The summer is cranking into full gear, though the weather isn’t exactly playing along — a shame that the rain washed out that first Test cricket game in Dublin over the weekend, of which more elsewhere.
Summer also means GAA’s inter-county season cranks up. This means a million conversations have their starting point for the next couple of months, but it also means the GAA columnist faces the inevitable rise and fall of his natural rhythms. Preoccupations! Theories! Unlikely references?
A brief timeline.
May: the summer opens like a magnificent weeping wound and the columnist is full of hope.
And equivocation. The prospect of a bolter from the pack bursting to an All-Ireland title, however remote, stains the columnist’s predictions for the season. With an effort he prevaricates, but eventually succumbs to the inevitable. He says you write Kilkenny off at your peril. He adds that Dublin remain in pole position.
If he’s blindsided by a wedding or one of the kids’ summer camps, meaning he loses an entire day’s work, then he may have to go to his emergency stash and pull out one of his hardy annuals. Yes, he may even ask if this is Mayo’s year.
But he doesn’t respect himself afterwards.
Unlikely literary reference: Joyce, with his “sufficient to the day is the newspaper thereof”.
Also those cricketers in the Mardyke.
June: the games come thick and fast, which mean only one thing to the columnist.
This is the haemoglobin in the columnist’s blood supply, the protein carrying all the oxygen of content to the . . . (wipes forehead). Controversy is the driving force, because people are interested but invariably the fuss, whatever it is, recedes as matches overtake it. Suggesting five years’ hard labour or a public tarring-and-feathering is all part of the fun and games, and forgotten in seconds.
June is the high-water mark for the columnist, full of choleric managers and unjust red cards, the games overtaking each other and the sheer multiplicity of incidents give him the freedom to decide what is important, what isn’t and, on one of those interminable drives home, what the difference is between them.
This is his apotheosis, when the balance is just about being maintained between horrific tackles, hilarious errors, and stock shots of red-eyed young lads leaving dressing rooms in a hurry. It can’t last.
Unlikely literary reference: “...taking up whatever the world had abandoned by the road and making something beautiful out of it.” Jonathan Franzen’s essays.
July: the provincial finals early in the month catch the columnist on the downward slopes. On the one hand the number of games s reducing, helping him to focus in on a handful of real competitors, likely prospects for the big, big show.
On the other he’s losing heart. Faking outrage and anger takes strength and commitment, and if you do it often enough, you find there’s a finite source for both.
A little like Kanye and his “dragon energy” theory.
Actually, forget that last bit.
Unlikely literary reference: Joan Didion: “Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.”
August: the All-Ireland final. Anger about September being forsaken is leavened with acceptance, particularly at the prospect of a month without having to shlep all the way to Dublin, which tips the scales in favour of acceptance.
Still, for much of the month there’s a touch of George in The Madness of King George about our man (“I shall strike a note of reconciliation. Love.” Pause. “That’s the keynote.”)
Unlikely literary references: see above.
September: as of this year, almost barren of inter-county activity, which leaves the columnist stricken. On the one hand his January paeans to the club as the heart of the Association are now about to become reality.
On the other hand the county games are gone, and deep down he feels the lack.
The club games offer easier access, friendlier faces and the occasional oddity, like a Compromise Rules game.
But in his heart of hearts the columnist yearns for May, when the season is kickstarted once again...
Unlikely literary reference: “I only am escaped alone to tell thee”, Herman Melville’s sign-off.
Sports Surgery Clinic leads the way once more
Interesting to see during the week that a Cork start-up has gone into partnership with the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry.
KM Medical develops software solutions to improve medical efficiency and has now come up with an electronic referrals system which “automatically generates referral letters with minimal input from consultants,” according to KM Medical CEO Andy O’Donoghue, who was speaking to Silicon Republic.
“What usually took a consultant 10 to 20 minutes now takes just three to six minutes. There’s a significant cumulative time-saving there for consultants that allows them to spend more time with their patients.”
This is significant for all patients and all consultants, obviously, but it’s particularly good news for sportspeople trying to improve their outcomes, to use the appropriate phrase.
The Sports Surgery Clinic is name-checked in so many player recovery narratives that this augurs well for any athlete picking up a knock in the coming months.
Cricket’s loss, baseball’s gain
I mention the cricket (left) and, as noted, it’s unfortunate the rain interceded on Friday.
It’s an ill wind, if you’ll pardon the cliche, as one of your columnist’s contacts was due to attend but owing to the weather he had to adjourn for lengthy research to Gibney’s of Malahide, which is no-one’s idea of a hardship posting.
If the Test had been on another Friday I’d have happily gone, because there’s something about the rhythm and languor of cricket that appeals to someone who’s usually trying to tot up the scorers in a frenzied 3-21 to 4-18 encounter, but I note that just as Ireland is discovering the joys of the English game the English themselves may be abandoning it.
I refer here to reports last week of a Major League Baseball game to be played across the water next season — and not just any old game, but the Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees, as spiky a rivalry as one could imagine.
(Footnote: having called for Croke Park to be opened for an American football franchise last week, I don’t want to be seen as influencing events unduly, but make up your own mind. )
Wailing about the state of cricket in England seems to be a hardy annual for harassed columnists (coughs) but importing a broadly similar professional game with billions of dollars in marketing power behind it doesn’t seem the way to revive the sport.
Still, as the last staff member to cover a baseball game, if nominated I will of course do my best with Sox-Yanks when it comes to pass.
Twists and turns aplenty in ‘Chasing Hillary’
I referred to Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary here a couple of weeks ago and am now almost finished the New York Times reporter’s account of two campaigns covering Hillary Clinton.
Picking my jaw up off the floor at some of the infighting and backstabbing — and that’s just at the writer’s paper, ho ho — it was interesting to note that Chozick is married to a lad from Trim.
Which made me think that when she was telling him, for instance, that the Clinton campaign may have had $20 million unspent at the end of the 2016 campaign, there was a thick northeast accent saying, “Hi, that would never happen in a Meath West by-election...”
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