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Anna Nolan: It's time these Old Dogs admitted defeat

FIRST we had Old Dogs, an all-time low movie for Robin Williams and John Travolta. (Which is saying a lot, because Travolta has had so many lows in recent years, he is verging on horizontal).

And now, I am sure you cannot wait for the movie with a cast of barely breathing, barely memorable grandpops -- Sylvester Stalone, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- in the new blockbuster The Expendables.

An unfortunate name for a movie -- why on earth they let this title pass through the net is beyond me.

The premise? A gaggle of ancient action heroes meet up and save people.

Baloney

With a combined age of 623 for the five lead actors, you have to hand it to the Hollywood guys, who feel they can go on and on and on, and you have to hand it to the Hollywood execs who fill these guys' heads with pure baloney.

The definition of expendable is: not worth salvaging or reusing.

Harsh, Sylvester, but true.

Was there a dry eye anywhere after watching Stuart's bravery?

I HAVE no doubt many people were deeply touched by the tragic story of Stuart Mangan as told on RTE last night. Was there a dry eye anywhere as the show credits rolled?

Stuart was a successful City trader living in London with a gorgeous girlfriend and a wonderful life stretching ahead of him when, on the afternoon of April 5, 2008, while playing rugby, he injured his spinal cord to such an extent that he was paralysed from the neck down.

Courage

The programme showed Stuart's courage in the face of this terrible accident and how he began, with the help of his wonderful parents, Una and Brian, and initially his girlfriend Lorna, to restructure his life to accommodate his paralysis.

I was amazed at how he managed to inch his way back to some form of independence. We saw him move from a rehabilitation centre to a flat, travel back to his hometown of Cork and deal with his break-up with Lorna. What was most astonishing, of course, was his attitude. He seemed to completely lack self-pity.

He constantly looked forward; he dreamed of creating a brace that would enable him to ride a horse and planned to skydive in France.

Physical

And, strangely enough, Stuart seemed to have absolutely no regrets rugby-wise, saying: "I think that rugby is a game that is in some ways like no other. If you were to ask me if I could get my life back and say that I'd never play rugby. I'd probably say no, I'd definitely have played. The moments I remember playing as a youngster, they definitely outweigh what has happened."

I have two nephews who play rugby and, yes, they are quite passionate about the game. Both of their mothers find it difficult to watch them play because it's such a physical game and one of these mammies would be more than happy if her son never saw a scrum again.

Of course rugby doesn't necessarily have any more casualities than any other hard-contact sport, although 'contact', as a word, doesn't seem to cover the kinds of crashing and mashing that the players inflict on each other in any game I've watched.

Legacy

But it remains a sport which inspires a great depth of feeling across all age groups and classes here in Ireland and worldwide and looks set to be a major sport here for many years to come. Sadly, Stuart passed away after contracting pneumonia, but the legacy he leaves his family and friends is one of great love for the game of rugby and of breathtaking courage in the face of terrible odds.


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