Paul Healy’s Week

Saturday 

It’s interesting how special an impact the great sports’ commentators have on the public. Invariably, the very best of them possess all or some of the following qualities/traits: eloquence, passion, knowledge, and a sense of humour. The best are also usually gifted in terms of timing and instinct. 

  Often we associate great sporting moments and feats almost as much with the commentary as with the actual act of sporting greatness. Clearly the moment belongs to the sportsperson or team, but the commentator will sometimes deservedly enter folklore with them. 

  One thinks of Jimmy Magee’s (“Different class”) commentary on Maradona’s solo goal for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup, of the same man’s memorable reeling off of medal-winning Irish Olympians as John Treacy crossed the line to win silver in Los Angeles. 

  Kenneth Wolstenholme (“They think it’s all over…it is now”) is deservedly immortalised, synonymous with Geoff Hurst and the rest of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup. 

  When it comes to great commentators, I think fondly too of Bill McLaren (rugby), John Motson (soccer), Micheal O’Muircheartaigh and Micheal O’Hehir (GAA), and the peerless Sid Waddell (darts). 

  Today, news of the passing of another legendary commentator, the wonderful Murray Walker. He was simply magnificent. I can honestly say that, for a few years, the main reason I watched Grand Prix racing was because of Murray’s passionate commentary. Loved by millions of people, he brightened many afternoons. (A TV tribute programme broadcast on Tuesday night was very nostalgic). 

  

Sunday 

It’s become a cliché now to speak of great sporting weekends. Today, I calculated (it wasn’t difficult) that one could watch live sport (football, rugby, golf) for about eleven hours in a row. As it was Mother’s Day, I didn’t indulge to that extent!

  I did however watch Scotland v Ireland, some football, and the engrossing finale to the Players’ Championship in Florida. By the time I got to the golf, Offaly’s uncrowned king, Shane Lowry, had sensationally played his way into contention. In the end, Justin Thomas held off everyone’s new favourite veteran, the gentlemanly Lee Westwood. 

  A few hours earlier, Johnny Sexton reminded us that, whatever about injuries and the passing years, class is indeed permanent. His superb late penalty sealed victory for Ireland after Scotland had reeled in a 14-point gap on the scoreboard.   

 

Monday 

On the morning school run, the car radio emits some form of narrative on the state of the nation, the world too. 

  Usually it’s politics-driven. Not always. Before the pre-Christmas lockdown kicked in, my final memory of listening to the car radio on the way to school relates to a report on Morning Ireland on the disappearance from Kerry waters of Fungie, the Dingle Dolphin. 

  This morning, three months or so on, my first experience of listening to Morning Ireland on the resumed school run again involves a report on a Kerry-based sea mammal. Sadly, it’s not the return of Fungie; instead, an ‘Artic walrus’ has appeared on rocks at Valentia Island in County Kerry. 

  The walrus was spotted by Alan Houlihan and his five-year-old daughter Muireann, affectionately described by her father as  “the David Attenborough of Valencia Island”.

  Our friends in Dingle take up the story. Kevin Flannery, Director of Dingle Oceanworld – which we had the pleasure of visiting a few years back – says: “This is incredible. He’s from the Artic. It’s the first confirmed sighting of a walrus in Ireland”. 

  Kevin’s theory is that the walrus may have fallen asleep on an iceberg before drifting into the mid-Atlantic. 

  Anyways, from disappearing dolphin to wandering walrus, my return to Morning Ireland on the school run is completed. 

  I expect it will be back to Paul Reid/Luke O’Neill/Paschal Donohoe/Heather Humphreys tomorrow morning. 

 

Monday night

I watched a poignant ‘Lodging with Lucy’ tonight. It featured the great Paul McGrath. The football legend has admitted to some unacceptable behaviour in his troubled past, but the sense remains that he is at heart a good man who was initially dealt a ‘tough hand’ in life. Whatever about his difficult upbringing, and his much publicised alcohol problems in later life – none of which I reference lightly – he was an outstanding footballer, and is clearly a uniquely humble person. In this engaging programme, McGrath came across as likeable, lonely, and – as ever – remarkably modest. Tonight, I saw a man whom I suspect is not yet fully freed of familiar demons. I wish him well. He will always be a national hero. 

 

All week 

Such strange times are these. Anyways, and happily, it’s ‘Back to school’ time in our house this week. This is good. Mind you, it will take us a while to adjust to the old normal, or the new normal, or wherever we are in the world just now. 

  On Monday, various classes returned to primary school, and fifth years went back to secondary school. It’s a welcome development. Our hope is that everything goes well for students, parents and teachers, that everybody stays safe. 

  Matthew, our 10-year-old son, was very much looking forward to meeting up again with his classmates and teachers at St. Coman’s Wood NS. Homeschooling went well, but it’s great to see children returning to an actual school environment, not just for the obvious educational reasons, but also because they can resume some level of social interaction, which is so vital to their personal development. This has been a very challenging time for young children (as for everyone in society). 

  It will be a week of adjusting, including for us as parents! During lockdown, we pass less heed on the ‘ticking clock’. For most people, familiar routines are lost. At times, you almost lose track of what day of the week it is. A tedious sameness holds the nation hostage. 

  For those families with children going back to school, the welcome challenge now is to ‘re-set the clock’. Suddenly, it’s back to rising at 7.45/8 am! Familiar symbols of the school routine – lunch preparation, uniform checking, homework, money for this or that, searching for sports’ gear – are returning to the centre stage. 

  On balance, routine feels good. Of course it will mean going to bed earlier at night, with less binging on some of the excellent TV/Netflix dramas around (currently enjoying ‘Your Honor’). 

  As the week progressed, the readapting to routine has gone well (with a welcome break on St. Patrick’s Day!). There’s even been a new (lesser known) GFA. This GFA is of course the ‘Good Fortnite Agreement’. 

  Yes! Now that school’s back, and after weeks of hollering and associated animated mayhem in our house – as video games reigned during lockdown – we’re quietly confident that the return of conventional schooling (and our GFA) will deliver some tranquillity…and less of those very popular Fortnite/related video games! I’m sure it’s a similar story in other households around Roscommon!