Tuesday 21 January 2020

Someone's goose will be cooked by the Swan

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I'm not sure if they own the hawk or if he's hired out. The hawk keeps order in the Aviva at Lansdowne Road. The IRFU bring him in once a month. He flies around the stadium and that in itself is proof birds can talk. Word gets out.

The hawk is an enforcer. When the birds see the killer or hear of him from friends and neighbours, they stay away. Even those flying rats the seagulls are afraid. I have nothing against the seagull, provided he stays by the ocean. But they have become scavengers. The dump in Muingnaminnane on the periphery of beloved Lyreacrompane had to be covered with nets. The seagulls invaded in search of fast food.

There is a prize for anyone of non-Kerry origin who is able to pronounce the two names correctly. A hint. Muingnaminnane is nasal in two places. Sinus sufferers have a distinct advantage. The prize, by the way, is a copy of Weeshie Fogarty's new book 'My Beautiful Obsession'.

It is a smashing read by a smashing man. Weeshie is the best radio interviewer I know with the purest Killarney accent. The great man has no bother with townlands but even Weeshie has trouble with the mountainy enclave of Muingnamuicknamoch, a treble nasal. The treble nasal is the triple somersault of our indigenous elocution. It's not that far from Muingnaminnane, as the crow flies.


Crows too have lost their way. There was a time when they were happy to eat slugs, worms and corn. Now it's all chips and burgers. Crows hang out not in rookeries but outside chip shops in search of litter louts and their discarded punnets. Maybe I have that all wrong. Bats hang out and down. The crow sleeps in fuzzy Phil Lynott-haired nests with one eye open.

This week, I walked around most of the magnificent stadium by the banks of the Swan River in search of bird droppings and I could not find even one splat of seagull or crow guano. Proof that the fear factor is as relevant as ever in the great rugby stadia of the world.

Today Ireland play Argentina and I doubt very much if the men from South America are in any way afraid. You'd get more noise in the Poor Clares library. The older rugby fans don't do cheering.

This is effectively a World Cup play-off. The winner takes all and we are lucky to be at home. We have to finish in the first eight to avoid two top teams in our World Cup group.

The system for picking the top eight is very complicated.

Now that there are bonus points for maths in the Leaving Cert, we will be ruled by mathematicians. Simplicity is over forever.

The Argentinians always kept it simple. Rough and tough up front, they base their game on a strong scrum with Pampas bulls for props. In recent times Argentina have played a more expansive game.

Ireland might just shade it at half-back. Sexton and Murray are tough boys but more is needed. Murray was slaughtered after one error in France. I wasn't too pleased with Sky. No one was killed and he's a young player. The criticism was excessive. He should kick his box kicks crow high. Conor is well on his way to becoming the best in the world.

It might well morph into a 10-man game if the weather is bad. As usual the various weather stations have as many forecasts as there are variations in the interpretation of the Gospels.

One forecast that will come true, if past form is anything to go on, is that this will be close.

Much of the hard stuff will go on in the tight-underground. Like in the Swan, Lansdowne's secret river under the lands at the back of the stadium. Most people would say the stadium is built on the banks of the Dodder. The Swan is much nearer. No more than a spin-pass from the deadball line.

The Swan was covered over many years back and trained and drained into a culvert. A man who would hide a river should be sentenced to life, with hard labour.

Like the Swan, Jamie Heaslip does some great work underground. In the hidden recesses, where even the more invasive cameras are blocked off by big men, Heaslip pushes interlocked railway carriages apart with his bare hands. Of course, he comes from Kerry stock.

His clubmates in Naas are proud and rightly so. Jamie is captain of his country and these stalwarts of the short grass have built a flourishing club where over-generous hospitality comes as standard.

It was another Kildare man, a noted ornithologist by the name of The Badger Regan, who was the first to discover a new species of fowl on the Dodder, at a point where the stream meanders around the stadium towards Donnybrook and beyond.

I was an undergraduate with Bective Rangers at the time. A young innocent up from the country.

"What kind of a bird is that, Badge?" I asked, and as I was asking I was pointing at a feathery ball of fluff floating in a Doddery eddy.

"It's a swuck," said The Badger confidently.

"A what?" I asked.

"A swuck. A cross between a swan and a duck."

It was only a few years ago I discovered there was no such bird as the swuck. Unless alone there's a swarm of them hiding out in the Swan River Culvert, living in mortal dread of featuring as the star turn on a plate of Swuck a l'Orange.

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