Lately in the pages of this newspaper, you may have seen a lengthy interview with Jim Nolan, the Waterford playwright.
He has a new play out, Dreamland, currently playing in Waterford and which is due to shift to Dublin and Cork down the line. Because this last weekend past was all-Waterford for yours truly, I remembered having a great chat with Nolan a couple of years ago in the capital of the south-east, when sport in its various forms was being discussed over a tasty sandwich in the Bodega.
Though he pointed out that the pleasure the Waterford hurlers had given their followers in the Gentle County had been a boon on any number of levels to the area, Nolan’s heart was with the garrison game.
However, his sporting pedigree went far beyond the usual pleading of lifelong fealty to a faraway franchise ignorant of his very existence.
The writer had shown his commitment to his local League of Ireland side, Waterford United, in a far more practical way by getting involved as an administrator to help them through a troubled period.
Old enough to remember the glory days of Alfie Hale and so on, Nolan said he and his colleagues at United had hoped to replicate the enjoyment he and his contemporaries got from a successful Blues side for a whole new generation.
Irrespective of their success or failure, it was a striking real-world involvement from an artist, a group of people we tend to see as ethereal and detached most of the time.
But Nolan’s grappling with the hard facts of sports administration in what is often a hard-pressed sector was anything but the work of a dilettante.
It was the confluence of the two passions, soccer and theatre, which led to the highlight of our chat: Nolan could remember tic-tacing with representatives of a Premier League side about the transfer prospects of one of the Waterford United players — Daryl Murphy may have been the man involved, though I can’t be absolutely definite — and negotiations eventually at a delicate stage.
The one complication for Nolan, though, was that he had a meeting to attend while the discussions reached critical mass. A meeting of Aosdana, the group which represents artists and creative people of all stripes, and which would be on anyone’s shortlist of organisations which would be ignorant of the nuts and bolts of a professional footballer’s contract.
The Waterford man had to read his texts surreptitiously and slip out every now and again to move the negotiations on until they were successfully concluded.
“To the best of my knowledge,” Nolan said, “I’m the only man to negotiate a Premiership transfer at a meeting of Aosdana.”
Seamus Heaney was a great man, but I doubt he ever reached those heights.
GAA must take big picture into account
I’ll refrain from any triumphalism about a certain motion that was removed from discussion at the GAA Congress last weekend (“We’re better than that,” — A. Partridge).
It was encouraging to see a little common sense enter the arena, unless that little common sense is lost entirely, of course.
Revisiting issues which have the potential to be troublesome is one thing; making an entire sport a laughing-stock is another.
In a lifetime watching and listening to the GAA I find it hard to remember any subject on which more rubbish was spoken; you’d hope that some of those who put their mouth in gear before their grey matter are scratching their heads this morning and wondering, “What was I thinking?”
It’s not as if there are areas of hurling and football which wouldn’t repay that kind of forensic tomfoolery.
Take the Sigerson Cup, which was won last weekend by UCC. There appears to be a long-running, long-rumbling low-grade controversy about the eligibility of players for that competition which surfaces every now and again at this time of year, in heavily-veiled hints on Twitter and elsewhere.
It defies belief that this cannot be policed properly: in America, with its hundreds of colleges and thousands of athletes, eligibility for participation is rigidly enforced.
In a sports organisation which can devote so much time and energy to a non-issue like Anthony Nash’s penalty-taking technique, surely there’s room to make sure actual rules aren’t breached in one particular competition?
This isn’t a subtle dig at the winners of the competition, by the way: UCC are acknowledged on all sides as adhering to the spirit and the letter of the rules on eligibility.
That’s not a boast every other college can make with a straight face.* Dreamland by Pat Nolan runs in Garter Lane, Waterford, until March 2.
Charmed from Mailer to Flaherty
Those of you who read this column regularly will know I have been battling gamely through the undergrowth of Norman Mailer’s biography for quite some time.
The end is in sight, mind you: in the last few pages, I read the great man broke off with several of his girlfriends on the insistence of his wife (number five. Or is it six? At that stage, does it even matter?)
The thing about a book like this is it keeps nudging you towards other books that you’d like to read, andit’s hard to keep the discipline.
For instance, I discovered Joe Flaherty, who was Mailer’s campaign manager for an ill-fated run at the office of Mayor of New York and a very fine writer himself, and I was weighing up whether or not to get his account of that campaign (slogan: “Throw The Idiots In!”) until I stumbled across an irresistible bauble.
A lazy Google search for reviews of Flaherty’s book turned up a fact glittering like a diamond in a... place you don’t expect to find one. Apparently at one stage in the campaign, the great columnist Jimmy Breslin, who was running alongside Mailer for another city office, decided it would be a good idea to address his constituents at a hurling game in Gaelic Park.
It did not go well.
Breslin retreated under vocal attack from spectators who clearly preferred their contact sport conducted between two sets of goalposts.
As you might imagine, an anecdote like that decided me. Flaherty’s book will soon be dropping through the Moynihan mail slot.
Donal Óg called up for duty on the Russian front
While we were all racking our brains for a handy name for the little furore caused by Neil Francis — Frannogate, Hairdressergate, Anythinggayte — a couple of people raised an obvious point.
Conor Cusack offered a measured response to Francis’s Dick Emery-type views on homosexuality, but a reaction from Conor’s brother, Donal Óg, would also have been expected.
Those following Donal Óg on Twitter, however, would have seen that the former Cork goalkeeper was in Russia, of all places, the week before last.
This column understands the Cloyne man is involved in a TV project which is due to come to our screens later in the year.
We’re assured it should be riveting viewing — for all sorts of reasons.
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