The year 2016 ended on a triumphant note, with Kilmacow's minor footballers winning the Kilkenny 'B' championship after a last-gasp score brought them a 3-9 to 3-8 triumph against Mooncoin. "What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?" they tweeted. "I didn't even know there was an 'A' championship."
Which reminds me of a great story Phil Sheridan tells about a National League game between Fermanagh and Kilkenny in the 1980s. The game was played in Irvinestown. Phil's brother Niall was left corner-back for Fermanagh and, soon after the throw-in, the pattern of the game was settled.
The ball wasn't coming up the field at all so the two boys were twiddling their thumbs. Niall's man was rooted to the spot. Not a jog to the sideline. Not even a stroll. Eventually, Niall struck up conversation. "When did you come up?" "Last night. The boys had a fierce rip of drink in the Slieve Russell." "What club do you play for?" said Niall. "Me? No club. I don't play at all." "What do you mean?" said Niall. "I'm the bus driver, we only had 14."
Phil's great friend, Seamus Leonard, from Aghadrumsee, told me another good one recently. Joe McGurran from Enniskillen, who went on to become Fermanagh chairman, started out as an umpire. He was umpiring a McKenna Cup game in Ballinascreen once with Fermanagh's inter-county referee Seamus McManus.
The Derry midfielder launched a long ball in and it ricocheted about the square. As Seamus had it, "just as Larry Diamond was about to lash her to the net (in Fermanagh, all inanimate objects are female, as in 'she's a lovely wee motor' or 'I took one look at that Massey Ferguson and had to buy her'.) McGurran reached in, grabbed the ball and held it tight to his chest."
At which point, all hell broke loose. McManus came running in blowing his whistle and pulled McGurran out of the melee. When he had calmed the posse, waving them away, he escorted Joe behind the goals. "What the hell are you doing, Joe?" "It was a square ball," said Joe. "For Jesus' sake Joe, why didn't you just let him score the goal and I'd have disallowed it?" "You're better nipping these things in the bud, Seamus."
A lot of sports books came onto the market this year. Kieran Donaghy's What Do You Think of That? won Irish sports book of the year, which is great, as it will increase my percentage of the royalties. Cathal McCarron also worked with a writer to produce a book which, in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to read.
I thought the funniest book of the year would be Alan Partridge's Alan Partridge: NOMAD. It's billed in this way: "Alan dons his boots, windcheater and scarf and embarks on an odyssey through a place he once knew - it's called Britain - intent on completing a journey of immense personal significance . . . "
But then, out of the blue, a copy of Enda McNulty's Commit arrived in the post with a card from a journalist friend, reading: "I sent you this as I really don't think I can do it justice. Enjoy and Happy Christmas!"
It is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time, even if at times it makes Joyce's Ulysses look like a children's book. COMMIT stands for something very important. Then there is SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Action-orientated, Realistic, Time-bound, Exciting, Reviewable). The gurus love acronyms.
Under 'Specific' he writes: "Do you want to run a business with an operating profit of €2 million?" If the answer to that is yes, then you must "Nail it down". Under 'Realistic' he asks: "Is it realistic that Enda McNulty grows his company so it turns over €10 million within three years? Maybe it is." (Only the heavyweight champion of the world, Donald Trump and Enda can talk about themselves in the third person.) We are exhorted to "stress test our goals using SMARTER", "carry a hand basket in the supermarket rather than a trolley" and "get out and clean the windows of your house rather than have someone else clean them".
As with all of these Pendulum types, it is full of boasting. "I've worked with many household-name coaches at the highest levels of professional sport." Or, "Somehow, we still managed to put together a world-class event."
Then there is the name dropping. Brian O'Driscoll (who scored a hat-trick of tries against France when he was barely out of school) or Pádraic Moyles (who was the lead dancer in Riverdance for 10 years before meeting Enda, but went on to "dance better than he'd ever danced before"), executives from Microsoft, Digicel, Big Pharma.
The book is basically a promo for his new company. It reads at times like an episode of The Apprentice. In the chapter entitled 'Building a Growth Mindset', he writes: "In McNulty Performance I give the team tasks to be completed in a very short time. Last year, before Christmas, I made an announcement, 'We're going to do a €20 challenge. Two teams of five. You've got €20 and one hour to go out and make a significant difference to someone's life."
Team One bought flowers and hot chocolate and "handed them out free to random people. They came back beaming with pride", writes Enda. But now, the punchline. Enda was leading Team Two. Wow! Step aside Team One. Losers! Team Two got loads of rugby gear and other stuff from contacts and didn't even spend the €20.
"When Team One saw us coming laden with bags they couldn't believe it! By adopting a growth mindset we had opened up the exercise to a universe of possibilities."
Ah haaaaaaaaaaa! The thought struck me as I read that if Partridge narrated it in audio book form it would become a smash comic hit. Enda could market a McNulty performance tie-and-blazer badge set.
Commit finishes with a timely reminder for us all. "You cannot breathe in the past. You cannot breathe in the future. The only place you can ever breathe is in the now."
So, Happy New Year. Commit, be smarter, and for God's sake, wherever you are or whatever your circumstances, whether you're a bin man who's finally decided to become a multi-millionaire or a single unemployed mother who is destined for Hollywood stardom, remember Enda's words. Do not forget to breathe!
Sunday Indo Sport
The year was nearly complete when Mick Roche died. Those of us who didn't know Mick Roche personally, nor had the opportunity to see him hurl in the flesh, still found he'd left a mark on our consciousness. He was deeply admired as a stylist in places outside of Tipperary. Within the county, as various tributes before and after his death made clear, he was revered.