Paul Healy’s Week

Friday

 

A dilemma for the team in the Late Late Show engine room: Gary Barlow – formerly of Take That, and all-round nice guy – is a (virtual) guest tonight, but he doesn’t appear to have Irish connections. Gary’s very friendly, courteous, generous with his time…but no Irish connections? This is a potential crisis. As Ryan Tubridy paces up and down, finger stroking chin, the researchers scramble for an Irish ‘angle’.

Ryan: “You’re sure his great-grandfather wasn’t from Donegal or Mayo?”

Researchers: “Nothing coming up. Maybe you could ask him has he been influenced by…er…Boyzone or Westlife…or Bono?”

Ryan: “I CAN’T have a celebrity on and not ask them how much they love Ireland/what their Irish connections are…!”

Worried researchers: “How about asking him what it was like to work with Dermot O’Leary on The X Factor? Too tenuous?”

Just when they thought disaster was imminent, a breakthrough. When Ryan met Gary – virtually – they chatted about music and recording and lockdown and life.

And then Ryan pressed the ‘Say nice stuff about Ireland’ button. And that’s when he asked Liverpool football fan Gary Barlow what he thought of Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher’s debut for the club…

 

Saturday/Sunday

 

Saturday could have been an exhausting day as an armchair sports’ fan, but I skipped the rugby. I skipped it partly because I find these November internationals tedious, partly because the smugness within the Irish team – and amongst the pundits – can be grating. It’s perfectly obvious that I am transitioning, bit by bit, into a grumpy old man. Still, I was happy enough to hear that we defeated Scotland. At least it means we no longer have Georgia on our minds.

When Paul Pogba’s sublime skill occasionally escapes from under the suffocating cover of his apathy, it merely adds to one’s frustration with him. On Saturday, the moody Manchester United midfielder swept a glorious goal past the West Ham goalkeeper, an almost effortless, arrowed drive that was reminiscent of a world class golfer casually chipping the ball to within a foot or two of the flag.

Pogba has all the required talent, but little of the required attitude. Too often, he sleepwalks during games. Nice flicks are grand, but of little merit if you then allow an opponent to pass you like a stranger in the street. Pogba wouldn’t have lasted long in a dressing room with Graeme Souness or Roy Keane.

Leeds lose to Chelsea, but my club are doing fine on their return to the Premier League. When Leeds took a fourth minute lead, I was kind of worried; away to a top team, it’s much too early to score! If you’re going to poke a bear, it’s better to do it on the way home rather than on arrival at the wildlife park.

The biggest sporting attractions of the weekend were of course the All-Ireland football semi-finals. It’s been a revealing championship, one of the biggest revelations being the extent to which substitutes shout at matches (we wouldn’t normally hear them).

Cavan gave their all against Dublin. The Ulster champions never quite seemed to be outclassed. They appeared to be hanging in gamely, but Dublin just methodically (and brilliantly) keep converting chances, and before you know it, the margin is bigger than any underdogs’ dreams could ever be.

On Sunday, Mayo easily ended Tipperary’s march, setting up another fascinating final showdown with the all-conquering Dubs.

Mayo were very impressive, well, apart from their festive generosity in presenting numerous goal chances to Tipperary.

 

All weekend

 

The lamentable softening up of English soccer continues. I’m sure technology has much to offer (particularly on the question of whether or not the ball has crossed the line) but it seems to be creating as many problems as it’s resolving.

Referees – VAR their new master – are increasingly being stripped of discretionary powers by smug administrators. On Sunday, a West Brom player got sent off when he very half-heartedly moved his feet towards an opponent after a tussle. I’ve seen more aggression amongst pensioners at Friday night Bingo (well, not strictly true).

VAR has its merits – but so did cop on. Don’t be that surprised if a player gets sent off for humming ‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ some day soon.

 

Sunday

 

At least the tweet confirmed that social media can actually be a very positive force in our lives.

I shuddered when I read it, but held my nerve. In the tweet, self-styled ‘gas men’ The 2 Johnnies announced that they would be guesting on The Den on Sunday evening.

I was grateful to social media, glad of the advance warning. The thought of 2 Johnnies and one Zig and one Zag all shouting at the one time was terrifying. I took one look at the dog; she was already reaching for her lead…

 

Later on Sunday

 

If, 20 years or so ago, someone had sat down with Peter Alliss – the legendary golf commentator who died this week – and outlined to him the thinking behind political correctness, I imagine Peter would have cut the conversation short and returned to his ‘fine brandy and large cigar’ approach to life.

He was a true one-off, an accomplished professional golfer who became the undisputed and much-loved voice of golf.

In latter years, he walked a fine line between ‘the ways things used to be’ and the demands of the politically correct era, but he didn’t seem to give a damn when occasionally entering hot water (deep rough?) over something he’d said.

Watching a golf tournament with his soothing, laconic, witty, beautifully measured tones guiding you was an absolute pleasure, some time spent in sporting paradise. He was a wonderful eccentric, a magnificent commentator, old style and proud of it. Unlike most of his critics, he was unique. His fans numbered many millions, and we will miss him. Truly the golf will never be the same again.

Monday

 

Roscommon town looks lovely these nights, the Christmas Lights volunteers having done a wonderful job. Morning fog, while not ideal for motorists, creates a nice winter atmosphere; the streets almost resembling a scene from an old movie.

Covid restrictions eased, people (countywide) are slowly re-emerging, back into our cafes, restaurants and shops. The ‘shop local’ message is being driven home – and followed. Never before has that message been more important.

 

Tuesday

 

Great news for our county today with Harmac Medical Products announcing 60 new jobs at its facility in Castlerea. Covid-19 has actually played a role here, in that this jobs’ announcement is linked to demand for the manufacture of surgical masks and non-invasive ventilation products.

For many years now, Harmac has been a great employer and a notably civic-minded, positive presence in Castlerea. This is an exciting announcement. Continued success to Harmac management and staff.