Monday 24 July 2017

Vincent Hogan: Grey existence of men who give summer its epic colour

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

I WONDER if, in the next life, the kind of people who buy Premier League clubs will be on street corners selling ‘The Big Issue’. Personally, I hope so. There's got to be some kind of moral retribution don't you think?

Half the world hasn't an arse in its trousers, yet £130m can be splashed on strengthening a football team that isn't then even up to scoring a goal.

Long after we've signed up for our incontinence pads, this column will probably retain an unhealthy affection for Liverpool Football Club. We accept this is a lifelong thing. Recently, we've been adding to the strain on Google in vain hope of a glimpse into the mysterious worlds of men called Kenny Huang and Yahya Kirdi.

And we can't honestly say if either has the price of a pint, let alone the funds for an Anfield takeover.

All we do know is that we'd quite like the club to build a rather large new stadium across Stanley Park soon, thereby generating more money to fund bigger transfers. After all, if Abu Dhabi Rovers can offer Fernando Torres £220,000 a week, who's to say he won't eventually locate a tweezers to pick that offer back out of the bin?

Most Premier League footballers live in houses that look like wedding cakes and drive cars that, on a trip to the shops, probably deposit the carbon footprint of a small country.

And, all going well, we'll see to it that they build even bigger and drive even louder in the future.

Damned

I suspect that the worst part of this is that, generally, the curse tends to be hereditary. If you grew up worshipping Keegan and Toshack, chances are at least one of your offspring has a replica shirt now with Gerrard or Torres on the back. So you've damned the child and, most probably, their children too.

The start of the Premier League always signals the renewed Disneyfication of our lives.

Soon the GAA championships will have run their course and we'll be back in a weary trance to Richard Keys, Andy Gray and Uncle Rupert's Al-Jazeera.

And a lot of the men who gave epic colour to our summer will be back leading ordinary and, in some cases, economically pinched lives.

You may have noticed advertisements appearing in recent GAA match programmes, promoting the off-field trade skills of some Waterford hurlers. This is the product of an initiative born last March when eight local business people got together to launch the Waterford Players Support Group.

The group was chaired by former All Star defender Fergal Hartley and set about finding work for unemployed players. That focus gradually broadened on a realisation that there was an issue to be addressed too for those who already had jobs, but were simply underemployed.

So the campaign became one of awareness. The man who wore your county colours so heroically on a Sunday afternoon might just be available to paint your house or fix an electrical problem that Monday.

Waterford's scheme had immediate successes and, two months ago, the GPA rode in behind them with a great raft of support services. The basic aim is to promote a concept of supporting your own.

Like most really bright ideas, the wonder is that it took so long for someone to think of it. For there is this extraordinary paradox in GAA lives that some of our biggest stars can have a tough time simply making ends meet.

The Premier League soccer player might be wrestling with boredom in a landscaped estate the size of Alaska (or holding out for that £2m compensation for the inconvenience of moving to Birmingham) while a hurler, maybe with more talent in his small finger, could be left fretting over a heating bill.

When you think about it, our geography absorbs its personality from GAA faces.

What can you tell us about Newtownshandrum that doesn't have an image of the O'Connor twins stamped to it like a patent?

Can you see a sign for Oulart without thinking of Liam Dunne? Likewise, Mullinahone and the Kellys? Lismore and Big Dan? Sixmilebridge and Davy Fitz?

Headed for an U-13 tournament in Kilkenny on Saturday morning, we slipped down the beautiful valley into Inistioge, through which it is impossible to pass without seeing Eddie Keher's face in the landscape.

Then on through Bennettsbridge, where Noel Skehan and James McGarry seem writ into the stone.

The journey passed in the company of Ray Ryan, a veteran Cork journalist, interviewed on RTE radio about his life wrestling with split infinitives. Ryan worshipped at the altar of Christy Ring and recycled an old story, one always worth retelling.

It depicts Ring unloading himself of a few choice words in a Cork dressing-room before going out to face Tipperary in the Munster championship, the great man's language laced with expletives.

A priest in the room grows more ashen with each sentence. Christy finishes and, as Cork go thundering towards the dressingroom door, the cleric gently intercepts him.

“Christy,” he says, “some of those words you used, you didn't read in the Bible.”

Ring chuckles gently as he passes. “Father,” he declares, “the men who wrote the Bible never had to face Tipp!”

Christy, incidentally, drove an oil lorry for a living. Take it that no one goes cold in the place of his winters now.

- Anyone seeking more information on the Waterford initiative can contact Fergal Hartley at fhartley@hartleypeople.com or on 051878813.

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