Wednesday 26 June 2019

Declan Lynch: 'How Ross O'Carroll-Kelly and me won it for Liverpool'

CHAMPIONS: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: PA
CHAMPIONS: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: PA
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

The last time Liverpool won the Champions League, in Istanbul in 2005, my friend the writer Paul Howard came from the other side of Avoca, with a packet of Toffee Pops in one hand, and a packet of Ginger Nuts in the other. They had been purchased in Hendley's shop down in the village - a ritual observed with due solemnity in every round of the tournament.

At half-time, with Liverpool 3-0 down to AC Milan, it struck me that we hadn't eaten any of the Toffee Pops yet. So we started to eat them and Liverpool started to score goals. And that is why Liverpool won the Champions League in Istanbul.

But with great achievement comes great responsibility. And since then Liverpool had lost three European finals, for which I must take most of the blame.

In 2006 again we had watched every round and eaten every packet of biscuits in what we call the Boot Room, but inexplicably, I was on a family holiday in Italy as the 'Pool went down to AC Milan. It was almost as if I hadn't expected them to be in the final that year, an egregious error of judgement, a moral failure indeed.

The following year we were able to blame my wife Caroline for Liverpool's early departure, when we noticed that she had changed the position of the sofa in the Boot Room in a way that was almost imperceptible to the layman, but which in retrospect we realised had shattered the delicate ju-ju on which the fate of Liverpool Football Club depends.

We would not make that mistake again, and yet somehow Paul and I contrived to be in different places for Liverpool's next two defeats in European finals - when they lost to Seville in the Europa League final of 2016, I was attending a book launch, which is unforgivable, even allowing for the fact that I had written the book.

And last year we saw the lads all the way through to the Champions League final in Kiev, only for Paul to be absent from the Boot Room due to a prior engagement talking about the new Ross O'Carroll-Kelly book on the Ray D'Arcy TV show - if you felt he was a tad subdued on the night, now you know why.

This year there would be no mucking about. Indeed for each game a new layer of ritual was added, whereby I would text Paul to confirm that the Boot Room would be open tonight, and he would reply: "Mariah". Or, if you like: "I'll be there".

He learned that one from an old football man. We have both learned much on this journey, and not just the inexhaustible nature of man's capacity for Toffee Pops and Ginger Nuts - we even had a summit meeting with our friends Brian and Geoff, thrashing out an agreement whereby they watched it in the pub last night, concerned as they were that they'd not been in the Boot Room for every game, and the implications this might have for the ju-ju.

It was working right from the start in Madrid, with Mo Salah banging in a penalty after 30 seconds with the certainty of a man who knows that the force is with him - he may not know exactly which force, but some force, for sure.

Commentators were trying to tell us that it wasn't going very well for Liverpool for the rest of the first half, apparently unaware that it was actually going very well indeed, in ways they could never comprehend.

After all the high-scoring madness of recent European nights, this was starting to feel like an old-school final from the 1990s when very little would happen during the game. It was all too important for that.

Not that we gave a damn, here in the Boot Room, about whether the game was any good, as such. What was good, what was very good, was Divock Origi smashing it into the bottom corner of the net with three minutes left, to make it two-nil for Liverpool.

They are great lads, this Liverpool side, with a great manager, and a great future. They have made a beautiful contribution to a glorious club history.

We couldn't have done it without them.

Don't ask us to do your job... you're the highly paid bosses

When last week #whatwewantRTE started, there was an answer on the RTE Twitter account from "Dee Forbes and the team at RTE". It went:   "Some great ideas here. Thank you… we are listening."

This was the wrong answer.

Indeed if there is one thing above all else that Dee Forbes and the team at RTE should not be doing, it is listening to us and what we want.

Because, ideally, RTE executives who are being paid extraordinary amounts of money, would have the vision and courage to make up their own minds about what we want, and more importantly, what we need from RTE.

For example, there was a brilliant programme on RTE1 last week called Starboard Home.

It had a complex origin in the 1916 celebrations, involving Dublin Port and the National Concert Hall asking various musicians and writers to respond to the port and the Liffey with appropriate work.

It ended up with this gorgeous hour of television featuring artists such as Paul Cleary, Lisa O'Neill, John Sheahan, Gemma Hayes, James Vincent McMorrow, Cathy Davey, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Duke Special, Declan O'Rourke and Caitriona Lally performing at the NCH, along with some tremendous scenes of Dublin Port and Docks, now and in ancient times.

Nobody wanted that.

I mean, a very small number of the professionals in this area, such as the producers and curators Paul Noonan and Gary Sheehan, wanted it.

But at no point did any of us out here declare that we wanted a fusion of concert performances and archive material and TV documentary-making to evoke the history of Dublin Port and the Liffey. Oh, and maybe make it a part of the 1916 thing.

No, nobody wanted that.

We have busy lives so we'll happily leave these matters to people who have nothing else to do all day.

I hope that they're not listening to this either.

There's a touch of class, even in compo culture

In 1987 a man called Patrick (Paddy) Madigan, a solicitor and a Fianna Fail councillor in Dun Laoghaire, received massive damages of £30,000 from the Irish Press newspaper, for libel.

The paper had written a story suggesting he had "willingly lashed out" £300 at a Fianna Fail fundraising event, for a map of Charles Haughey's island of Inishvickillane, thinking the map was unique. The Irish Press story had alleged that Mr Madigan had complained to Mr Haughey when he discovered the truth - but the paper admitted that this was not true, and it apologised.

Mr Madigan produced evidence to show he had been ridiculed, that the story appeared to have ruined his chances of a FF Dail nomination. The Supreme Court upheld the award.

I was reminded of this judgment when I started reading about the Maria Bailey compensation claim, specifically the fact that her legal representatives in the matter were Madigans, a firm founded by Paddy Madigan, the father of Josepha Madigan - herself a former partner at the firm.

I guess it was the enormity of the award to Paddy Madigan that had lodged it permanently in my mind - at the time, the figure of £30,000 had stunned the tightly-knit journalistic community, though of course they were to be stunned and stunned again many more times by other libel actions in the terrible years that followed.

Perhaps my own recollections are especially acute because I wrote a play set against this culture of massive damages being awarded for libel, writing a play being something I thought I would never do, and something I have been reluctant to do again - it was indeed called Massive Damages, a comedy of course, and during its run at the Tivoli Theatre, I recall that an unusually high percentage of the audience consisted of members of the legal profession.

I have no idea if Paddy Madigan ever made it up there, but when he passed away in 2014, The Irish Times noted that he had been "an enthusiastic litigator on his own behalf and on behalf of property owners and landlords in the 1980s".

Interestingly, he left Fianna Fail to become an Independent councillor, and now his daughter is a Fine Gael minister - perhaps another signal that in the broad sweep of history, Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fail.

But in an even broader sense, what these recollections are telling me, is that there has been a kind of class consciousness in the area of massive damages, as in so many other areas of Irish life.

For the most part, the ruling class has sought redress for perceived injustices, through the libel laws.

The "less well-off", meanwhile, have tended to concentrate their efforts in the domain of personal injuries.

Partly it is just a reflection of the fact that their respective lives are essentially different, that the affluent among us are more likely to be featured in the papers, and thus more likely to be libelled, than those on the average industrial wage or no wage at all.

Perhaps there is a psychological aspect to it too, with the latter lacking the self-esteem to realise that they actually have this thing called a reputation which may be damaged by something that appears in the paper.

Certainly there are two distinct cultures here, united only by the heroic efforts of the legal profession to ensure that all are amply compensated for the grievous wrongs they have suffered.

So perhaps one of the reasons that the Maria Bailey case became so interesting, is that it set up this basic confusion in the Irish mind. At some subconscious level, perhaps we are just not accustomed to seeing her kind of people, seeking compensation for that sort of thing.

Indeed the firm which represented her was literally founded by one of the great protagonists in the more esoteric forms of legal combat - though in this country any litigant, be they of the ruling class or any other class, can have strong grounds for optimism whenever they stake their claim.

Too strong, according to the Government, which has been vowing to "do something" about what they perceive as the compo culture - indeed the Minister of State Michael D'Arcy told Philip Ryan in this paper last December, that there are "some geographical areas where there is a compo claim culture".

"Geographical areas" is a rather loose term here, but we know what he means. And most likely, he knows that we know.

He went on to say: "But it's everywhere now, that is the issue. The best of people are exaggerating claims; you know, honest people."

Again, a broad brush stroke there - but again by "the best of people", and "honest people", we know what he means. And most likely, he knows that we know.

And yet for the most part, when we talk about this compo culture, we'd still be talking about the "geographical areas" here, the sort of geographical areas in which you wouldn't normally find a Fine Gael TD. In the places where Fine Gael TDs live, they have their own culture - and to maintain that culture, they have among other things the Irish libel laws, which are probably the most disgraceful in the western world.

They'll be doing nothing about that, you may be sure.

Sunday Independent

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