Tuesday 26 September 2017

Vincent Hogan: There'd be plenty to chew over with JP and Dr John

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

I don't know if JP McManus and John Lynch have ever met, but I'd like to invite them both out to dinner. Maybe we could do one of those 'early bird' sittings. That way, if the conversation drags, at least the maitre d' will hand us our coats before it becomes excruciating.

I can't really imagine that happening, mind. There's just so much interesting ground to cover.

You will all be familiar with JP. He's one of Ireland's wealthiest men and also, I suspect, one of its most popular. I've passed him at Cheltenham on a few occasions and been struck by how so many ordinary people seem compelled to give him a cheery wave.

For someone who lives a life of helicopters and Lear jets, it's as if he works as a churchwarden in his spare time.

Friends argue that he's not remotely brash about his success, albeit he built a house the size of the Pentagon on his stud farm. The consensus is that he radiates the humility of a road-sweeper and wouldn't know his Prada from his Primark.

Which, from someone who could probably buy Greece tomorrow, is actually rather appealing.

The National Hunt industry in this country would go into virtual meltdown if JP ever stopped signing cheques. I am told that his kindness keeps many a small trainer afloat and, of course, his charitable work is legendary.


So, he ticks just about every humanitarian box imaginable then, including being kind to Tiger Woods.

But JP's first love is, apparently, the GAA. His horses run in the colours of his beloved South Liberties and one of them even bears the name 'Eamonn Grimes' on its stable door in homage to Limerick's last senior hurling All-Ireland-winning captain.

The man is so devoted to his county, he pretty much bankrolls its GAA activity with that 'Sporting Limerick' brand on top of his storied decision to, personally, remove €5m from the debt for renovation of the Gaelic Grounds.

It's fair to say a sense of place clearly means something to JP then, even if he is, officially, domiciled in, em, Geneva.

Which is why we need to do dinner now. You see, this intellectually stunted column just can't reconcile his clear devotion to the Limerick cause with the apathetic acceptance he seems to endorse of writing off the hurlers' year.

Now JP's view might be that a sponsor ought really to stay out of such things and, as such, he's merely being polite.

The problem is that's palpably not the public perception. Actually, rightly or wrongly, Limerick's decision to hold firm with Justin McCarthy and, thereby, disenfranchise virtually the entire 2009 panel is depicted as one carrying JP's imprimatur.

And JP's imprimatur is, you will appreciate, a rather weighty thing.

So, we're just looking for some clarity, nothing more. Three courses, coffee (maybe Irish), some toothpicks and a promise to be home before the nine o'clock news. Over a nice port, maybe he might just give us his take on the busted flush that is Limerick hurling today. Find out if he's excited about June 20.

Now we know, we know. It's quite possible JP relates to the view, espoused by two different guests on Friday's 'Late Late Show', that media people exist one rung down the biological ladder from ecoli. If so, fair enough.

The PR man who thought it a good idea to personally lecture the Lions players after their first Test defeat in the 2005 tour of New Zealand and a pantomime veteran answering to the name of Twink both expressed a rather low opinion of journalists.

This column felt their pain and, therefore, understands that JP might baulk at the prospect of dining in such low company. Which is why we're also inviting Dr Lynch. He'll add a little gravitas and, well, there's stuff we'd like to explore with him too.

Doctor John is, among other things, chairman of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. You may also know him as chairman of CIE and a former Director General of FAS. There was a little palaver in the media some time ago about his pension, but then that's the accursed media.

This column is only interested in his boxing role. You see, the European Championships start on June 4 and, well, the IABA has yet to submit its High Performance funding application for the year. So, who's actually paying for the flights to Moscow?

The Boxing Council recently voted in support of its own board's choices of new High Performance Director and Chief Executive Officer, despite the Irish Sports Council's refusal to fund either post, citing unhappiness with the board's procedures as its reason.

I understand Doctor John has met with the ISC and the two sides simply agreed to disagree.

Now, the reason we keep harping on about this is thus: we mightn't pay too much attention to a gifted kid called Joe Ward today, but, come 2012, chances are he'll be our only reason to whoop during the London Olympics.

Joe came back with gold (and Ryan Burnett silver) from the recent World Youths Championships in Azerbaijan. He also claimed gold at the World Juniors in May. In other words, Ward is about as hot a prospect as there is in amateur boxing.

Jim Moore coached that team in Azerbaijan, yet the IABA seemed happy to dispense with Jim's services last year. And their recent treatment of Billy Walsh doesn't exactly suggest they covet his input either. Yet, from where this column sits, Walsh, Moore and Zaur Antia, look like the only glue now holding High Performance together.

All of which leaves a strange kind of vibe around Irish amateur boxing as the Europeans loom, not to mention that around Limerick hurling on the doorstep to another championship. Now it could be that neither JP nor Doctor John retain a single opinion worth the name on any of the above.

If so, what's not to like about a slow-cooked shank of lamb anyway? Dinner gentlemen? We can split the bill.

Irish Independent

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