Saturday 20 January 2018

Radio: Genuine shock of Anthony's untimely death

Fans pay tribute to Anthony Foley at the gates of Thomond Park this week. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Fans pay tribute to Anthony Foley at the gates of Thomond Park this week. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The death of Anthony Foley on Sunday was genuinely shocking. Not only because he was famous and a great rugby player in his day, or because of the tragic loss for two small children of their father, and a young woman of her life-partner. Not even because of the eerie sort of irony in the fact that he died while in Paris to oversee a Munster match.

I think it was shocking mostly because of his age. The man was 42. That is not an age for your life to come to an end. It's wrong, on the most profound existential level.

And the suddenness of it: this wasn't a case of protracted illness or anything like that. He just… died. I'm not going to say now that I feel like I knew Anthony Foley, or feel devastated, or cried when I heard. (Though I don't make any judgment if others choose to do that.) But I can honestly say that I felt shocked, and still do.

I'd tuned in to Off the Ball (Newstalk, Sun 12pm), more or less on a whim, and they had their usual paper-round, an interview with Pádraig Harrington. Then, just after two, Joe Molloy said: "Now, some breaking news, desperately sad news."

His co-host Nathan Murphy added: "Sad and tragic news from Paris, that the Munster head coach Anthony Foley has died. Really shocking."

Over on Sunday Sport (Radio 1, Sun 2pm), Darren Frehill introduced the show by saying: "You join us on a very, very sad day… we've just got news of the tragic passing of former Ireland and Munster captain Anthony Foley."

No exaggeration, it really was a moment where it felt as though the ground had dropped away.

Keith Wood, old friend and comrade of the deceased man, paid a brave and emotional homage to him on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am). On the same station's High Noon (Mon-Fri 12pm), George Hook paid tribute to Foley in an understated and clearly heartfelt way.

There was much more throughout the week, tributes and fond memories and shared stories of fun and camaraderie. But what can you say about something like this, really? The overall mood was one of numbness, bewilderment and, yes, shock.

The Ray D'Arcy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 3pm) had a nice bit on this week's performance of David Bowie songs in Irish. Réaltnach (Starman as Gaeilge) involves jazz singer Hilary Bow, Liam Ó Maonlaí and the amusingly named duo, the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra.

Some of the late Bowie's songs have been translated into the first language by that great poet Gabriel Rosenstock, and it all took place (last night, if you're reading this on Saturday) at this year's IMRAM Irish Language Literature Festival in Dún Laoghaire.

As Ó Maonlaí explained, they've previously done Irish versions of Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen. Now - with all due deference to devotees of the aforementioned twosome - they tackle the really big dog of post-war popular culture. Van and Lenny may be godlike geniuses, but Bowie basically was a god.

Hilary added that this isn't a straight translation, as such, but "more interpretive. The two languages are completely different so you can't really get a direct translation".

The group then sang two Bowie tracks, including 'Space Oddity'. And you know what - it worked.

I'd have a bit of a soft spot for the Irish language anyway. But taken on its own merits, this was clever, inventive, surprising, evocative. Which, I suppose, is what art should mostly aspire to be.

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