Paul Healy’s Week

Friday 

 

The radio bulletins and social media sites crackle with breaking news. ‘Cyber attack on HSE’. ‘HSE hit by ransomware attack’. ‘Taoiseach: We won’t pay ransom’. 

  Hold it right there! What’s happening? Does it star Liam Neeson, or have they gone all Hollywood and cast Dwayne Johnson? Is this why Matt Damon has been spending so much time in Ireland? I mean, it’s got to be a futuristic film, hasn’t it? 

  Apparently not. This is the world of today. A cyber attack has shut down key HSE systems. There is chaos, with cancellation of appointments and services for patients. A criminal gang is demanding money in return for releasing the data it has encrypted. Hence the term ‘ransomware’. 

  It sounds like a movie plot, a payday for Liam or Matt or Dwayne. But it’s not. And the awful reality is reflected in the human stories behind the high-tech labels. The newspapers brim with reports of the hurt caused to families, as seriously ill patients suffer due to the callousness, cruelty and greed of criminals. It may sound like a TV thriller; unfortunately, it’s real life. 

 

Later on Friday 

 

The Friday evening TV schedule offers a tasty 90 minutes of viewing on BBC One. First up at 8.30 pm is Would I Lie to You?, followed by Have I Got News for You, then at 9.30 there’s the latest series of This Time with Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan). 

  For readers not fully acquainted with Partridge’s latest career move, ‘This Time’ is the excellent spoof on daytime TV which peaked in 2019 with the famous ‘Come out, Ye Black and Tans’ episode. Coogan played Martin Brennan, an Irishman being interviewed by Partridge (also played by Coogan) who suddenly bursts into Irish rebel songs on air. It was hilarious and daring…Coogan at his best. 

  ‘This Time’, while not flawless, is a clever, original and very entertaining comedy. Coogan – who guested on Boyle native Chris O’Dowd’s ‘Moone Boy’ – is one of the most gifted artists of recent decades.    

  Up to a few years ago, Have I Got News for You was my favourite TV show of all time. However, that was then. These days, I consider it a shadow of its former self, a show that has outstayed its welcome. 

  I’m not sure when I began watching HIGNFY, but I have a fond memory of my late dad laughing during an episode at the time of the OJ Simpson murder trial. Have I Got News for You wasn’t really meant to be for his generation. I was pleased that my dad ‘got’ the humour. That was 1995. I guess it was peak HIGNFY time. (The show began in 1990, and the current team captains are as then: Ian Hislop and Paul Merton). 

  Over the years, HIGNFY was challenged by Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats, etc. Would I Lie To You? began in 2007. In my opinion, it is by far the best panel show on the scene now. Host Rob Brydon and David Mitchell (one of the team captains) are excellent, but Lee Mack (the other team captain) is the star of this brilliant show. His quick-fire wit is a joy. Regular guest Bob Mortimer is priceless, madcap comedy gold. 

  Anything involving Coogan (as Alan Partridge) is special. Would I Lie To You? is laugh-out-loud funny. By contrast, HIGNFY has aged badly. Still, out of respect and nostalgia for its peak years, I’ll always stay loyal to it. My dad wasn’t brought up on comedy panel shows, but he appreciated Merton. The show’s greatness in its early years will always overshadow its subsequent decline. 

  So, if you want a 90-minute break from the real world (including the ever-declining Late Late Show), Friday night on BBC One is recommended.  

 

Saturday

 

Asked to comment on a very undistinguished game that he’d just played in, Irish rugby great Moss Keane memorably quipped: “The first half was even, the second half was even worse”. 

  After a scoreless first half in today’s FA Cup Final, the BBC pundits didn’t have much to talk about. The first half had been kind of even (Chelsea a little on top) – thankfully the second half was far from ‘even worse’.   

  That second half was notable for three outstanding moments/major talking points: a superb goal by Leicester’s Youri Tielemans, a sensational save by their ‘keeper, Kasper Schmeichel, and a dramatic finale when Chelsea thought they had equalised, only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled out by VAR.   

  I was delighted that Leicester held on for a 1-0 win. Once unfashionable, in recent years this club has audaciously snapped at the heels of football’s richest and most successful clubs. Their extraordinary Premier League title win in 2015/2016 endeared Leicester to millions of neutral fans. Now, today’s win is a first ever FA Cup Final triumph for the club. No disrespect to Chelsea, but I was smiling. For years, I’ve admired Leicester’s lethal, captivating ‘lone wolf’ striker, Jamie Vardy. Their manager, Brendan Rodgers, is also a class act. 

  Just as they were savouring their spectacular rise, Leicester were hit by tragedy in 2018 when the club’s owner and three others passengers died in a helicopter crash. Suddenly, fate had determined that glory and grief would form an emotional backdrop to the remarkable emergence of Leicester as a 21st century football force.    

  After Leeds, Leicester is now my favourite ‘other club’. Besides, just now, any trophy win by a team outside the self-styled ‘Big Six’ – the clubs that were plotting a European Super League – feels like vindication for grassroots, for tradition, for football’s soul. Go Leicester!

 

Also on Saturday 

 

It doesn’t shock me that Kerry superstar David Clifford scored 3-6 against Galway today. The threat is ever-present: he’s capable of anything, including turning much of what we’ve ever known upside down. 

  I’m hardly an expert, but it strikes me that this guy could turn out to be the best Gaelic footballer – forward at least – of all time. 

  I was privileged to be present in Croke Park at the All-Ireland Minor Football Final in 2017, when the mesmerisingly elusive Clifford scored a stupendous 4-4. That day, I knew I was watching greatness reveal itself. It felt like Roy of the Rovers, GAA version. That day four years ago, I thought: ‘This kid may be the best ever’. Nothing about his future will surprise me.

 

Sunday 

 

A strange experience in Dr. Hyde Park, where I attended the Allianz National Football League game between Roscommon and Dublin. 

  With no spectators allowed in – due to the pandemic – there was no contest for the ‘Fans of the Day’ award. That goes to the two Dublin ladies, clad in their county colours, who marched up and down OUTSIDE the stadium, waving a Dublin flag…while taking photos, presumably so they could record their pilgrimage to the Hyde on social media. 

  Meanwhile, INSIDE our revered ground, a few dozen accredited people were sprinkled around the main stand. GAA personnel, and representatives of the local and national media, had a bird’s eye view of the action – speaking of which, there was a steady flow of birds circling and chirping from the vicinity of the top of the stand.  

  Unsurprisingly, the lack of atmosphere was very notable. Still, midst the surrealness, we watched an entertaining, free-flowing match, with Dublin winning comfortably, but with Roscommon competitive throughout, and producing some fine football. Full coverage in our sports section.  

  

Monday 

 

And when all the inventive geniuses out there have a moment to spare, maybe one of them could devise packets of biscuits (I’m thinking McVitie’s digestives, Jacob’s cream crackers, etc.) that can be opened without the top two or three biscuits crumbling straight away. It’s not an absolute priority, but it does need to be tackled.