Sometimes it happens at a press conference, sometimes it occurs in a post-game scrum.
Occasionally, the event takes place when a group of reporters are buttonholing somebody at a product launch.
After a particularly stunning answer, one calculated to stupefy a water buffalo, a colleague from another newspaper will lean in and whisper to me: “Why don’t you ask him what he made of Malick’s Tree of Life?”
This signifies a) the hopelessness of the event we are attending and b) a lament for the shortage of interesting sportsmen.
Correction: interesting sportsmen who are happy to reveal themselves as such.
That’s a far narrower demographic, and goes to explain, in some way, my obsession with talking to Liam Rushe of Dublin.
You know him — fine player, big lad with a white helmet, plays anywhere from centre-back up, got the equalising goal against Tipperary with the last puck of the game in Croke Park this season.
He’s known to your columnist, however, as the man who not only nominates Pan’s Labyrinth as his favourite movie, but has gone on the record to say as much, demolishing the GAA player’s Masonic agreement to select The Shawshank Redemption when asked that question.
Sometimes it seems that there’d be no player grants handed out if hurlers and footballers didn’t choose that movie as their all-time favourite.
Which shows a remarkable appetite for a) cell-block lighting and b) the touching love of Andy and Red as they try to build their dream home (you don’t get that out of the movie? Come on!)
Anyway, a phone call to Liam Rushe. A gentle introduction and a few ice-breakers about the lads who are out injured at the moment before, you know, the movie...
“Do you not rate it? That’s a fantastic film,” says Rushe.
“I liked it a lot, particularly the twist at the end. The fantasy parts were fantastic.”
My extensive research has uncovered the fact that Pan’s Labyrinth was directed by Guillermo del Toro. He has also directed the Hellboy movies, one of which I saw: the demon with the hammer-type hand appealed to me, but Rushe is sceptical: “I don’t know, I thought those were weak enough. Not as good as Pan’s Labyrinth. The setting was good, the action, there was a bit of a political story to it too, with the Spanish Civil War background to it. Very good all round.”
By the way, if you haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, here is a brief synopsis: set in the 40s, it features Ofelia, a little girl who’s the stepdaughter of a brutal Spanish army officer, who escapes into a fantasy world where she meets a faun-like creature as she tries to complete three magic tasks (don’t even ask me about The Pale Man and what he gets up to).
You are aware, Liam, that Mr del Toro was left go from the forthcoming Hobbit movies?
“He’d have been too dark to make those movies,” says Rushe. “They’d have been too soft for him — hobbits and elves and that. I saw another one recently that I liked, by the way. Coriolanus, the Shakespeare adaptation. Class. Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler. You’ll have to watch that.”
Before I do, however... I suppose one of my real reasons for asking Rushe about his arthouse tendency is the reality of top-flight competition.
John Allen remarked recently that at senior inter-county level there are plenty of players who are well able to wear down opponents psychologically before the ball is even thrown in. Confessing your interest in a challenging, left-of-centre film might be a handy icebreaker among your pals on a quiet evening in the pub, but isn’t it, well, manna from heaven for a wing-back with a satanic interest in distracting you from your game?
“Ah, I’m big enough to defend myself,” says Rushe, a Centra GAA ambassador. “Something like that wouldn’t affect me. I wouldn’t be saying something controversial, generally.
“In fairness to The Shawshank Redemption, I’d say a lot of the time when lads are asked they have a couple suggested to them to help them along. The time I was asked I had a think about it, and Pan’s Labyrinth was the one I liked. It doesn’t bother me if lads pick up on it. We can chat about the film during the match if they like.”
That’s Liam Rushe. If only there were a few more like him. My only regret is I didn’t actually ask him what he thought of Tree of Life. He might have been able to answer.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: MikeMoynihanEx
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