Tuesday 12 November 2019

Putting the accent on diversity in a homogenised world

'Jonathan Glynn’s post-match television interview generated a lot of chuckles at the time, and quickly became a cult hit on social media'
'Jonathan Glynn’s post-match television interview generated a lot of chuckles at the time, and quickly became a cult hit on social media'

Tommy Conlon

The entertainment wasn't just confined to the action in Thurles and Cavan last weekend.

Jonathan Glynn's post-match television interview generated a lot of chuckles at the time, and quickly became a cult hit on social media too.

The marauding Galway forward had been the heartbeat in their demolition job on Cork. And other attackers, not including Joe Canning, also delivered big performances.

The game was barely a minute over when Joanne Cantwell collared him for RTE; the lad was hopping with adrenalin and endorphins. So, Jonathan, she asked, what's this about Galway having only one forward?

And Glynn replied like he was in Supermac's on Eyre Square at three in the morning: it was effin' b.s. as far as he was concerned. But the volley of expletives on live TV rather distracted from the fact that his words and accent were marvellously country - pure GAA country.

Which of course is a good thing. Because there's a feeling abroad that the rich mosaic of accent and dialect in Ireland is becoming homogenised, Americanised, suburbanised. It's probably true to some degree.

But televised Gaelic games is doing its bit, in passing, to keep this diverse oral biosphere alive. And last weekend we were treated to another fine constellation of differing voices from the four provinces.

Seán Quigley appeared on Thank GAA It's Friday and presented the lesser-spotted Fermanagh accent for our delectation. In parts of Ulster the accent is so flinty they speak not with words, but chips of gravel. Quigley's tone, however, rested on a bed of damp spring moss, soft and yielding.

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He told us this yarn about chatting to the Laois full back - "a sound fella" - during a championship qualifier last summer. They were discussing sports nutrition: the protein shakes, pasta-and-chicken routine. In the spirit of mutual friendship, Quigley fessed up to a less than Spartan diet. "I just said to him, 'Tell you the truth, about two o'clock last night I went into Monaghan town and I got a pizza'. He was looking at me as if I had two heads."

Or maybe said Laois full back was checking to see if he had two bellies. Anyway, Quigley proceeded to score 2-8 that day, so, "whatever was in that pizza, I had the best game of me life."

But Donal Óg Cusack, for one, would no doubt explain to the ace Fermanagh marksman that Laois actually won by a point that day. So Seánie, if you had the protein shake instead of the pizza, yiz might have won by a point, not lost. Inches, boy, inches.

Not that Donal Óg would be passing much remark on the big ball, one way or another. He has other things on his mind, as he again demonstrated last weekend on The Sunday Game. The Cork communard dares to say things - "stooges and yes-men" - that no other player, no other GAA person, would dare to utter.

Maybe the Rebel designation of his county gives him permission, a mandate, to say the unsayable. There is probably some class of Corkness to his dissident's impulse.

Whatever it is, it's generally conspicuous by its absence from the footballers of west Cork. In a country as tiny as Ireland, the jigsaw puzzle of accents and dialects might come as a surprise to the unsuspecting visitor. And then there are the micro-variations, the subtle differences in tone, language and pronunciation almost from one parish to another. So the west Cork footballers seem to possess an entirely different sensibility from their hurling brethren.

In any event, they rocked up to Thurles eight days ago and were promptly turned over by a Kildare team that sensed a prize opportunity. "That's the fiercest we've played all year," remarked Kildare's rampant midfielder Paul Cribbin to Damian Lawlor on Sky Sports. The accent was flat plainland as far as the eye could see. No singsong lilt at all. "So yeah, literally we just saw red and went for it."

The next day in the same venue, Waterford took care of Dublin before Galway dispatched the Cork small-ball brigade. Maurice Shanahan helped himself to a hearty 1-12 against the Dubs. "We knew coming up here today," began Mo, receiving his man-of-the-match award on RTE afterwards. And somehow we knew that Mo knew, coming up here today, that it was going to be a tough battle.

Anyway, the accent was pure untamed Waterford. AA Roadwatch should sign him up this minute.

Then it was Johnny Glynn's turn. He's a big gosson from Ardrahan with a messer's head on him and a full rural drawl. And it's always a relief to hear someone on television stick a bonus 'h' into words beginning with s: as in shtick, rather than stick. There's an underrated pleasure in pronouncing 'stop' as 'shtop', 'stay' as 'shtay', 'start' as 'shtart', and so on.

But country people, confronted by a microphone and camera, often feel the need to streamline their pronunciation for polite society. Which of course is entirely unnecessary and ends up sounding a tad shtilted.

So Johnny, tell us about the goal? "I dunno, poxy enough now to be honest."

So Seán, how d'you think the Westmeath game'll go in Breffni? It's a great opportunity, replies Quigley, to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final and get "a day out" in Croke Park. "C'mere, when you're from Fermanagh they don't come too often."

C'mere is right: sure we're hanging on every word.

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