Friday 15 December 2017

Billy Keane: The good times just aren't to be sniffed at

Our first TV was a 15-inch Bush black and white and all the kids on the street piled into our sitting room for Rin Tin Tin.

Now Rin Tin Tin was a cowboy dog (he was nearly human) who saved lives, bit baddies and did tricks in the desert snow. The reception was awful back then.

We did our best to get Rose up to Rin Rin Tin's standard but it was no use; she was hopeless at retrieving sticks and was petrified of Miss Stack's Punjabi cats.

I don't think we would have cared or noticed if RTT hadn't come along. Then one day Rose was killed by a lorry. And we were heartbroken. By now you will have gathered that this is a parable piece.

Telly ruins us for real life. Highlights are just that -- but now we want highlights all the way through. Last Saturday against Wales, there were times when 82,000 people went silent and we only bothered to cheer for the tries. There are more than a few who come to be entertained. It's a match, not a concert.

The accursed southern hemisphere refs picked up on this trend and the game is being tailored to provide more open rugby and that means more tries.

Maybe it's the Munster in me but I kind of like it when teams shut out the opposition.

Against Wales, we tackled as if defending our homeland from invaders and we defended according to the plan. Turnovers on the deck are as beautiful as 10-touch tries and the reprieved wrestler's maul with eight forwards driving forward at steamroller pace beats ballet.

There were a few who in recent times booed our national soccer team. Silence is nearly as bad. Declan Kidney, I suspect, is in agreement. In the build-up to this evening's match he told us we should cherish the Triple Crown.

Mike Gibson never won a Triple, nor Keith Wood nor Willie John McBride. These men were the best we had seen up to the arrival of O'Connell and O'Driscoll.

Back when I was young, we so yearned for a Triple Crown. There was the win in 1949 and we won a second against the Scots in February 1982 -- 33 years later.

The country badly needed that. We lost our confidence and it was down to unemployment and emigration. I know, I know.

I chanced upon the game on TG4 the other night at an hour when most are tucked up. We were so proud to be Kerrymen when Moss Keane drove at the Scots and Ireland won a vital penalty. Moss played for us country and GAA boys. When he was on the rampage he travelled townlands with every stride, the ball under his left oxter like an uilleann piper but squeezed tighter as if he was trying to bust the bag. His rigid right was extended in a permanent jab, ready to hand off those foolish enough to get in his way.

Ciaran Fitzgerald, the army man, was Ireland's little general. Moss speaks so highly of him. Tom Kiernan, the coach, always looked for the best in his players and he was Cork shrewd. Ollie Campbell was the planner and plotter. He kicked 21 points that day. Robbie McGrath could turn bad ball into gold. Hugo McNeill would hold a cannonball fired at point-blank range.

Sprinters Kiernan and Dean in the centre spotted gaps before they opened up. It was Keith Crossan's first cap and he was capable of squeezing through a keyhole, with the key still in it.


Moss Finn was a college buddy. Moss was the complete footballer and he could kick even faster off lightening pace when he was close to the try line.

Donal Lenihan dominated the line-out. His dad Gerard and my father sat next to each other at school. Donal told me he read a piece my dad wrote on the night before the game in 'The Herald' and it inspired him. It was the story of Donal's grandfather Jack O, who was sentenced to death by the British during the War of Independence. The truce was called on the day Jack O was due to be executed and he was saved.

Slattery, O'Driscoll and Duggan were tough and skilful -- and very good at getting away with offsides. Our front row destroyed Scotland.

And in the longest part of the night I savoured that glorious day. We can have it all again if we really want to.

Those of us lucky enough to be present for Croke Park's last international are duty bound to honour the winning heroes of the past and, just as importantly, we must honour those who toiled so long and hard in a nations cause, but never won a thing.

I'm not sure how Rose fits into all this. The moral might be not to sniff at the good times. She was no Rin Tin Tin, but Rose never snapped when cracked kids pulled her floppy ears and she would lick your face when you came home from school as if she was cleaning her plate.

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