MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Sarah Keane’s appointment a step in the right direction

Sarah Keane

The election of Sarah Keane as Olympic Council of Ireland President last week — not the foregone conclusion one might have thought, despite her qualifications — shone like a light in the darkness of recent developments in sports.

Or sports governance to be exact.

Yours truly, along with several others, was invited via social media — ‘called out’, is the kids term — to describe Keane’s election as ‘Mother of three replaces father of four’, and the person issuing that invitation was Dr Katie Liston of the University of Ulster, so I felt a phone call was in order.

“Aside from the gender aspect, Sarah’s election is a welcome move in terms of reform,” Liston told me.

“We’ve also had a change in the vice-presidency, so clearly there’s an appetite for change among the various sports federations.

“Whether that’s happened by design in terms of gender, I’d doubt — it’s probably more to do with the legacy of what’s happened recently with the OCI — but it’s certainly good to see someone elected to that post on merit.

“In a logical world, for instance, one couldn’t see how someone with Sarah’s qualifications could be overlooked — a qualified solicitor with specific governance experience, in addition to very recent upskilling in sports governance as well.

“It would have been awful if she hadn’t been elected.”

Keane’s comments on her election were also notable for Liston.

“She said she was there to serve, which to me is a significant shift in terms of leadership — that she’s there to serve the organisation, and I think she’ll be able to do that openly and transparently.”

It’s also encouraging to have a woman heading up the nation’s Olympic body, but Liston sounded a note of warning as well: “Clearly there’s a need to think formally about gender balance.

“If we’re serious about cultural change, the only way that can happen is if you live it and practice it every day. The research behind gender quotas is well placed because of that. It doesn’t happen by accident.

“We’ll have very good news stories like Sarah’s but she, and others, will tell you that those are coming because she and other have pushed against the system.

“You can have a situation where women are in high- profile roles and yet be generally under-represented in an organisation or range of organisations. That’s what we have here. Sarah has reached the pinnacle, but that certainly isn’t a reason for us all to pat ourselves on the back and say ‘everything’s okay now’.”

True enough, whether you’re being called out or not.

A bad call on Seó Spóirt

For some reason, the news last week that Seó Spóirt is to cease transmission reminded me of a long-ago conversation between Dr Con Murphy and Christy Ring, when Ring was asked if Cork would make any personnel changes while hunting afourth All-Ireland in a row as 1979 came into view.

‘Con, we’ll stay with what we have until we find better,’ was Ring’s response. The TG4 show did not attract vast viewing figures, but as a show in Irish that was never the point. It offered something that is in short supply in the world of sports: diversity. Diversity of sport and opinion, diversity of outlook and gender. And, of course, diversity of language.

I’ve appeared on TG4 and am familiar with Dara Ó Cinnéide, the host of Seó Spóirt. That doesn’t detract from the standards the show reached, in its studio guests or its access to top performers in the GAA world in particular, a level of access not matched by every outlet. Taking a broader view, it deprives sports fans of a show where discussion wasn’t compressed by time or dictated by agendas. For TG4 itself it raises slightly different questions which Dr Con and Ring addressed back when — should they stay with what they have, or whether they’ll find better.

GAA Podcast: Kilkenny revenge mission another step forward for Waterford

All our sport podcasts can now be found on Soundcloud and iTunes under the PaperTalk banner.

SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES for regular GAA, soccer, rugby shows and more.

Or view our show selection on SOUNDCLOUD

Tom Brady should stick to throwing footballs

Victory always brings them out, or perhaps my immediate circle of acquaintances has always been rammed with New England Patriots fans, all of whom have been . . . vocal enough after their team’s comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons in last week’s Super Bowl.

Try as I might (which isn’t that hard, admittedly) I can’t warm to Bill Belichick, the team’s coach. I certainly can’t warm to the quarterback, Tom Brady. Leaving aside the long-time rumbling in the NFL generally about the Patriots and the rules of the game — Brady served a suspension for their ball-deflating antics — Belichick and Brady’s support for Donald Trump makes them even less pleasant to this writer.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady

Put it this way. If they stood up and said they supported Trump and added ‘and what’s that to you’, fair enough. We all have opinions.

But Brady’s whingeing when people ask him about his support for Trump — when he had a Trump baseball cap in full view in his locker — beats Banagher. This was Bradyon the radio a couple of weeks ago when asked about Trump: “If you know someone, it doesn’t mean that you agree with everything that they say or do. Right? There’s things I don’t believe [in], absolutely. I don’t believe in, you know, there’s a lot of things. Not to denounce anything, it’s just that there’s different things that I feel like, you know… I don’t agree with everything. That’s fine, right?” Absolutely fine, Tom.

You just keep throwing the football, and saying whatever it is you were trying to say there. Leave the rest to grown-ups.

Let me direct you to The House of the Dead

Sometimes a single detail makes you want to get a book. I was dithering over The House of the Dead by Daniel Beer, about the gulags of Russia — particularly given the cold we’ve had the last few days — but when I stumbled across the story of a single woman warder in charge of a prison-house in Siberia containing six convicted female murderers, I gave in. You should too.


With documentary film ‘Fantastic Fungi’ set to take the world by storm, Joe McNamee looks at the fabulous world of mushroomsDocumentary explores the magic of mushrooms

I lead a very busy life — I’m a mature student in college — and I separated from my partner but the separation was my decision. I hate myself when it beckons as it ultimately makes me fatter, it has the reverse effectDear Louise: I had my bulimia under control. But the demon has returned

This year has been particularly difficult and stressful, and I think that’s an even more important reason to make time for your health.Derval O'Rourke: Resistance is far from futile and necessary

Best-selling author Faith Hogan is keeping the faith during the lockdown, thanks to her Moy Valley haven in Ballina, Co Mayo.Shape I'm in: Keeping the Faith during lockdown

More From The Irish Examiner