MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: How colours of home still gladden the heart

Almost Christmas. Deck the halls.

I’d love to say I had a Yuletide story to warm your cockles this morning, but I haven’t got anything that fits the bill precisely.

Still, there’s a good week and a half to go; maybe something will turn up, he said Dickensianly.

Try this in the meantime, though.

During the week I met up with Cork hurling star Tom Kenny, who outlined his intention to retire from the intercounty game, though he stressed his ongoing commitment to his club, Grenagh.

This reminded me of something that happened almost 10 years ago when I was in the office one Sunday evening at just around this time of year.

Because Tom had been on the Cork hurling team which won the 2004 All-Ireland hurling title, competitions had also been deferred and postponed that year, and Grenagh ended up taking on fellow Muskerry club Aghabullogue in a much-delayed Mid-Cork final.

Yours truly wasn’t at that game, but on the desk, and late in the evening the phone rang. The man on the other end of the line was elderly, and the connection wasn’t too good, but he got his point across.

He played for Grenagh in 1958 and was hoping for good news in that day’s junior final; he lived in America and had done so for many years, and he wasn’t a great man for the internet, so he’d decided to ring, did I happen to know...

Unfortunately the news wasn’t good for him: Aghabullogue had won the game by a single point, 1-4 to 0-6, the kind of margin and scoreline that you expect from a football game in mid-December.

“Ah well,” said the chap in America. Hang on, I said.

At the time I had a brother living in Grenagh and I didn’t doubt he’d be having a pint with the locals as they dissected their defeat.

I asked the man from 1958 to hang up and ring me back in 10 minutes; when he put the phone down I contacted my brother for the phone number of the bar where the game was being autopsied; and when the office phone rang again I relayed the number of the hostelry to the man from 1958 and wished him all the best. Sometimes I think of him as maybe a retiree in Florida, looking out over calm water as he listened to the sounds of a raucous pub an ocean and half a lifetime away. Neighbours being called to the phone.

Matches being replayed. The sun bright in another country as he talked to old friends about a blue and gold jersey.

‘Tis NFL season for giving

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the apparent revival in interest in the NFL that had come to my attention on Twitter and elsewhere, the exchange of opinions and information among Irish-based fans about the American football season currently raging across the water.

In the course of that piece I referred to the NFL fans of my generation, those who succumbed to Ditka’s Bears and Montana’s 49ers, the Redskins and so on.

Inevitably I had some of those gentlemen on the line to me these last few days, with one of them — the Washington fan, as it happens — admitting that even as he wastexting me he was in a Redskins hoodie and watching John Riggins: A Life In Football.

I’ve found myself drifting back to the NFL on Setanta because they do a Match of the Day-style wrap of the week’s action, though the music is less catchy and memorable and more suited to the approach of Zeus towards an unsuspecting swan.

Maybe it’s a sign of advancing age, or decreasing interest, but I have a particular fascination with the coverage I can’t quite get past. The array of cold-weather gear being sported on the sideline reaches its apogee, for me, in the team bobble caps.

Every club seems to have a snazzy line in woolly headgear, strikingly coloured and smartly coordinated, whether it’s the Eagles or the Raiders or any franchise in between. I find that the most riveting exchange of touchdowns or outrageous celebration is not as fascinating, to me, as those woolly hats.

Now, I don’t want anyone to consider this a naked plea for a free woolly hat (Glad you cleared that up — sportswear retailers of Ireland). But it is the season of giving. If anyone knows where I can track down one of those, let me know at michael.moynihan@examiner.ie or @MikeMoynihanEx.

I feel I’m being pretty subtle here, in all honesty. I haven’t even mentioned how groovy those New York Rangers ice hockey hoodies were on Inside The NHL. Mentioning that would be completely over the top.

There’s always next year.

The games always come first

And so, the weekend before last, to Dingle.

I dropped subtle hints about this recently, discreet indicators such as “I will be in Dingle” speckled about my column, and I had a very enjoyable day or two on the west coast.

After a very enjoyable public interview about GAAconomics with Jim Carroll — though I had to disagree with his suggestion that I am somehow averse to hipsters, why some of my best friends etc etc — a couple of people came up and chatted.

It was interesting that one chap, who specialises in marketing, pointed out that while the GAA as a whole is a well-oiled commercial machine, at a county level the organisation remains slow when it comes to reaching its full potential.

I was reminded of this when I saw the Arctic freeze developing between the Donegal County Board and its local media, a cold front which turned rightly polar with the board deciding it could impose retrospective in camera conditions on meetings, a situation local journalists felt was unworkable.

Before you start flinging accusations of “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he” about, I merely point out that usually at these shindigs there’s a pro forma nod from officialdom to local media for promoting the games; yet here we have a situation where a county board is making it impossible for the games to be promoted.

I hope the good officials of Tyrconnell are not looking to emulate Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United, who’s seeking to charge reporters for the privilege of transcribing the bon mots of his players.

If they overdo the in camera nonsense, an Ashley-type charge could end up with the Donegal County Board in debt to those self-same reporters.

Big gap in the market

I note the kerfuffle over the Keane-Vieira documentary during the week, and for once it was deserved. Roy brought along a sack of one-liners Oscar Wilde would have been delighted with, and Vieira looked well in his suit. There have been quite a few suggestions for new Best of Enemies shows in an Irish sporting context, with the usual suspects popping up. I’m surprised a budding entrepreneur hasn’t approached a couple of the likely targets to take their evening of (ersatz) enmity on the road for a lucrative tour as the Christmas approaches.

Come to think of it, if anyone wants a canny road manager for same, you know where to find me.


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