Billy Keane: Munster must adapt and scavenge like the crowsto ruffle Perpignan feathers
The fuzzy crows nests stand out in the December bareness. The crows are tough men to go building nests with no more insulation that you'd get in a boom-time house built by builders who put their pencils under their ears. You wouldn't think much of a house where you can see out the back door through the front door. They must be very cold, the crows, even with the feathers for comfort.
You'd think then crows are stupid but they're not. What other bird can live off discarded chips thrown out of car windows by litter louts? Most birds blunt their beaks trying to kango for worms in the frozen ground. The crows are adaptable even if there will be the inevitable cholesterol payback. No one loves the crows, dressed in permanent mourning.
No milliner ever puts crow feathers in the hats women wear at the best dressed lady competitions at race meetings. Crows are not pretty, what with their pointy beaks, cruel eyes and raucous one-note singing. But lately I have grown to admire the crows for their resilience. You need to be an all- rounder to be a successful crow.
There's an old saying: 'When the crows nests are visible, it's no time to be playing football.' But the season is 12 months long now in spite of all the sanctimonious testimony about player burnout.
Cratloe of Clare nearly brought off the shock of the year last Sunday in the Munster club football championship. Crokes of Killarney were 1/33. What the bookies didn't factor for is that some players are as adaptable as any crow. Some lads are good at every sport. Then at 16 or 17 they are forced to choose one above all others. Eight of the All-Ireland-winning Clare hurling side played against Crokes last Sunday.
The Cratloe boys could ride a bike, chew gum and play the concertina at the same time. And we must thank Crokes man Eoin Brosnan for all those rockets of goals in the green and gold. He retired from inter-county this week.
Eoin's shot was faster than an Ivanisevic serve and with an open field in front of him there was no one better. Eoin managed to qualify as a solicitor while still playing inter-county football. No mean feat. I wonder will Felipe Contepomi be the last doctor to qualify while playing top-class professional sport. Will we ever again see a Dr Kevin O'Flanagan, a noted athlete and a rugby international who also played soccer for Arsenal and Ireland?
The Cratloe boys brought honour and glory to the village, but at what price? They were forced to play far too many matches in too short a time. Davy Fitz says there's no way you can play hurling and football at inter- county level. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the Clare football manager Colm Collins is a Cratloe club man. Colm's two sons Sean and Podge were superb on Sunday. Must be taking after their uncle Jerry.
Noel Kennelly from our club won an All-Ireland at 19 but a succession of wear-and-tear injuries meant he couldn't take the training by the time he was 22. Players get worn out from too many games. Noel still plays mightily for the club and last night we said a prayer for his dad Tim at a mass to celebrate the anniversary of the great man. It's eight years now since he passed on. I still get lonesome after him especially around now, at North Kerry championship time.
All-round good guy Liam O'Connor of Offaly beat Kerry for the five-in-a-row. Liam passed on a few days ago. He was always a gentleman and if ever a man fitted the description of being good at everything, it was Liam.
You could get down from thinking too much of the dearly departed. We'll take our lead from the crows.
This week's gales must have the crows worried but their nests have no resistance and the wind just blows through. Maybe the crows came across a quote from Omar Khayyam. It reads: 'Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life'.
Now that we've paid our respects we will get on with today and tomorrow. We've been practising hard at being happy all this week. And so it is, with a heavy heart, we will have to forego the delights of family Christmas shopping and instead we must cheer on Munster at Thomond Park
I still think this Munster team can go all the way. The two good-at-everything fly-halves are the key.
JJ Hanrahan will make the grade and Ian Keatley is getting better by the day, now that he has the flying hours on his time sheet. But you will get mistakes from 10s. That's the nature of the game. Even ROG made the odd one. Very few, to be fair, and if there are setbacks at out-half for Munster, we must all move on to the next play and the next game.
Munster should win this one with Paul O'Connell, an excellent golfer and a man who plays off scratch in real life, driving us on. Passion and fire are back in fashion after the heroics against the All Blacks. We hope our coaches understand that fury fuels the crowd and too much reason douses the passion plays that make Munster Munster.
Our team are at their best when they are hurt but how do we get a team going against Perpignan, who never invaded or blackguarded us? How about this – if we lose, we could be out of the Heineken Cup with only half the games played.
Munster must play as cracked and as intelligently our friends the crows. The scavengers have to win turnovers and un-nerve the French.
Munster haven't hit top form yet. We will have to ruffle a few feathers but chirp sweet songs. The crows, though, should go for singing lessons. No one is perfect, even those who are good at everything.