LIAM MACKEY: How I have been living a lie for the last 25 years

Today, I beg the kind indulgence and understanding of my long-suffering readership as I take a first, nervous step into the world of confessional journalism.

It has taken me a long time to work up the courage to do this, to develop the level of comfort within my own skin which permits me to finally and freely admit in public something I have known in my heart of hearts for such a long, lonely time.

The reality, painful to acknowledge but unavoidable any longer, is that I have been living a lie for the last 25 years.

Frankly, it is well past time I acknowledged the truth.

And that truth, my friends, is that my name is Liam and ... I am not a sports journalist.

Needless to say, this is not an admission I was ever going make lightly, especially not in this section of your sunny, soaraway Irish Examiner. And so, before committing anything to print, the first thing I did was to ‘come out’, as it were, to the Commander-in-Chief on the Sports Desk.

To say the least of it, it was not a call I looked forward to making but I need not have worried: the grand old man could hardly have more more supportive.

“You? Not a sports journalist?” he offered with a strange snorting sound. “Why don’t you tell us something new, you ferocious pillock. Aren’t we the ones who have to knock your lame gibberish into shape every day?”

He’s a great one for putting you at your ease like that, the C-I-C, defusing a potentially tense situation with a few well-chosen quips. And then to follow that up with the high-spirited prank of sending me a ‘termination of contract with immediate effect’ notice by registered post. And now he’s pretending not to take my calls. And he’s even put up an ad on-line for my job. What a card, eh?

But there you have it: I am not and never was what you think I am.

How did I get away with it for so long? It’s easier than you think.

Take the rugby, for example. The last time I paid much attention to it, Mike Gibson was weaving wondrous webs in the green, while the Welsh wizards – Barry John, Gareth Edwards, the mighty JPR – were throwing the ball about with gay abandon. (Old timers will fondly remember Gay Abandon, the slightly less well-known Llanelli prop).

Nowadays, as far as I can see, the rugger mainly seems to involve playing a version of pass the parcel, in which you hand the ball to the giant at your shoulder who crashes one yard forward into a no less gigantic opponent who brings him down.

Then, once back on your feet, you do the same thing over and over again until, after a total gain of about 10 yards and several shredded limbs, the referee penalises you for some sort of arcane infringement. At which point the ball is handed to the opposition for a change, whereupon they get the chance to boot it up the pitch and, from there, proceed to do to you what you have been doing to them for, oh, another 15 minutes or so.

Again, apologies if my ignorance is showing here but then, as we have by now established beyond any doubt, I am not and never was a sports journalist. However, I have found that a few handy phrases will go a long way to convincing the gullible of your expert credentials, to which end I have always made sure to liberally stud my rugger copy with ‘guys’, ‘hard yards’, ‘guys’, ‘massive hits’, ‘guys’ and, a personal favourite, ‘steroidal behemoths’.

It’s a similar situation with the dear old gah. Way back in the mists, I would have briefly swooned at the fielding of Mick O’Connell, as he soared like an eagle above all the groundlings.

But then one day I discovered that a lad from faraway Brazil, be the name of Pele, could do all that and much, much more – without using his hands. And so that was that for me and the man from Valentia Island and all his spiritual heirs.

And yet, on foot of my many years masquerading as a sports journalist, there are more than a few who have come to regard me as a font of all wisdom on such topical matters as the suffocating influence of the ‘blanket defence’, something I can only attribute to the fact that I have always made a point of carefully noting and taking down every single thing that Joe Brolly says – and then saying the exact opposite.

I’ve lost count of the number of times in recent weeks where, partly on account of my job and partly because I’m a Dub, I’ve been asked my opinion on the ‘the match’, only to be regarded as some sort of freak or lost soul when I confess to being entirely indifferent to the outcome in Croke Park tomorrow.

So, yes, I may not be a sports journalist but I will happily admit to being a one-trick pony, a football journalist (well, allegedly) whose terminal addiction to the beautiful game means I will be more concerned this weekend about Galway v Pats and Spurs v Liverpool and Villareal v Barcelona.

Even as I take my hat off to all the multi-taskers, I find consolation in the fact that I’ve yet to meet, for example, a self-described music journalist who would claim equal interest, never mind expertise, in opera, death metal and the Mongolian nose-flute. Each to their own, say I. Or as the sage Houlihan once put it: ‘I don’t mind people who don’t get sport; what I mind is people who boast about it’.

Finally, can I stress once again, please, that none of the issues addressed in today’s column have anything whatsoever to do with the admittedly still painful memory of seeing the once heaving attendances at my beloved Milltown drained by widespread defections to ‘Heffo’s Army’ back when I were just a lad.

The one thing I’m not is bitter.

(Up the Kingdom).


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