SOME events are a gift to a columnist, others are a curse. Somebody with a large blank space to fill every week doesn’t drop to his knees in thanks when Kilkenny win another All-Ireland hurling title, but the Rugby World Cup is a gift that keeps on giving.
What other event frees you up to talk about the great unmentionable in Irish society — class?
I’ll come back to that. It’s only fair to point out first that the RWC is held to a different standard compared to other tournaments and events. Among the pokes and prods it gets are: a) an assault on the grounds that it isn’t a representative gathering; or b) sniffing about the rules changing from tournament to tournament; or c) moaning that it ranks low on the visible entertainment index.
In order of appearance, though: a) nobody criticises the All-Ireland hurling championship on the same grounds; b) innovations like abolishing the back-pass to the ’keeper were necessary to keep us from narcolepsy; and c) about 92 per cent of what passes for sport in the Olympics is, despite the cheerleading, no more than convulsions in the distance.
Those who dislike the RWC also tend to point a finger at the game’s governing body’s attitude towards its smaller nation members as though administrative purity were the sole preserve of the International Olympic Committee and, er, FIFA.
As for suspicions of drug abuse... well, it’s been a tough forty years or so for the IOC on that score.
The real issue most people have with the tournament is a simple one: a discomfort with seeing the middle classes enjoy themselves unashamedly.
Granted, the game doesn’t always do itself many favours. I particularly enjoyed the preview magazines provided by the English broadsheets.
One of them broke down the England squad by school attended; nothing could reinforce your prejudices more strongly.
Yet another part of me says: so what? The wearying search for authenticity demands that you align yourself with real sport, the sport of the masses, the common man’s game. How authentic are those sports?
Soccer in the Premiership — lubricating men’s avoidance of grown-up talk for a couple of decades now — isn’t quite the opium of the masses it is often proclaimed to be.
How exactly does a multi-millionaire from Zagreb or Accra embody the wishes and dreams of an English suburbanite while spending 18 months on a physiotherapist’s table?
Yours truly isn’t here to defend the game of rugby; there are people paid by the IRFU to do that.
It’s not as if the game doesn’t face the challenges all sports face, and a few of its own as well, witness the small matter of concussion (I am reliably informed that RTÉ’s forthcoming documentary on that matter will not make for happy viewing in Lansdowne Road, for instance).
But in fairness, sports which are rank with corruption and hypocrisy, organisations bloated with self-importance and riddled with crooks, ‘supporters’ bellowing racism, sexism and homophobia — these get a free ride all the time.
Why pick on rugby?
I spoke to Kerry trainer Cian O’Neill at the Kingdom’s press call ahead of the All-Ireland final. There’s always value in talking to the guys who handle the physical conditioning of players in any code, because first, theirs is the voice heard most often by the athletes. As a consequence they’ve got to be enthusiastic, energetic and committed.
Second, though, from past experience I find readers often pay particular attention to what they have to say because many of those readers are involved in teams and sports themselves, and they’re keen to pick up any lessons they can.
I picked this up in feedback when I spoke to Ed Coughlan of CIT and the Dublin hurling team earlier this year. O’Neill is Head of the Department of Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies in the Cork college. I asked the Kerry trainer, for instance, about a common issue for coaches who don’t work at the elite level — not planning their sessions properly.
“The reason they don’t do that is possibly because they’re don’t understand it,” said O’Neill. “They may be still learning as coaches, or maybe they haven’t done any coaching courses, which is applicable in the GAA.
“A lot of people look at training sessions as a single unit, a single entity. But the real secret is to ask, when is our next match? And work backwards from that — only by working backwards can you plan different cycles, whether it’s a one-week cycle, a micro-cycle, or a macro-cycle, the whole season.
“That’s what a lot of people don’t notice — they miss what should be a common thread holding all of those sessions together. And the better players in the better set-ups understand that, so when you throw the proverbial nightmare block at them they understand what they’re doing, and why. Because they’ll always question why they’re doing things.”
I also enjoyed a chat last week with Jaimie Fuller of SKINS, the sportswear company. Fuller wasn’t remotely what I expected, though granted my expectations probably ran to a cigar-chomping mixture of CJ from The Fall And Rise of Reggie Perrin and old man Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life. Not so. Fuller, here promoting his new initiative puresport.skins.net/, was passionate and articulate about matters as diverse as Qatar, the Rugby World Cup and Lance Armstrong you’ll read the interview in full soon in these pages.
WIth the schools re-opening traffic has picked up in many areas, my own corner of the universe among them.
The parking situation has therefore become tricky, or the soon-a-child-will-be-killed situation, as I prefer to call it.
As a result I emailed Cork City Council to ask what the situation was regarding traffic and parking and so forth.
At the time of writing it has been three weeks since I mailed, and still no response; last week a lady had her leg broken in an accident in the same area.
I can’t say I’m too surprised.
I mailed the Council on another issue on August 31 about another matter and didn’t get a response either. That’s August 31, 2013.
No hurry, folks. Don’t stress.
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