Seven! Then I remember: I drank a few bevvies while I was away.”

The fleeting romantic getaways. Settling down to a few beers after the Champions League win in 2008, when Fergie gets up, talking about next year.

“I look around at the lads and I can tell everyone’s thinking the same thing. Doesn’t he ever switch off?”

But the Roon must plug on too, his great love scorned. The sacrifices and the demands.

Maybe it is why Lar, Mikey, Eoin and Anna seem a bit happier than The Roon.

They have to go handy on the Stella too, but at least they can make their own decisions, clear-headed, without the ugly lure of two hundred grand on the line each week.

It’s Rooney who truly has skin in the game. And where is the sympathy?

Jose decides to keep it real

Jose Mourinho also gave up on the love this week and it was almost a relief to see the mask whipped off and the old Jose return.

So far this season the mask had slipped only once, when he met Pep again in Prague and lost the head.

It may have been Chris Kamara who finally broke him. We saw the last of the new Jose around 2pm last Saturday, the Jose who came back to be loved.

The final leg on The Love Tour took him to see Kammy somewhere in the corridors of Stamford Bridge.

And Kammy wanted banter about Tiss and Merse and Thommo, and Jose tried, he really tried, to pretend he knew or cared about these people.

But he looked tired and a little dishevelled in the great wattage of Kammy’s boundless energy. And maybe like a man who was recalculating the value of love.

So it was no great surprise to hear, a couple of hours later, that he was in the heart of the melee, pointing the finger and calling lads Mickey Mouse.

And when he came out to face the cameras and told us, with a straight face, that it was a stonewall penalty, we knew that love was the furthest thing from his mind.

Then he was on to the press conference to criticise the fans and bridges were burning everywhere.

With love sidelined, Chelsea could be dangerous now.

HEROES & VILLAINS

Stairway To Heaven

Keano:
For the line of the week: “I could be the friendly uncle if things go well — if we are winning. Listen, you all have an uncle you don’t really like, don’t you?”

Allen Bula: The Gilbraltar coach sounds like Keano’s kind of guy. The Rock — with just 1,400 footballers — will play its first full international against Slovakia on Tuesday.

But bullish Bula isn’t here to make up the numbers. “Let’s get one thing crystal clear, I took on the Gibraltar job to qualify for France 2016. Not just compete in Europe.”

Sachin Tendulkar: He had a good innings, possibly the best innings.

Hell in a Handcart

Paolo Di Canio: Still in the running for Charlatan’s Charlatan of the Year. “I was too good, my level was too high.”


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