In the last couple of weeks the pilot episode of The Hurler has collected over 7,000 views on YouTube, far ahead of its creator’s expectations.
“We were hoping to maybe get 10,000 views over the course of a year,” says Waterford native Tony Kelly. “To almost reach that figure within two weeks is fantastic.”
The Hurler (episode one) tells of the trials and tribulations of Gar Campion, two-time Hurler of the Year, GAA legend, fashion icon — and ordinary Joe.
“It struck me watching someone like Dan Shanahan being interviewed on television when his book came out,” says Kelly. “In any other sport guys like him would be millionaires, they’ve got such skill. But hurlers and Gaelic footballers have to get up every Monday and go off to work.
“The previous day they might have played in front of 50,000 people. Or 80,000, if it’s an All-Ireland final. The Hurler is supposed to be comedy, but it just struck me that it must do something to you psychologically — you’re in front of thousands of people screaming at you one day and the next day you’re back to normal life, just the same as everybody else.”
Kelly studied writing and acting at the New York Film Academy and also spent some time in Toronto, where he got into stand-up comedy — he has released a comedy album called PS I Hate You which is available on iTunes — but this project combines the comedy, writing and acting.
“We wrapped up the second episode a couple of days ago,” he says.
“The ante is being upped for Gar in the next couple of episodes, and we’d hope to have another guest appearance or two.
“I know Henry Shefflin a bit and he was going to make a guest appearance in the first one, but he pulled out. John Mullane came in, though, and did a very good job.
“Gar isn’t necessarily a Waterford player, though. He’s from nowhere in particular because we didn’t want to alienate anyone.”
The aim is to put six episodes online and then see where the project goes from there, says Kelly.
To check out Gar Campion, go to www.thehurler.tv
Last week your columnist wouldn’t take no for an answer, and insisted on speaking to Jamie Cudmore.
You know: the Canadian man-mountain who got sent off a few years ago when he swapped punches with Paul O’Connell in Thomond Park.
I exaggerate slightly, of course.
When I say ‘wouldn’t take no for an answer’ I refer to a week-long badgering of the press officer rather than any fearlessness with Mr Cudmore.
During our conversation, Jamie suggested dropping by his nightclub in Clermont if I were nearby.
Which led me to surmise on Twitter, of course, that if there’s one late-night establishment where you don’t quibble with the doorman, it’s the Five, the Cudmore venue.
If Jamie says ‘not tonight lads, regulars only’, you keep walking.
Is there a more evocative drive to a sporting venue than the turn-off from the motorway down to Semple Stadium?
I remember when the delights of Skeheenarinky et al were denied to all but the masochists among us thanks to the new road from Cork to Dublin, and there was a school of thought that held the journey would be less enjoyable as a result (a school of thought that clearly never put down a tears-streaming-down-the-cheeks hour of boredom waiting for traffic to clear in Fermoy).
The fears were unfounded, anyway. If anything, the journey to Thurles now — for those coming from the southern capital anyway — combines two of 10 elements which aren’t usually comfortable bedfellows in any Irish context: smooth efficiency (the motorway) and storied surrounds (Thurles and environs).
The swing in by the golf club, the darting along Croke Street, the little humpback bridges, the unusually helpful gardaí... all of it combines to make Thurles an enjoyable experience all round.
It’s often said that one of the selling points of the experience is that you’re never more than five minutes away from Tom Semple’s field, no matter where you park; if you get the train you’re practically jumping from the platform to your seat in the Old Stand.
How many places can promise you such an enjoyable warm-up?
What was the take-home memory from Semple Stadium yesterday?
Colm Callanan’s excellent reaction saves in the Galway-Kilkenny game? Joe Canning’s customary bending of the laws of time and space when on the ball? Fergal Moore’s unfortunate collision and removal? Seamus Callanan’s venomously struck penalty?
Take your pick. For this columnist’s money it was the tall chap looming on the sideline.
Last week Brian O’Driscoll named Henry Shefflin as his all-time Irish sportsperson, and the red-headed man from Ballyhale was in a Kilkenny tracksuit in Thurles yesterday, orthopaedic boot on his foot; a foot that all of Noreside is saying prayers for.
O’Driscoll’s nomination is significant because of the similarities between the two.
Technical excellence is a given for both, but it’s the warrior spirit that sets them apart. O’Driscoll’s match-winning try against Munster in their recent RaboDirect meeting is only the latest in a long line of examples of that spirit, just like Shefflin’s finger in the dyke display against Galway in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final.
Then there’s the influence both have had on their sports. For instance, at yesterday’s second Allianz League semi-final Shefflin’s example was being followed by Kilkenny — and Galway – forwards everywhere.
Gone forever are the days of the attacker who doesn’t work back or who doesn’t display his defensive skills when the opposition has the ball.
There was a time, believe it or not, when teams could afford to carry a finisher because he could pop up with the odd goal, or because his clean striking made him a reliable free-taker.
Not any more. Now the artist must win the dirty ball, as though he were . . . a centre getting stuck in at rucks to try to turn the ball over, you might say.
It’d be too facile to credit Brian O’Driscoll with influencing Kilkenny too much. The qualities that Brian Cody tends to stress – honesty, workrate – are traits that Joe Schmidt, Alex Ferguson and all coaches in between value highly. Call it an eerie coincidence that two of the best players in their codes you’ve ever seen are not only rough contemporaries, but their most remarkable qualities are strikingly similar.
When Harold Bloom was writing all those years ago about the anxiety of influence, he was referring to authors trying to break free of their literary forebears; it’s the opposite in hurling and rugby these last 10 years, with players actively seeking to emulate these two superstars.
An appetite for influence rather than anxiety, you could call it.
The only question remaining for this corner of the paper is a simple one: who would Henry Shefflin’s top sportsperson be?