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A good Harte was easy to find…

 

Friday

 

7.50 pm, and I was moments away from my first ever meeting with Mickey Harte.

  Mickey is GAA royalty, truly one of the greatest managers in the history of the game, and a pioneering one too. 

  I could see him in the distance, and I, and everyone else in Lanesboro Community College, could feel his presence, how he was igniting the room.

  Mickey – modest, friendly, genial and passionate – had just addressed guests at the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town event for Ballyleague/Lanesboro.

  Now he was ‘working the room’ with patience and good humour, and was a particular hit with children, many of whom hadn’t been born when Harte masterminded the first of three senior All-Irelands (in 2003) in Tyrone.

  Suddenly, our eyes met. I was in the line of vision of one of the great GAA thinkers of all time.

  I was thinking ‘What a guy’ – he was probably thinking ‘I could have made an intercounty star out of this guy.’

  Okay, I guess not! I expect that not even Mickey Harte could see unfulfilled sporting potential of any particular significance in me, not least given that I shaved off my ‘Tyrone beard’ a number of years ago.

  Still, who knows what verbal sporting magic would unfold when we finally met, as surely we must.

  Actually, we just had a quick word about the weather, but it was still great to meet him.

Saturday/Sunday

The English soccer season, to which we in this country are so emotionally attached, nears its finale. Some things we have established…

  Dele Alli of Spurs is a sensational prospect. Spurs are a pretty hot prospect as a whole.

  Jürgen Klopp needs to deliver at Liverpool next season – his all-smiling approach will wear thin if he doesn’t.

  Utterly lacking in charm, and rapidly losing his supposed charisma, Jose Mourinho has behaved like a spoilt brat for most of the season. He’s not funny, he’s not enigmatic, he’s not very fair-minded, not at this point anyway.

  Sam Allardyce – latest miracle came at Crystal Palace – was an escapologist in a previous life.

  Realistically, though I hate to admit it, Arsene Wenger has overstayed his welcome.

  Pep Guardiola no longer has a pep in his step and is now under pressure to regain his midas touch. 

  Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a phenomenon.

  Football is horribly ruthless – the sacking of Leicester’s dream-maker, Claudio Ranieri, stripped sport of some of its magic and left a bitter taste.

  Oh yes, and Chelsea are quite good.

  And – Leeds will be back.

 

Monday

There must have been a moment on Monday evening when Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne wondered if it was still safe…

  Thomas was due to be a guest on ‘Tonight With Vincent Browne’. It can be an intimidating prospect, but the affable Meath man has crossed that terrain fairly comfortably many times in the past.

  And, to be fair, VB isn’t quite the human rotweiler of old, is he? As the years have gone by, he seems to be gaining as many critics as fans, with some people ‘browned’ off by what they now see as tiresome play-acting, mock anger and general theatrical showboating.  Still, I remain a VB loyalist, but even I accept that Vincent often becomes a caricature of what he once was (and can sometimes still be).  

  After all, there’s probably a thin enough line between parody and peak performance.

  VB in full, genuine angry flow is still priceless, though there is a real sense now that the fury is often put on, and that  chumminess is waiting to break out once enough interrogating has been engaged in.

  So, while loyalists like myself always associate formidable journalism, justifiable anger, peerless holding to account of the powerful, and entertaining political theatre with Vincent Browne, I also readily acknowledge that we have been over-exposed to him (thousands of shows leads to repetition!), and that his nightly programme is as much a circus as a serious current affairs battlefield, with the mischievious host increasingly hamming it up for entertainment value.

  So Tonight With VB is perhaps no longer ‘must watch’ television – but it’s still  often a unique and entertaining programme.

  Back to Monday night, and inoffensive Thomas Byrne must indeed have thought it was pretty safe to join the veteran broadcaster to articulate the world view of the re-energised Fianna Fáil.

  By 11.40 or so, poor ould Thomas was almost in tears, and I genuinely felt sorry for him.

  VB had ripped into the FF man about the party’s position on the fate of Garda chief Nóirín O’Sullivan.

  To see some of Vincent’s truly great grillings, go to Youtube and watch his exchanges with Martin Mansergh, Joan Burton, Conor Lenihan (laugh-out-loud funny), the shell-shocked man (Klaus Masuch) from the ECB, the self-important Jack O’Connor, Jerry Beades, and a hilariously pompous Fionnan Sheahan.

  And to the ‘We’re tired and weary of the VB act’ brigade, I say – I know where you’re coming from, I respect your view, but I’m not joining your club. To those critics and non-believers, I simply say:  Savour the fact that VB is such a one-off, think of him at his best, and enjoy him while the serious stuff and the circus still rolls…because we’ll all miss him when he’s gone!

Coming soon?

In this ‘Let’s forget about the past’ themed week, what can we expect to happen next?

  First, Prince Charles and the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams shook hands and had the craic on a sunny day in Dublin.

  Then, US President Donald Trump effectively gave Russian diplomats and the Russian media the freedom of the White House, while American reporters had to be content with coffee and cookies in an adjoining room.

  Suddenly, we’re in ‘Getting close to your enemies’ mode…

  What next? Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger to share an intimate dinner in a top London restaurant?

  Or, now that Prince Charles, Gerry and Donald have shown the way, can we expect to see Enda Kenny and arch-critic John Deasy make peace? (Okay, the above prospect wouldn’t exactly be box office, but I actually couldn’t think of any other enemies for Enda).

  Joan Burton and Alan Kelly to share the same room without gritting their teeth?

  Or the big one…Linda Martin and Twink to bury the hatchet in an emotional Late Late Show reunion?

  (Anyone for Ronan Keating and Louis Walsh on the Ray D’Arcy Show?)

 

 

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