Saturday 24 February 2018

Canny O'Mahony won't worry, he'll be happy

William Street was as lonesome as Reykjavik on the night before dole day. The big, bold orange sign over McKenna's shop, just across the road, screamed 'Expert'.

I sipped another sup out of my glass of wine at the pub window and thought: "You're some expert. You haven't seen Mayo or Cork play in the flesh for months and here you are writing about the National League Final."

TV only shows 42 inches at most. It's no more than the width of a mid-range porter belly. There's stuff like marking up, body language, decoy running, covering back and off-the-ball hits that just don't fit in to a small box yet many of us offer profound opinions from that limited perspective.

Sorry, but I was at the rugby.

Time passed. The wine glass emptied. The lonesome blank page on the laptop screen went to sleep. I was ready for bed and not a line written. Maybe the morning might bring inspiration. It was half two and that's not one.

Then the mobile rings, well not quite. It sings 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'. And who should be calling all the way from Meath only Don't Worry and Be Happy. Bernard Flynn and David Beggy put me in back in form. The two played against both Cork and Mayo in All-Ireland finals. Now I had a lead on the league.

Be happy is a feelgood tip. The winning trainer of even the most modest handicap at Punchestown will express delight. "He jumped like a stag and he's very good to his mammy."

The league finalists have come through the freeze of February. In shrill March you could end up playing against the wind in both halves. There is no easy game in Division 1 and then if you do manage to win the final in April, all you hear from your manager is "sure it's only the league".

Managers are always apologising for winning the league. The build-up talk is in the same vein. Mayo manager John O'Mahony as good as said Cork were the best team in Ireland. Conor Counihan expressed his admiration for all things Mayo.

The coaches were trying to be cute. A single line praising your own team or, better again, a derogatory expression about the opposition, will be posted on the dressing room wall.

A few years back, the South African rugby coach Jake White, in an aside, stated only three Irish players would make the South African team. He was probably right.

Eddie O'Sullivan used it to motivate our boys. I patriotically attacked White on this very page. You'd nearly think the Springbok alleged Michael Collins was under the bed during the War of Independence or that Tom Riordan cheated on Mary, such was the condemnation of his assessment of the Irish team.

Eddie got it right and South Africa were defeated by an Irish side for the first time in 38 years.

But are Counihan and O'Mahony really cute? The truly cute stay under cover.

By the way, if there are any volcano-stranded Americans reading this, cute in Ireland doesn't mean handsome. It would be something like a man who sold all his property before the bust, but didn't tell anyone.

Declan Kidney is really cute. When Declan talks up the opposition you feel he means it. And maybe he does. We don't know for sure and that's his secret. His county are hot favourites for the league final, but they have injuries to key players.


Cork could have won the All-Ireland last year. I met with Billy Morgan in Mahon Point during the week and he still has total faith in the team he helped build. On that basis, you would have to fancy Cork. The bookies have them at twos-on, but I think Mayo might spring a surprise. O'Mahony may not be cute, but he is shrewd and he knows a little about winning big games at Croke Park.

And what do Flynn and Beggy think about it all? I forgot to ask.

Flynn is putting the finishing touches to the annual GAA Legends Inter-county Golf Challenge in Spain next month.

Beggy is on the Meath team. Believe me when I say he's a lot better at football and singing than he is at the golf. Dapper Flynn looks the part. Everything matches, but he hits more wides in 18 holes than he did in 15 years playing for Meath.

His tournament raises a small fortune for worthy causes and the prize for the winning county team is the right to nominate a charity as the recipients of thousands in prize money.

Finally, we would like to express our condolences to the McGuinness family in Leitrim who lost their lovely son Philly this week. Let's say a prayer too for the poor young fellow who was involved in that fatal and totally accidental collision.

Irish Independent

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