Thursday 19 April 2018

Cork and Kerry the ones to shine in beautiful summer

Páidí ó Sé has discarded the sackcloth in favour of looking on life's bright side

AIDAN O'MAHONY'S decision to step out of football brought to mind a time when John O'Keeffe was going through a similar experience on the run-in to the five-in-a-row All-Ireland in 1982. It was a hot summer that year and Mick O'Dwyer was driving us into the ground with hard training.

Johno was going through a bad patch and his freshness for the game had deserted him. One evening after training, Tim Kennelly and myself bumped into Micko outside the Park Place Hotel in Killarney.

We said to Micko, 'the best thing you can do for John is to let him off to the Rose of Tralee festival and let him have a blow-out to loosen himself up'. Micko retorted: "I couldn't agree more with what you say about Johno, but there's no way I'll let you two fellas off to the Rose of Tralee!"

I don't think we've seen the last of Aidan in the green and gold, by the way, and a break from football might be good for him; his sending off against Tyrone, I believe, added to his sense of frustration.

Jack O'Connor's team has now shipped some enormous blows and only a squad of Kerry's calibre could still be counted as contenders having lost O'Mahony, Darragh ó Sé, Tadhg Kennelly, Tommy Walsh and Diarmuid Murphy. Nonetheless, undaunted, we will look forward to another September day out in Dublin.

If I were a Mayo person, I would have to seek my consolation from something other than football. I would have no choice. It is tempting to say Mayo just haven't got it in them but that is too simplistic and I am instinctively reluctant to go with a superficial wave.

Practically everyone in the country has written Mayo off for this year's championship, but we all know that sport is a funny thing, and that results and performances through the summer could confound us -- just as much as any general election. And at least they reached the National League final.

However, on the face of it, their chances are just about zero and, in my opinion, it will be down to Kerry and Cork again this year.

Cork are now on the crest of a wave. They were missing some key players last Sunday and still overwhelmed Mayo. The most impressive thing was the seamless way those drafted in fitted into their system. This underlying strength through the squad is greater than that of anyone else at the moment.

It is well past time for us to stop hammering ourselves about how terrible things are and to lift our hearts, minds and spirits with belief and optimism in the future.

We have had untypically marvellous weather, but as always we have plenty to complain about. But the Irish have been through much worse than this and if we don't accept life on its own terms with the basic belief that it's good and well worth living, neither money nor fame will ever make us happy.

These are early days, but the first big testing of the waters is only two weeks away.

On that day we get our first look at Kerry's championship girth, against Tipperary; Derry and Armagh step out too, as do Micko's Wicklow (who play Carlow). Roll on the summer, and as the movie said: 'Life is beautiful!'

In the meantime, I have plenty to occupy me. For instance, tonight in Dingle, our local poet and doctor Michael Fanning, the inspirational force behind the 16th Féile na Bealtaine, is proud to present the RTE concert orchestra in St Mary's Church in a performance of Granuaile, with singer Rita Connolly followed by The Brendan Voyage by Shaun Davy.

And I had the pleasure of a long chat last week with another great musician, accordion player Seamus Begley, who will be launching his new album, Disgrace Notes, in my own pub in Ventry tonight (10pm). Seamus is joined on this record by Kent-based musician Tim Edey, a guitar maestro who also plays wonderful piano.

The album has already been launched in Dolan's of Limerick and The Local in Dungarvan and on Friday, May 14 it will be the turn of The Mills in Ballyvourney.

And I must also mention the launch of Sean Leahy's CD The Side Back, again in my own pub on next Sunday.

Finally, we have all been shocked in the GAA fraternity and further afield at the one-in-a-million mishap from which Leitrim's Philly McGuinness died. We all have experienced freak accidents like this.

I remember a stalwart of Austin Stacks in Tralee, Moss Slattery of Rock Street, who died after a fall in a match in Castleisland. Our deepest sympathies go to Philly's family and his hundreds of friends around the country.

Sunday Independent

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