Saturday 24 March 2018

Dublin may have Cluxton - but Kavanagh was better poet

Patrick Kavanagh: A Life doesn't even approach mediocrity
Patrick Kavanagh: A Life doesn't even approach mediocrity
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There is an account of a tactic employed by the poet Patrick Kavanagh that if followed by the Farney will surely lead to a Monaghan victory over Dublin today. The story goes that the full forward "by keeping out of harm's way and waiting for the odd loose ball... scored six goals."

Kavanagh was the goalkeeper and treasurer of Inniskeen Grattans. The club funds were kept in an old brown suitcase which was resting under his bed. It wasn't so much that the poet didn't trust banks, but more a case of Kavanagh keeping the 'under the bed' money as his own private bank.

We called the Inniskeen club PRO Peter Cassidy by way of research. Kavanagh, we were told, played in coarse meadows and farmers' haggarts, but now Inniskeen have one of the best club grounds in Ireland with three fields and a fine stand.

Monaghan is the smallest of the Ulster counties, both in terms of area and population. The total comes to about 52,000.

Now is as good a time as any to apologise to the people of Leitrim. Some time back I was responsible for the Leitrim clearances. I removed thousands from the county when I gave the incorrect census figures. I was reminded of my error by the vigilant Luke 'Ming' Flanagan MEP.


Sure you'd get 52,000 at last Mass in busy Dublin parishes where the fast priest delivers short sermons on big match days. But Monaghan has more drumlins. I had the great pleasure of surveying the lakes and drumlins of Cavan and Monaghan in a helicopter by way of researching this story. The paper spares no money in providing me with the resources to do my job.

The interlocking hills have been described as baskets of eggs, but to me they looked like so many finely formed breasts. The beauty of the lakelands and drumlin country is one of Ireland's hidden secrets.

Years ago I postponed my inevitable sacking from a job by taking a walk around Lake Muckno right on the edge of Castleblayney. I was in a bad way at the time. This was to be the second sacking in the one year. Even unsuccessful football managers had a better employment record.

From Muckno's healing shores, I made my way to Carrickmacross. I bought a bunch of flowers for Bernie O'Reilly, who minded me when I was a baby and she was the one who advised I should take up a little bit of writing. The people of Carrick were so friendly and funny they brought me back into good form. I was crossing the street when this old lady stopped me and said: "You must have done something terrible wrong to herself." They do that in Carrick and before long I got fed up of being sad.

We asked PRO Cassidy how he thought the game would go. "They'll be sore anyway" was his reply.

I doubt if Monaghan will allow the Dublin full-forward line 'to keep out of harm's way.' For the first time in the championship Dublin will come up against a massed defence. I have this wide-awake vision of lateral boards nailed across the Monaghan goals like the barricading of a disused building to keep out the squatters and the bailiffs. In front is Patrick Kavanagh with his cap turned back to front and he's spouting 'Raglan Road' and venting his anger at failing to get off with his unrequited love, Hilda Moriarty from Dingle.

Monaghan will have to make sure Dublin do not get off to a good start by putting up the road blocks. Meath were wiped out early on, although there was the usual refereeing error when they had a perfect goal disallowed. Last week Cork were badly wronged against Mayo when two definite free claims were ignored late on. There wasn't a word out of Cork after the game. Mayo, and especially Dublin, were the better teams, but we hope Monaghan get a fair shout. Dublin will be hard enough to beat as it is.

We are witnessing a march to greatness here. I doubt if Monaghan can stop Dublin, but they can put up a fight. Last weekend Monaghan won in Croke Park for the first time in 85 years. They are well organised and have plenty of experience. Dublin are in need of game time and they are bound to have a bad day at some stage of the championship.

Their players are well grounded, but the Dublin supporters are very confident, which they are entitled to be, but no matter how well insulated the players are, the hype has to get through. We have often expressed our admiration of Jim Gavin. This is a tricky one for managers. Do you praise Monaghan to the extent that your own players pay them too much respect or do you instil the view that Dublin are the best team in Ireland and pay little heed to the opposition?

Dublin might need the game, but Monaghan could do with another week to get over the extra-time win against Kildare. There is plenty to ponder, but this Dublin team really are special and they should win. Unless, of course, Kavanagh's tactics come good.

Maybe we're in for a classic. Stephen Cluxton might have the better kick-out, but Kavanagh was the better poet. The Inniskeen 'keeper was pondering world events, but in the end it all came back to home at the final whistle of 'Epic':

'Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.' He said: 'I made the Iliad from such a local row. Gods make their own importance.'

Irish Independent

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