From a chat with Cork legend Pat Morley to losing his boxer shorts on a nag by a short head, sports fan and columnist Paddy Walsh lets rip once again on a week of sport.
FOR ROBBIE, READ JOHNNY
Altogether now – O’SHEA, O’SHEA, O’SHEA, OLE, O’SHEA! The memory of Robbie Keane’s late, late salvager against the Germans in the 2002 World Cup Finals was floating around this old head – and probably many another – as the clock ticked down to full-time last night in Gelsenkirchen.
Happy days but surely not to be repeated against the same opposition? Surely there’s no way lightning strikes twice? As much chance of that happening as there is of – well – John O’Shea getting on the end of a ball in the penalty area and steering it beyond the reach of the world’s number one goalkeeper? Yeah, like let’s face reality here, we’re on our way to a 1-0 defeat in Germany and sure, we’ve hardly created a chance worthy of the name.
Come on McGeady, play it back to him….right, Hoolahan, get it across….Ah, too long (and where IS Shane when you need him?)…..good man, Jeffrey Patrick Hendrick, switch it back into the middle…..Jeez, who’s that on the end of it. Bloody hell, it’s JOHN O’SHEA and it’s……IT’S THE EQUALIZER! We’ve done it again! And this time against the World Champions!
O’SHEA, O’SHEA, O’SHEA, OLE, O’SHEA…..!
And the ref blows for full-time and the Germans surround him looking for some added seconds so they can nip down the field and attempt to breach our Forde and ruin our celebrations. And there’s Robbie Keane on the pitch, which he vacated some time back to allow Hoolahan in, and it’s 2002 all over again and the ceiling in my sitting-room has a greasy mark where my head hit it and Dunphy, Giles and Brady are tearing up at least part of the script back in the R.T.E. studio and we’ve seven points in the bag (the same number of goals we netted against the Gibraltarans who will go to Germany in their next game full of no hope) and John O’Shea’s 100th cap will have written on it in large letters the legend ‘THIS IS THE ONE WHERE I SCORED SO LATE AGAINST THE GERMANS WE ALMOST MISSED OUR FLIGHT HOME’.
Football, – as a man who knows all about his team scoring last minute goals once said – bloody hell.
WANTED: OPEN DRAW (NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE NECESSARY)
What have the football teams from Sligo, Mayo, Kerry and Cork got in common? Answer – they’ve already (a full nine months in advance) booked their places in their respective Provincial semi-finals for the 2015 Championship.
Nice work if you can get it. Which you can’t if you happen to be playing out of the Ulster Championship when not alone, if you’re wearing the colours of Donegal and Tyrone next year, have you not automatically qualified for the semi-finals, you’re not even guaranteed a place in the quarters.
No, for these two border counties there’s a preliminary round to be negotiated first before you can even consider venturing further afield in the competition. A positive result in that and you’re up against Armagh who may, or may not, depending on which particular Armagh team turns up on the day – the Orchard County invariably coming with the warning: ‘These Apples Can Occasionally Taste Sour’ – prove a difficult hurdle.
For Kerry and Cork, meanwhile, there’s a seventy-minute tussle away from the Munster Final and a comparatively comfortable path into the business end of the All-Ireland. And probably so, too, if either did come up against Tipperary, Waterford, Clare or Limerick in a previous round given the lop-sided nature of the current Munster set-up in respect of decent teams.
The same in Leinster, where despite the ability of the likes of Kildare, Meath or, perhaps, Carlow, to flatter to deceive, it’s going to be the Dubs who will both contest and win that Province’s competition – now as inevitable as a hotel rip-off during All-Ireland Final weekend in the capital – and again, no preliminary round though it’s nonetheless a confusing pathway to the semi stages.
Meanwhile, New York – facing a preliminary tie against Galway – and London make up two of the sides in the Connacht Championship, hardly enough to have the likes of Mayo quivering in anticipation. How about hauling Paris and Beijing into the competition while the G.A.A. decision drafters are at it?
The Provincial Championship has become – has indeed been for many a moon – much too imbalanced when some teams have the toughest of passages to get through and others can keep it in low gear on route to the real competition.
So how can the whole thing be brought onto an equal playing surface? Tradition dictates that we must retain the Provincial set-up and to be fair it provides some of the lesser teams with the odd opportunity to win a trophy though quite a few of them have never availed of it.
So here’s a possible solution. Start the Provincial Championship earlier and once it’s completed that’s it even for the winners. No automatic progress into the All-Ireland quarters. No link up at all between the respective tournaments. Instead they and every other county go into an open draw for the All-Ireland, a knock-out tournament with no back doors and no side windows to climb through in case they have a bad day at the office.
This would give the sharp edge to the tournament that has been sorely missing in those earlier rounds when teams know they’ll, at least get another crack at the whip. And it would surely provide a much fairer structure than exists at present.
And there it was perched on a stall at the car boot sale in Letterkenny last Saturday. Roy Keane’s autobiography. What? Car boot sale time already and it only having steamed off the presses?
Okay, it was his first one. Published in 2002 and ghost written on that occasion by Eamon Dunphy whose own autobiography ‘The Rocky Road’ was released not too long ago (though he didn’t get Keano to ghost write it).
Not so much a case of Autobiography 2002 versus Autobiography 2014 as a contest between Dunphy and fellow Dub, Roddy Doyle, who helped put the words down for ‘The Second Half.’
To be honest, I didn’t read the original and I may not read the second one given that much of the content has already found its way into print via the newspapers.
But almost forty years after it first sat on the bookshelves, I’d still strongly recommend Dunphy’s own original autobiography ‘Only a Game?’ – a professional footballer’s diary that was as raw and honest as they come (and sporting autobiographies come virtually on a weekly basis these days).
Here’s a random paragraph from it, penned by Dunphy after he had been dropped by Millwall before a 3-2 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough during the 1973-74 season:
“So we went up to Sheffield. I wasn’t on the bench, I went as thirteenth man. You go into the dressing-room before the game, and you smile and say ‘All the best, lads’. What does that mean? If they do well you stay out. And when they get beaten, as we did last night, what do you do? You act. Because you can’t come in with a big smile all over your face saying ‘Great. Now you’ve been beaten I can get back in. ‘ Everybody else is sick. Bit you aren’t. You are pleased. So you come in and make faces; pretend that you are sick like the rest of them. But everyone knows that you are acting.”
Like I say, still the masterpiece when it comes to footballers putting their thoughts on paper and their careers on the line.
There can’t be too many players who can lay claim to scoring a hat-trick on their League of Ireland debut but I was chatting to one the weekend before last. And Pat Morley, former Waterford United, Cork City and Shelbourne striker, was able to recall the exact date and year of his rare feat.
Finn Park, Ballybofey, November 25th, 1984, the Corkman knocking in his trio of goals in a 4-1 win for Waterford against the Harps.
I was standing in the car-park at Richmond Park when he arrived to climb into his own vehicle for the trip south after his co-commentating duties on R.T.E. television during THAT F.A.I. Cup semi-final.
And for a good twenty minutes, we talked football – or rather, he talked and I just listened, lobbing in the odd verbal for him to play around with and remembering some of his outstanding displays and goals including a strike against the mighty Glasgow Rangers when playing for Shels in Europe.
He only broke off briefly when a handful of the St. Patrick’s Athletic players emerged from the dressing-rooms and headed for their transport. “Hey’, he yelled to Pat’s defender, Kenny Browne.” you should have got two yellow cards today”. And Browne and Morley exchanged some further banter with a distinct edge before the Pat’s quartet headed home (okay, they were home but you know what I mean).
“He should have gone too,” the former L.O.I. marksman confirmed afterwards before conceding that the Dubliners were, by a city mile, the best footballing side in the league.
An entertaining character is Morley who was quick to praise the Harps supporters and spoke of the potential of the club if they can only rise from the pit of the First Division.
Any young goal-scoring Morleys floating about that might want to make a Finn Park debut, I forgot to ask him?
Meanwhile, Longford Town arrived in the same Finn Park on Sunday having already clinched the First Division title and deservedly disposing of a generally lame Harps, still smarting from that comprehensive Cup semi-final mauling even if they did spark into life in the second period against the Midlanders.
And all I could think of was while the Town brought along a couple of hundred supporters to join in the celebrations, how many would Harps have taken to ‘City Calling Stadium’ had the situation been in reverse?
Sadly, it’s been a season that only occasionally flickered into life – a bit like that damn scoreboard at Finn Park.
Had some dough on a brilliant horse yesterday. It took nine horses to beat him….