Log in

Race to the Park missing a spark!



All week

Please don’t worry(!) – the presidential election, once we officially have a contest, will spark into life. It may seem unlikely now, but in a few weeks time, we’ll all fall into the trap, and for two or three weeks, we’ll talk of little else!

  It always happens. Well, maybe not always. But certainly since 1990, presidential elections always create a momentum, once they’ve started, that didn’t seem likely before the starting gun sounded.

  It will happen again – and I doubt if the 2018 version will be the one-horse Michael D flavoured race that many people have been predicting for a long time.

  Of course the incumbent is still the hot favourite, but the presidential election will feature rows, gaffes and controversies, wall to wall media coverage, and swings in the direction of different candidates at different times. 

  The more candidates the merrier, I say. If we’re going to pay a fortune to have a figurehead in ‘the park’ for another seven years, we might as well have the distraction of an entertaining, interesting campaign.

  1990 was the year when presidential elections in Ireland took on a showbiz-type feel. Before then, it was an austere business. I have very vague memories of seeing ‘perennial president’ Éamon de Valera on black and white television around 1970, and presumably the odd time after that up to his passing in 1975. It was all very sober, serious and, in fairness, impressively ceremonial. In later years, we saw very little of Erskine Childers, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh or Patrick (Paddy) Hillery, who between them held the role from 1973 to 1990. Black and white days indeed.

  Everything changed in 1990. At the Roscommon Champion, we couldn’t hold the late Angela Doyle back; our reporter was out of the blocks quickly to interview fellow Mayo woman Mary Robinson, then seen as a no-hoper. Angela was very impressed with Mary, who went on to win and change the presidency for all time.

  I interviewed candidates Austin Currie and Brian Lenihan during that campaign. The former was a pleasant man who made a distinguished contribution to the search for peace in Northern Ireland, but he was incredibly long-winded! Lenihan, in contrast, oozed folksy charm, and attracted several hundred supporters to a massive rally in the Abbey Hotel, where there was much razzmatazz.

  Readers will recall that the elections of 1997 and 2011 (Mary McAleese was unopposed in 2004) brought us into the new age, whereby politicians, ‘celebrities’ and other wannabees went for it hammer and tongs in full media glare.

  This time around, much of the early focus is on businessman and reality tv ‘dragon’ Gavin Duffy. And yes, if he was a marshmallow, he would have devoured himself long ago.

  Others who may try to get on the ballot paper include artist Kevin Sharkey, Senator Joan Freeman (of Pieta House renown), businessman and Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, an as yet unnamed Sinn Fein candidate…and God knows who else. There is some speculation that Éamon Ó Cuív will seek a nomination, while citing the need for a new champion for rural Ireland. I have my doubts. If he does, that loud sound you’ll hear from the direction of Cork will be Micheál Martin groaning (before regaining his composure and preparing for possible civil war within the Fianna Fáil party).

  Meanwhile, Michael D has all the advantages of being the incumbent, and a very assured one at that. Unlike Mr. de Valera, Michael D. is constantly ‘on the telly’, most recently seen greeting players in the All-Ireland semi-finals, then off to Drogheda to mix it with the Fleadh set. Just now, all Michael D can do is wait, trust in his own brilliance, and hope that the All-Ireland hurling and football finals both go to replays!

  Trust me, this upcoming campaign will have its own momentum…it will get interesting, even if in reality it’s much ado about nothing…as Eamon Dunphy might say, it’s all showbiz, baby!


Reaching for the Sky…then this happens!


After years of fearing he’d end up watching Rochdale in some meaningless match from the lower leagues, PAUL HEALY finally got the old Sky Sports in…and looked forward to the golf…


It’s all Rochdale FC’s fault. Well, Rochdale… and maybe Grimsby.

  Over twenty years ago, I made a decision: I won’t join the Sky Sports bandwagon. My logic was perhaps strange, yet arguably kind of noble. It went as follows:

  ‘If I get Sky Sports, I could end up watching Rochdale v Grimsby on a Friday night’.

  And life is too short to end up watching Rochdale v Grimsby on a Friday night.

  Truth is, I didn’t trust myself. Yes, getting Sky Sports would give me access to Monday Night Football (live Premiership coverage, which started in 1992) and to big games on Sundays. But Sky Sports would also play with my mind; it would make me watch obscure games when I could and should be doing something else.

  It wasn’t just football: Sky Sports (I suspected) would make me watch all types of other sports that I didn’t have any interest in and didn’t need to see.

  I feared I’d end up watching too many rugby league matches, too much bowls, too many racing cars, too many men throwing darts and fist-pumping to delirious drink-fuelled ‘punters’ in a giant arena in Stoke. And Rochdale saved me from this terrible fate.

  Why Rochdale?

  When we were growing up, poor old Rochdale came to represent what we then considered the unfashionable and doomed lower league clubs in the English football world. (These days, I appreciate that such clubs actually represent the heart and soul of ‘the beautiful game’).

  Back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, we hardly ever saw live soccer. We survived on Match of the Day (Jimmy Hill, later Des Lynam) and, if you had UTV, The Big Match (Brian Moore) on a Sunday. We occasionally saw Irish games live on television (Jimmy Magee), sometimes having to settle for the radio commentary of Philip Greene, which was usually as joyless as the football (“Paddy Mulligan plays it back to Mick Martin, Martin to Giles, back to Mulligan”).

   What really gave us a tantalising link to the English soccer world was BBC Radio, which provided evocative commentary on midweek matches on great European football nights at places like Anfield and The City Ground (home of Nottingham Forest).

  And every Saturday, it was a ritual to listen in to hear the ‘classified’ football results read by James Alexander Gordon.

  And that’s where we discovered just how  unfashionable and seemingly doomed Rochdale FC were.

  Not very fair on Rochdale…but their results were so terrible, their annual plight so predictable, they became the symbol of the lower league club that was going nowhere.

  And I didn’t want the Sky Sports revolution to bring the ‘Rochdales’, the ‘Grimsbys’, the ‘Darlingtons’ and the joys of synchronised swimming into my life.

  Damn it, life is short: last week I gave in… and finally signed up to Sky Sports!

  I gave in because life is short, and also because of rugby and GAA, but mostly because of golf and soccer.

  So I got Sky Sports on Wednesday of last week, and the PGA Championship (the last golf major of the season) started the next day.

  Unbelievable, Jeff! (a Sky reference). Sky Sports weren’t showing the golf!

  It turns out that you could only watch the golf via the Eleven Sports website/app (no, I hadn’t heard of it either).

  As (most) golf fans mourned, I took some comfort in the start of the soccer season. Manchester United v Leicester on Friday night was quite good, and I saw bits of Liverpool v West Ham and Arsenal v Manchester City on Sunday.

  My weekend Sky Sports highlight, of course, was Leeds United’s superb 4-1 win away to Derby on Saturday.

  And Google now informs me that this mysterious golf-providing/denying entity called Eleven Sports is actually owned by Andrea Radrizzani, the owner of Leeds United.

  Not by the owner of Rochdale, needless to say.




Login to post comments