Thursday 22 February 2018

Billy Keane: Put your feet up and admire this rare breed of men who can multi-task

Munster's John Ryan Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's John Ryan Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I couldn't rightly concentrate on anything else only football and hurling. My brain has only the one in-tray and the same number of out-trays.

Men, we are told, are only capable of performing one task at a time. The pub discussion was wide-ranging, with contributions from the stool on such matters as the precarious future of the black card and the possibility of Donald Trump accidentally arse-dialling the nuclear go button on the remote control.

Before we go any further... I swear this is the last diversion, but this is a startling discovery. We have discovered how to win at the horses. The trick is to get your bookie to drink in your pub. Even when you lose you win.

Eric Browne is his name and we have often mentioned him in these columns. Soon enough we'll be back to the most interesting and intriguing topics such as the clash of the front-rows in this evening's Leinster Munster clash in the three-sided Perspex mixing bowl known as the Aviva.

Eric said: "A good woman is better than ten men, and you wouldn't even know she is doing the job."

That sums up the way Jonathan Sexton plays the game. He is a multi-tasker. Jonathan does so much unseen covering, tidying up and organising. But best of all is that he can plan many moves ahead.

The Munster out-half is Tyler Bleyendaal and he too has the third eye. I have only seen him play live once. What I loved about him was the way he dropped back to where the ball was going to end up.

Sometimes you might see a player standing away on his own, far away from the flow like a heron in the shallows, still but watching. And you say to yourself 'what's he doing out there in the middle of nowhere, minding no-one's business or his own either?'.

Cormac Costello found space and time in the middle of the busy shipping lanes of Croke Park. He instinctively knew where the ball would dock, and so it was he won the game for Dublin.

That last winning point came from a wicked bouncy ball ricochet. Cormac was in a place where you'd never expect the ball to end up. He caught the speedy curve ball but fell backwards like a deep sea diver going out over the side of boat. It was an impossible kick upwards that defied the laws of gravity and propulsion. A point worthy of the winning of an epic.

Like Cormac, young Tyler had to wait his turn. Tyler has been a victim of the out-half's cross. The pheasant shooting season starts up in a few weeks' time. But the out-half season goes on all day long. How often will we hear refs and their watchers say "he was committed to the tackle", as if the wrecker was Usain Bolt running down Patrick's Hill. Back-rowers break more red lights than a woman whose waters have broken.

Munster are at their best when the back-row play free range. We have always had tearaways, sackers and mayhemeers, but now the role is as much about the carry as the turnover.

Back-rows have to multi-task, and there is no better exponent than Jamie Heaslip, of all the skills. It will be some battle. Munster might just be hungrier.

Munster's John Ryan has now found the fitness to get around the field. The prop is on fire.

There was a time props were told to 'get outta dat' if they showed up anywhere near the ball. Back in amateur times if the prop was the recipient of a pass, he'd nearly call in the bomb disposal squad.

Props are expected to multi-task, but bad scrum, bad result. The importance of the scrum is the quirky part of rugby I love. This absurd antler-locking restarting makes room on the team sheet for men and women of a certain size and shape.

It takes all sorts to play rugby but scrum-half is the only place the smaller person can play at the top level.

I was chatting with a friend lately and he remarked on the phenomenon of how sons are taller than their fathers, with inches to spare. "We must have been reared on gravy," he said.

The young lads are bigger and so it takes a special play to find a way to score on days like today when both teams are well up for the derby. It could be Darren Sweetnam who scores the first try. He will be wearing the green this autumn.

Last season our club rugby was stunted by the World Cup. This year our teams will be more competitive in Europe. We will know a lot more about how well we are going as clubs and as internationals by end of play this evening. I am fairly sure we will all be pleasantly surprised.

Fluff the cushions. Apply for a derogation from household chores. Stretch out on the sofa and press the remote to 'on'. Several deeds easily done by men, and all done at the same time.

Irish Independent

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