Oh dear. As if the defeats and general gloom surrounding Munster Rugby in recent weeks wasn’t bad enough, I see the dreaded call for ‘root and branch’ reform and review has now been issued, to general nodding of heads.
This call is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Literally.
Tennessee Williams habitually subtracted from his real age the seven years he spent working in a shoe factory, on the grounds that those years didn’t count as part of his real life. While your columnist doesn’t see his time in the cockpit of democracy — Dáil Eireann — in the same light, some of the experiences of those years would be better off … not experienced.
The roaring and screaming for ‘root and branch’ reform of everything, from the Dáil itself to the health service, the drain widths in Mayo to the ‘situation’ with regard to ‘flooding’, though — that failsafe tactic of the unimaginative certainly belongs in the Williams Shoe Factory Zone.
I say this because root and branch always means anything but. For this situation a root and branch examination would take into consideration every aspect of the organisation, but how likely is that? How likely, for instance, is the prospect of Munster Rugby reversing out of a mistaken decision to locate in Limerick? A smaller city than Cork and less convenient for many areas of the province to reach, no airport within the county for outside access ...... the charge card on this decision goes on and on. Ronan O’Gara last Friday referred to this situation in these pages.
Moving the franchise to the western fringes of the catchment area is more than physical relocation; it reinforces a sense of the team being peripheral to most of the population in the most populous counties to the eastern side of the country. Moreover, it occurs at precisely that moment when supporter numbers are under threat.
The most obvious retort to this is the lack of a European championship level venue on Leeside. As far as this observer is aware, a major sports venue redevelopment project is underway on the banks of the Lee even as we speak, one which has already overrun its original costs. Would it be outside the realm of the realistic for Munster Rugby to sit down with the Cork County Board — and central government — to hammer out some kind of deal for the benefit of all concerned, given the way the seasons generally suit each other in the calendar? While I am sure there are readers who will take the Lord Astor-Mandy Rice-Davies approach to my comments, pointing out my provenance (Cork) and proclivities (see previous parenthesis). To them I offer one word. Wrong. A lot of the white noise about Munster’s recent travails has centred on the economic imbalance between the province and English and French rugby clubs, which operate in a bigger media market, with some also enjoying the financial backing of wealthy individuals.
There have also been a couple of vague references to the outside help Leinster have received from similarly wealthy individuals in re-acquiring Jonathan Sexton, for instance, but for some mysterious reason no-one seems minded to go into detail about that. Odd.
It seems utterly counter-productive, then, that in an increasingly competitive environment one would seek to limit a business’s earning power by relocating to a smaller market, but that is what Munster Rugby is doing.
Some observers are giving a first-class lesson in doublethink, wherein the economic advantages of English and French clubs are used as an excuse, but hard economic facts at home are blithely ignored. To this observer it looks as though the calls for root and branch review are as shallow as those to be heard in Leinster House.
One of Tennessee Wiliams’s greatest lines came from a heroine who said she’d always relied on the kindness of strangers; maybe Munster should be more cognisant of the kindness of its friends.
It’s been a tough week for the eternal verities. Whether it’s a divorce announcement for Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, or a pink football dominating the internet, what is true anymore, and what is imaginary?
If you have too much to do in the dimension of reality to lose hours to speculating about Ladyball, allow me to do the speculating for you.
The Ladyball — I want to say controversy but have too much respect for the English language — situation diverted us for a couple of days.
It was a spoof. It was clever marketing, if such a fantastical chimera exists. No, it was a spoof again. No, it was real, and pushing ladies football.
I accept that there is somewhere a group of people enjoying this immensely, but in fairness to those of us who are using social media in a responsible, fair-minded and honest way, you are tarring us all with the same brush.
If you can’t trust what someone dashes off in the time it takes to poke out 140 characters as you would the word of God, then what is there left to believe in?
Or am I being ironic?
Yesterday I dreamed I went to Mallow GAA club again, with apologies to Daphne Du Maurier.
It’s funny how a venue can figure so largely in your calendar with a run of games: Covering Cork games in the Munster senior hurling league means the car is now making its own way through Blackpool, past Blarney and Grenagh and on to Carrigoon.
At this point I am on first name terms with the man directing the traffic, the chap who puts out the cones and the lad who — every time he sees me — directs me towards the Munster GAA van to buy my ticket.
The reason I raise all this is because while Mallow clearly have facilities to hand which would be the envy of many a county board, the courtesy and professionalism of the men and women hosting games in the last few weeks should be a model for event managers all over the country.
Even if you’re not a big American Football fan you’ve probably seen the famous photograph of Dwight Clark of the San Francisco 49ers fielding the ball for the winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in 1982.
The photo was taken by famous Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss Jr. I was reading an interview with Iooss over the weekend — he revealed that he had two cameras around his neck and as the play developed he dropped one in favour of the other to get the shot.
I don’t know what was more surprising — that he had the nous to do that in such a big game, or the casual revelation in the same piece that Iooss is the last photographer under contract to Sports Illustrated. Changed times.
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