If you read the Eamonn Fitzmaurice interview in these pages last week, you enjoyed a terrific insight into what it means to stand on a sideline with a day-glo BAINISTEOIR bib on your back.
Fitzmaurice sketched out the challenges that face the modern inter-county manager, with a heavy emphasis on that word in its various declensions: we associate the concept of game management with another Irish Examiner columnist — chap who played a bit of rugby, good kicker — but Fitzmaurice commented on the motivation behind substitutions late in the game, for instance.
The Kerryman pointed out that as a general rule if you’re bringing on defenders then it’s not a great sign, as it suggests you’re trying to shore up your rearguard rather than going for the jugular up front.
I mentioned this in passing to another intercounty manager during the week: when the word ‘substitutions’ was aired he threw another couple of elements into the mix.
“It’s gas,” he said, “because obviously if you throw on the man who gets the winning score you’re a genius. Fair enough.
“But you have the danger of changing for the sake of it as well. If there’s only ten minutes left and a fella’s been in trouble with his man a couple of times, is there a point in bringing him off?
“You send another fella on and it takes him a couple of minutes to get to the pace of the game, and the game could be lost in that time.
“On top of all of that, then, you often have what I call a crazy period in a game, maybe late on when the game gets loose and fellas are just struggling a bit, and some one of your players will pop up somewhere and you’re scratching your head thinking, ‘where did he come from’?
“Then he pops the ball over the bar or makes a great block and everyone is looking at you on the sideline saying, ‘God, that was a great move in fairness’. And sure you just nod a bit as if you’re saying to yourself, ‘yeah, that worked out exactly as I thought it would . . .’”
That’s another element entirely, of course, and probably explains why most managers remain sphinx-like on the sideline.
Atul Gawande, the doctor who writes brilliant feature pieces for the New Yorker as a sideline, revealed once the secret mantra of the surgeon.
Sometimes wrong; never in doubt.
He might have been referring to the men who walk the sidelines in the high summer.
I’m dreading the stories to follow Galvin’s retirement
My surprise at the news of Paul Galvin’s retirement on Saturday night came seasoned with a little dread.
Why? You must brace yourself for a slew of pieces appraising Galvin’s ability to win loose ball around the middle of the field, to pop up with the occasional point, to link defence and attack . . . but most of them huffing and puffing their way past Galvin’s clothes, facial hair and tattoos first, and fretting (needlessly) that you, the reader, was totally distracted by those side issues, away from a responsible evaluation of the footballer.
I won’t insult you like that. There’s too much respect between us.
The surprise I referred to above, though, relates to my own: I saw Galvin’s last official turn in a Kerry jersey at the McGrath Cup final a couple of weeks ago.
It was a low-key farewell performance: his introduction as a substitute drew a few half-hearted jeers from locals in the crowd that day in Mallow, but that was the height of the excitement.
You could say the same of any player more associated with the hard ground in Dublin 3 late in the summer, of course, but we expect, maybe subliminally, such players to bow out as they walk off the Croke Park field for the last time. Galvin barely touched the ball during his few minutes stationed in the half-back line, and trotted off with the rest, nodding at the media as he slipped into the visitors’ dressing-room, which we now know was his ante-chamber to civilian life.
Keep an eye out for the inevitable phase two of those articles mentioned earlier, too: What’s Next For Paul Galvin? Expect outrageous risks to be taken as pundits hazard guesses at the Kerryman’s likely future before eventually someone will take a bold punt on “something to do with the media”.
We’ll all be able to relax then.
Tougher task than even Joyce’s journey
I was in Dublin the other day — first visit in a while — but it wasn’t the capital in all its glory that caught my (easily distracted) attention as much as the journey up from Cork on the train.
As we came out of the tunnel you have the Glen Field on your right, and Na Piarsaigh all but visible off up to your left. Before you get to Mallow, Clyda Rovers is visible to your left.
Further on, as you roll through Tipperary, for instance, there are plenty of neat grounds visible from the carriage, tidy stands at the main pitch and practice field alongside.
I regret to say I can’t put a name to some of those clubs, though when the train rolls into Thurles there’s obviously no mistaking the floodlights off to your left, those high pylons looking in on the big house.
Could you plot your way across the country without passing a playing field? Joyce dropped that into Ulysses, the challenge of finding your way across Dublin without passing a pub, but that’s in the ha’penny place.
You can’t get from Cork to Mallow without tripping past a pitch, as I found last week.
Garth brings McMemories of Croker flooding back
Nobody asked me, but I suppose there is some class of a sporting tie-in given the venue. Garth Brooks, eh? I remember going to a gig in Croke Park the summer I finished school.
U2, The Alarm, REM, Squeeze. Great night. There was a Beat On The Street the same night in Dublin, and the whole city was rocking when we spilled out of the stadium.
Myself and a mate were staying with a cousin of mine but we didn’t know Dublin that well, and we missed the last bus. Lost.
But we found Grafton Street, which at least was a landmark, and we said we’d have McDonald’s, at least, before we tried to walk to the foothills of the Dublin mountains — only to walk into a Garda baton charge just where Brown Thomas is now. We got our McDonald’s and hung around Stephen’s Green until we got a taxi, which took about four hours (this was before the sector was deregulated, when cabs were so scarce on busy nights like New Year’s Eve that children were roused from their beds to see the mythical creatures rush past).
Anyway, we saw a few celebrities in our travels at least. A TV personality said hello when we saluted him outside the Shelbourne, for instance, but he wasn’t too helpful in our taxi search.
Now we work together and I don’t hold it against him at all. But just to warn you: if it’s late at night and you need transport in the city, then Liam Mackey is not a preferred option.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved