It may be time for some heresy. This column feels Kavanagh got it wrong.
Remember the lines, ‘every old man I see/in October-coloured weather/seems to say to me/“I was once your father”’?
Beautiful. But wrong. This isn’t October-coloured weather. It’s county final-coloured weather.
This is the time of the year when a club treasurer pulls back the curtains and forgets - for a couple of hours - about the insurance bills and the cost of painting the new dressing-rooms. The team is in a county final. It’s the time of the year when an exile’s careful husbanding of time off in Boston or Manchester comes to fruition, and those precious few days are operating on a tight timetable - on the way back, at least. A win and everything about returning to work is provisional.
This is when the smaller kids are corralled at the clubhouse and get their faces painted and their headbands fixed. Hopefully, nobody gets asphyxiated — before they cram into the backs of cars or, better yet, a bus. They don’t know it yet but these are deposits they’ll draw on four decades down the line.
This is the time of year when the summer games are tested in different conditions. There can hardly be an approach road to a county final venue anywhere in the country which doesn’t have a carpet of wet leaves underfoot - the irony of matches which would be far different if played in the crucible of July taking place these days is never lost on those in attendance.
A time of year for reflection as well as prediction. In stands and on terraces everywhere prospects are assessed and careers are curtailed by the keen-eyed. One of the enduring cliches of the county final experience is the suggestion that as the thousands in attendance wind their way back to dissect the proceedings, one name is on their lips - the proverbial comet which has streaked across the sky and announced himself as a presence for the next few years. ‘He can’t be left out next year’, is the tenor of the discussion, usually followed by some variation of being good enough if old enough.
And it’s also the time of year when the clock finally chimes on a career or two. Many years ago your columnist was at a Cork county hurling final when a chance presented itself to a legendary forward whose thirst for goal was a given. Astonishingly, he missed a ball hopping just outside the square. He had lit up a string of summers, but autumn told him it was time to step behind the line.
Because of all of the above, it can be a fractious time. The young man in a hurry can collide with the old man raging against the light. An undercurrent of crankiness often simmers in a county final, and while its sources may be varied - a long-running enmity, a desperation as the clock ticks to full-time, simple badness - this is a universal theme.
The lion who dominated county finals past realises suddenly - it is always sudden - that the reflexes have collected a fine dusting of rust, the acceleration isn’t quite as smooth. And usually the contrast is all the sharper because the opposition often have a contender luxuriating in the full expression of his gifts: the effortless movement, the dawning sensation he not only belongs in the big show but that he can dominate.
(Of course, if the two of them are on the same team it adds an extra layer of poignancy.) There were a lot of county finals on yesterday all over the country. You can take it as read that some combination of the above events transpired at them, with all the local colour necessary to deliver a bespoke experience, irrespective of location.
Kavanagh wouldn’t have been too upset with our earlier correction, either. Clontibret took on Scotstown yesterday in Clones in the Monaghan county final, after all.
Why this corner backs Catalonia
The NBA isn’t the only organisation dealing with real-world interference. I see that the highlight of the Spanish soccer season, the clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, has been postponed due to the unrest in Catalonia.
You’re probably aware of what’s going on - just don’t let LeBron James quiz you on the details, obviously - but in short, Catalonia held a referendum on independence which the central Spanish government declared illegal; separatist protests in Barcelona have met with an aggressive reaction from Madrid. I have to confess an inclination to the Catalans in this set-to. After all, when the Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney died on hunger strike in 1920, people rioted in the streets of Barcelona and stoned the British consular office; the day after McSwiney’s funeral a mass meeting was held in the Catalan city to commemorate his passing.
Team Catalonia here.
LeBron and the ugly truth
Hands up. You always get what you deserve in the end.
For years in this corner of the paper I’ve bleated about how welcome it would be if sportspeople actually commented on matters beyond the whitewash - the real-life issues which we all take an interest in.
File those pleadings under ‘wish for, be careful what you’ in future. LeBron James, one of the - ostensibly - more socially aware global superstars opened his gob last week to rearrange his size 15s when commenting on the backlash in China to Darryl Morey’s message of support for the Hong Kong protesters.
“I believe he (Morey) wasn’t educated on the situation at hand. And he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially but emotionally, physically and spiritually.” James is quoted as saying.
“Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, and you’re only thinking about yourself.”
Pick that one apart for a while. James has come across in the past as willing to put his head above the parapet on social issues, but the key words in the contribution quoted above are probably that ‘not only’ prefix to ‘financially’.
You probably understood that any potential harm to the wallet comes high up on the agenda, but it’s no harm to see it spelled out in black and white.
Brilliant Bryson delivers once more
Kudos to the smart-aleck who suggested during the week that the new biography of Susan Sontag would figure prominently in this spot. (Though kudos also to any person who can identify the eighties horror/comedy movie which featured a Sontag namecheck by the eponymous monster.) While I have half an eye on The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, Christmas is coming so I can be patient. The book I picked up this week though was The Body: A Guide for Occupants. I know Bill Bryson is loved for those irresistible travel books, never mind the works on language, but this is on the same level, incredibly readable and hugely entertaining. By the way, if you’re rubbing your chin as you read this section . . . Bryson’s book will tell you that over the course of a year you shed half a kilogram in skin flakes. Enjoy the sprinkles in your coffee.