Wednesday 17 January 2018

Purple-patch heroes turn 'them' into 'us'

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I know nothing about cricket. Don't even know how to hold the ball. Don't even know if it's called a ball. Maybe it's a puck or a widget. Don't know the term for a collection of cricket balls. Is it a herd or a school or maybe a juggle?

Ah, but I can bellow. And I can Google Horace for gravitas. That's it. No more writing. It's big bucks, TV cricket punditry for me. All you need is neck and an absolute lack of sensitivity for the feelings of players.

Well done to Ireland who beat England at their own game, but it might well prove to be a Pyrrhic victory.

As we speak, the English are debating whether they will use the Donal Og short puck-out or the poc fada. They have just bought the whites off Kildare to avoid complicated copyright and merchandising issues. Yes, England have taken up hurling. The only way the English can regain their honour now is if Warwickshire win the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

But there are shoulders and late tackles in hurling. And how will GAA lads adapt to cricket? What if the mother inadvertently throws the gamey sister's red knickers into the machine with your gear? Runs are not confined to cricket. Will you be expelled from the association for not wearing whites? Or is that tennis?

Some sage said the win over England was the equivalent of Kilkenny beating Kerry in football.

It's come to the stage now where the victory is billed as revenge for Kinsale, the GPO, the wrecking of Lansdowne Road and Strictly Come Dancing.


I happen to have read up on cricket, just a bit. Cricket is a 32-county game and there has been a steady improvement over the years. Ireland beat Pakistan in the last World Cup. It seems to me that in England, the World Cup is not the main competition, like it is in soccer or rugby. As I said, I know nothing about a game where the biggest tournament seems to be the Ashes, a series confined to just England and Australia

These Test matches take days to finish off. Can you imagine telling your boss of a Tuesday you need time off to play a game and you will be back to work on Friday? The World Cup games take a day, but it's a whole day.

It's not that we want to sound begrudging and as I'm in a temporary state of good grace, congrats to Tarbert who beat us in what was the best North Kerry final for years.

One of our young lads summed it up best -- townie teams and clubs like the Nemos of this world, who live in GAA enclaves, will know what he was getting at.

The kid said: "No one loves us, but we love ourselves."

We told you here many's the time that we used to be called bread and tae boys. An insult designed to dehumanise us into half-starved weaklings, unlike the fine big strapping country lads reared on bacon and cabbage.

I have a feeling that is how the cricket chaps felt for many years. The perception was of West Brit dandies taking tea from elfin-eared foxglove cups.

I met Johnny O'Hagan after the Bective Rangers dinner, hosted by our beloved President, his Excellency Joe Nolan. O'Hagan was the hardest rugby player I've seen in Leinster. He is now kit manager with the province and is the man who brings on the kicking tee.

Johnny played cricket for many years and he always argued it was a hard game. He might just be right. I remember trying out with a bat in an automated baseball dispenser somewhere in New Jersey. The velocity was truly frightening. I used to think cricket was for fishermen -- the patient types who cast out rather than puck out.

The ball can bounce wickedly depending on the wicket. Men wear re-enforced scallop-shelled shields over sensitive areas. A fast delivery could go through you for a shortcut. Still, for me, cricket is nowhere near hurling in terms of skill, physicality or intensity. But then again what game is?

It could be we have an in-built prejudice against cricket going back to our colonial past. Yet O'Hagan catches tea mugs round the belly, and the Irish team is made up of lads from all walks of life.

India, our next opponents, were victims of colonisation and cricket is played on dusty wickets by millions there. Sometimes we imagine we know all about people we do not know simply by forcing their profiles into our own pre-conceived notions and prejudices.

I could never warm to the game. It just took too long. And nothing seems to happen for ages and ages. I hadn't the patience for it. Truth to tell I only ever stuck it out for a few minutes. That was then. Dr John Halkett, our much admired local GP, is a cricket fanatic. He sent urgent word on Wednesday that we should tune in.


The men with the willow bats may not yet have converted us from the ash hurls, but they have earned our respect.

The last half-hour was riveting. We won. Yes, we. England were beaten by a team so far behind, the only reason the crowd didn't leave the ground long before the end was because they weren't there in the first place. The game was a sell-out, but the ticket holders didn't bother to show up.

Kevin O'Brien will henceforth be known as Bat Man O'Brien. His World Cup record of the fastest 100 might never be beaten. It was going to be his day, no matter what. You felt if O'Brien batted with a rolled up newspaper, he would still have made the century.

We cynics found ourselves cheering on the purple batsman. Kevin dyed his hair for the Irish Cancer Society. Where was the starch and the formality we expected from cricketers?

Kevin's brother Niall scored 39. That's not 3-9, lads. He was man-of-the-match when Ireland beat Pakistan four years ago.

This young Irish team showed the billion or so who watched the endgame on TV that there is so much more to us as a nation than squandering and begging.

Tomorrow we play India. I'm told they have a slightly bigger pick. Yes, we and they. The nation will tune in around breakfast time. For the purple-patch heroes of Bangalore have turned 'them' into 'us.'

Irish Independent

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