Sunday 19 May 2019

Travel stiffness keeps Lions awake when they should have been sleeping

Alun Wyn Jones of the British & Irish Lions following the match between the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and the British & Irish Lions. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Alun Wyn Jones of the British & Irish Lions following the match between the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and the British & Irish Lions. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I'm not sure if I would like to go on the summer holidays to a place where it rains and the cold gets in to your bones. Thousands upon thousands have gone off to New Zealand to cheer on the Lions.

The old boys around here used to wear the winter coats in summer. The big heavy coats were worn in case of rain and, if you waited long enough, their theory made sense.

The Munster Final was the coat wearers' big day out.

Killarney was full of Americans and the sun was hot enough to bleach hair white and roast noses red. This was back in the days of factor feck-all. Men with bald patches wore triangular hankies on their heads and parcel-from-America baseball caps were left in drawers.

Don't ask me what year it was. All I can remember is the priests were praying for rain at Mass. If Ireland was hot, witch doctors' names would appear on brass plates and there would be a category for rain dancers at every feis.

Anyway, this American lady was complaining about the fast talk, the slow service and the heat. She was from Texas and if you tried a hundred hardware stores in The Lone Star State, the likelihood is you wouldn't even find one hot water bottle in stock. I feel very sorry for people who live in countries where they never get to feel hot water bottles.

My friend is old enough for the free travel but he paid big money for the trip to New Zealand.

The cost of the five weeks is about ten grand. I gave him a present of a hot water bottle with a lovely fluffy cover. He already had one, he told me. "Take it with you anyway," I said. It's the nearest you will ever get to three in a bed." (And if you're not sure where this column is going, well that makes two of us.)

I'm writing half-dead in bed. It is the last day of Writers' Week here in Listowel. The highlight was 'Ryan Giggs is a Ride', which was written by my new friend Elaine Feeney. Her poem features in the anthology, 'Everything to Play for: 99 poems about sport'. The book was published by Poetry Ireland so it's okay to put the word 'ride' in the paper.

Elaine had it very bad for Giggsy when she was a teenager. As bad as Yeats, who lived just down the road from Elaine. One snog from Maud Gonne and some of the best poems ever would never have been written. Elaine didn't ever get to kiss Giggsy and we must give thanks.

"I begged him to love me so I stuck in the language of Shakespeare.

"I should have turned up at his door and asked him for a ride, or married his brother."

That was Elaine and not WB.

I had it very bad for BJK, the tennis player. Billie Jean King jumped for a lob and it was the first time I saw live knickers. We had so much in common. Both of us were BJK.

It was back in those bad old days when gay sports women were afraid to come out. Billie Jean did eventually declare her sexuality, and it was a very brave thing to do. So we had even more in common than I knew. We both liked girls. I was upset.

"Will I ever be the same again?" went through my head. (Is it any wonder then that this column doesn't have a middle, a beginning or an end?)

Although I do remember a little of why I started going on about the weather, acclimatisation and exhaustion. But I'm worn out from talking shite about Sartre, Camus and the lads who wrote sad, deep books I never read.

If it wasn't for Donal Ryan being so brilliant I wouldn't have read any novels at all over the last few years. I'm just too tired out from pulling pints.

I did watch the Lions. It only took me 20 minutes at about 4am last night. Fast forward is one of the greatest inventions of all time. I wish I could do it to people when they start going on about Camus and the lads.

Brendan O'Sullivan would like to fast forward the last seven days when he was found guilty of being a young lad. For sure, he made a mistake but it was an honest mistake. And for those of you who are in search of conspiracies, there was none. I often wave the green and gold flag but I would never condone doping. So here's what really happened, and it as a much a cultural phenomenon as the old boys wearing blanket coats in the height of summer.

Young people take the internet at its word. Brendan O'Sullivan, like so many of his generation, believed all he read when he researched the supplement. I made enquiries. I am satisfied Brendan is a decent lad who would not engage in any sort of deliberate illegality. We are too hard on young lads in this country.

Brendan O'Sullivan has suffered enough. It's time to leave him to get on with his life.

I didn't leave much time for The Lions. They didn't play well and the reason is the tourists were suffering from jet lag, just as I am today. Three days is too soon after a long flight. Madness in fact.

The Lions were asleep when they should have been awake. It rained non-stop and there wasn't much time to train and run off the travel stiffness. The Texan lady is my witness. There's no good in complaining now, but whoever it was made up the schedule for the tour never worked in a pub. Too much, too soon.

I'm wondering is Camus still to the good and wondering too if I'll be able for the horses. My swollen big toe is sticking up before me like a sore thumb. There's racing in Listowel today. Those who allocate chores say I'm never tired when it comes to going to the races.

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