Thursday 22 August 2019

Even on slow rugby weeks, it's hard for the put-upon barman to get a word in

Munster's Felix Jones celebrates with the trophy
Munster's Felix Jones celebrates with the trophy
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There's a comforting familiarity in the domestic as the man said when he left his mistress for the wife.

Sometimes we get a slow week in rugby. Which is no harm at all. You'd be worn out after that World Cup. This week we have the Pro12 and next week the Champions Cup gets going. Soon enough we will get caught up in the moment.

It's like dining out with Egon Ronay, Jamie Oliver, and the lads for the most of a couple of months only to return home to bacon and cabbage. And now even bacon and cabbage in large amounts is said to be carcinogenic, well the bacon bit anyway.

I thought I might just clarify that point in case the ICA get on to the boss and make a complaint that I singlehandedly destroyed the cabbage industry. They might go losing the head. Like I said, it's a slow week and hopefully that will be the last pun.

By the way, the ICA stands for the Irish Cabbage Association. You'd want to be a braver man than me to take on the ICA that stands for the Irish Countrywomen's Association who stand for taking plenty of no-nonsense and rightly so.

It took me until right now to figure out what I was going to write about this week. Always go for the bit of sex when you're stuck was the advice I was given by an old hack a long time ago. The old hack being yours truly.

I listen to me a lot.


Sometimes it's down to the fact that no one else does. And I agree with myself on most occasions. At least there's no one to interrupt you or butt in. It's my misfortune to be a barman with the most pleasing disposition. The only time I get to finish a sentence is when I talk to myself.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

For a while we were going to write about the Kerry county final between Legion from Killarney who haven't won since 1946 and South Kerry, which is an amalgamation of clubs from, you guessed it, South Kerry.

There's a good ref in this one which makes a nice change for a final, although I did name him Seamus Bling back in the days when he wore earrings at matches. That nom de whistle was made up the day he was reffing an U-14 game and I was miffed by one of his decisions.

That was just a phase and now Seamus Mulvihill is as good as there is.

But I can't really deal with football right now. There were all sorts of proposals from the GAA on freeing up the fixture list.

Here's a new one. Abolish the All-Ireland football championship. I haven't watched a game since the Kerry-Dublin final. The condition is common enough in those who have found true love and then lost her to another. The forsaken never again want to have anything to do with men or women. So it's farewell to football. Other than to say it was unfair to make us play so many games in the rain this year. It never rains in Kerry.

Maybe in a few years when the pain wanes, there might be change of heart. The self- imposed exile from the holy game might not last forever. Surely by 2020 we will be in a better place.

As for the Rugby World Cup, well we were a bunch of hopeless romantics if we ever thought we could win with half a team or without 6/15ths of a team to be exact. And 7/15ths of a team if you include Tommy O'Donnell.

I promised you a bit of sex but I've changed my mind. It was a trick really just to get you to read on while I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about.

I was just thinking that the people who interrupt in pubs probably don't get much of a chance to talk sport with herself at home, which is the Kerry version of 'her indoors', going on about things.

So maybe we should be more patient and understanding. Many men and women only ever get a chance to become panellists and pundits in the pub. This is their platform, their chance to be heard and to show all they carry in one small head. There's a therapy in it all and coming out from being the oppressed and silenced underpuppy.

The outpourings can be tough enough to put up with when you have no place to escape to.

The rest of you will push up the cuff and say, "Is it that time already?" And off they go. And it's only ten. But the bar man has to stay put and it's even worse when you're a sports columnist and get some small fact ever so slightly wrong.

We're just a week away from the Champions Cup.

I have noticed that the final is to held in Lyon. I have nothing against Lyon.

Mick Lyons was one tough man but the city is short of regular flights from almost everywhere.

The only scheduled flight I could find from Ireland was Dublin-Lyon and it's run by Aer Lingus, the well-known sporting philanthropists. So today, some six months before the final, they are charging €330 a flight but there's a free bag for that. Most of the rugby fans I know only bring an underpants and a pair of socks to the matches.

I have a feeling Leinster will make the final even though they are in the Group of Death and I wouldn't rule out Munster or Ulster either. The European Cup is run now by the rugby grandees of England and France. Lyon must have something to do with money.

I wish the French weren't in it. Their league is truly horrible to watch and some of the pitches are wetter than paddy fields in the monsoon. I don't think the French ever rightly got over the Somme.


Their rugby is trench warfare. The French are prone to nasty fits and late hits. Watch out Dan Carter. There's extra points in the French league for concussing out-halves.

Munster are drawn against the best team in France, Stade Francais, and Leinster take on Toulon, the joint best team in France with a huge budget and an owner who likes to collect players.

But you can't buy heart. We are not without hope. Still though we are up against it and Ulster have to face Toulouse who play attractive offloading rugby unlike most of the French teams.

The last time I was in Trevor and Paula Brennan's pub De Danu, Trev was so nice to some Ulster fans who wandered in. He's a gent is that man and Ulster folk can be assured of a massive welcome. But here's hoping Simon Zebo will not become a regular.

Poor Felix Jones (left)had to retire. For sure rugby is a rough old sport. Felix was one of the best we have seen. Had he not been so badly injured, so often, I have no doubt but that he would have won far more caps. As it is, Felix made a huge contribution to Munster and Irish rugby. Thank you, Felix.

Like I say it's hugely beneficial for my mental health that I can write here uninterrupted except for the occasional request to put out the bins, even when the bins are half-empty. That's done now and as the wheels rumbled along over the stony road the word rubbish triggered the memory of a displeasing work-time chore.

Pasta Man absorbs all the sauce, all the buzz words. For ages he was going on about bouncebackability, hard yards, soft hands and earning the right to go wide. I only get four euro and ten cents for listening to him for an hour. He's a slow drinker.

His latest is, "He checked out" which I think means when a player checks out he loses concentration, which is what I'm about to do right now . . .

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport