Who’d be a sports administrator, wonders Michael Moynihan
A brief recap.
Last week Paraic Duffy was recalling some of the headline events from his tenure as GAA director-general, but storm clouds were already gathering about his replacement. Croke Park has already changed the specification for that job after an uproar — well, internet mewling — about a particular requirement for the successful candidate, that of a business degree.
Dropping that requirement and moving the final date for applications back has already set the conspiracy machine into overdrive: why the change? Who does that help? Who does that confound? It’s an unusual misstep by Croke Park in that it encourages the conspiracy theorists to believe their views have some traction. In other words, their unhappiness with the business degree requirement registered, somehow, in Jones’s Road and action was taken accordingly - when the explanation is . . . well . . . if the conspiracy theorists are right, then does that mean the Bilderberg Group IS actually running the championship draws after all?
Conspiracy. It’s catching.
They’re probably laughing up their sleeves in the IRFU about all of that, shaking their heads at a sporting organisation’s ability to make a mess for itself.
Well, probably not so much after the signing of Gerbrandt Gobler detonated in everyone’s faces in the last week or so. The South African was suspended for two years for doping offences and there was a good deal of criticism when Munster signed him up recently.
All of a sudden everyone had an opinion on what this meant for sports values (everyone also got a crash course in spelling South African names, so every cloud, etc).
“He made a poor decision,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne of the South African. “He’s been punished for that poor decision. Having said that, everyone deserves a chance. Can any of you look at yourselves and say ’I’ve never made a poor decision in my life before?’ Probably not. We’re all guilty of making poor decisions. I think, with 20/20 vision, when you look at it, would we consider how we would deal with a similar situation in the future, the answer is yes.”
While respectfully pointing out that my decision to go with the Chillionaire Hot Wings in the Golden Fry a few weeks ago (“Cork’s hottest!!”) was not quite as ill-advised as signing up a lightning rod for national criticism, you’d have to say Philip has a point. We’ve all been that soldier, though few of us have ingested performance-enhancing drugs while wearing the uniform.
Given all of the above at least the FAI can relax a little, with its chief executive confirming that Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill will sign his new contract next week.
However, O’Neill’s lengthy courtship by Stoke City made for a fraught week or two recently in FAI Towers (disclaimer: not an actual location). Even as he confirmed O’Neill would be imposing his sucking-lemon-juice-off-a-nettle-face on us for another while yet, FAI boss John Delaney admitted: “If an employee wants to leave an employer you can’t stand in their way. It’s like a footballer; if a player wants to leave Liverpool and go to Barcelona then they will go.”
Indeed. And while Delaney deserves kudos for aiming high with his Liverpool-Barcelona analogy, surely the more apposite closer was “if a manager wants to leave Ireland and go to Barcelona - I mean, Stoke - then they will go”.
Recent weeks are the reason I like to imagine those GAA, IRFU and FAI administrators in a basement bar somewhere in Dublin, stacking their euro coins next to the jukebox, asking the man behind the counter about the ham and cheese toasties, and settling in for a long, long evening.
Brotherly Love comes with a health warning
Travel agents in the Minnesota area of the US have been looking out for their clients.
The Minnesota Vikings were due to play the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game last night and one Minnesota travel agent advised for those travelling: “If the Vikings win, yes, I’d take off any sort of like colours. I know it sounds ridiculous, like we’re almost talking about gangs here, but it’s no joke down in Philly. It really isn’t.”
In case you think that’s an overreaction from people who don’t know a particular city, the Philadelphia police advised shop owners to lower metal grills protecting their storefronts and to put away objects like rubbish bins. They have also been advised to make sure security cameras are on, while bars have been told to serve drink in plastic cups. Hands up if this made you less likely to visit the City of Brotherly Love.
Saying goodbye to an old teammate
Last week I was in Burnfort in north Cork on a bitterly cold day, the sleet coming in sideways from the north, to say goodbye to an old teammate.
Many years ago yours truly was an inept right-full on a Dublin Night Owls soccer team striving to avoid relegation from its Friday night slot to a Tuesday evening division of the league. Friday suited us. Tuesday didn’t.
The man who kept us up was a former housemate of one of the lads - Sean Williams, whose calm defending made all the difference in our last few games.
Sean’s quality was obvious. He had played League of Ireland under a certain Sam Allardyce, for instance, which put him a couple of storeys above the rest of us, never mind levels.
He also tried to improve us, issuing mid-game instructions from centre-half (“Are you going to stop coaching and start playing at all?” I asked one night. “If you listened to me I wouldn’t have to move from this spot,” he said.) In recent years he was involved with College Corinthians at all levels - player, coach, administrator. Contributing every way he could, which was typical of the man.
There was a big crowd in Burnfort to say goodbye to him and to commiserate with Julie, Darragh, Rory, Niamh and his extended family. The sleet didn’t bite as much when you saw the esteem in which he was held.
Ar dheis De go raibh se.
TV gold: The Plot Against America
An interview with Philip Roth popped up recently in The New York Times, in which the writer described Donald Trump as a “massive fraud” and a “boastful buffoon”.
Also said he read Bruce Springsteen’s biography and enjoyed it.
What leaped out to this reader was an almost throwaway line about one of his books, The Plot Against America, in which a right- wing fascist icon becomes President of America in the thirties, a book with one of the most persuasive and moving accounts I’ve ever read of how frightened a child can be on his own.
However, Roth said that David Simon — yes — is adapting The Plot Against America as a six-part mini-series. Don’t ring me the night that airs.
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