Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

It’s only a matter of weeks since Boris Johnson made that very reluctant exit from Number 10, but his chaotic (and memorable) tenure as Prime Minister has already received the full ‘TV drama’ treatment.

Episode one of the six-part ‘This England’ aired last night on Sky Atlantic (I recorded it). It had its flaws, but was entertaining, watchable drama. Kenneth Branagh is fairly convincing as Johnson, capturing many of the ex-PM’s physical idiosyncrasies very well. Ophelia Lovibond is even better as Johnson’s wife, Carrie Symonds.

This drama focuses on Johnson’s time as Prime Minister during the Covid-19 pandemic. While very much a drama, the series also uses real archival news footage, too often in my opinion. The best parts of episode one were the behind the scenes shenanigans in Downing Street, with the thoroughly dislikeable Dominic Cummings (played with suitable sullenness by Simon Paisley Day) weaving his brand of black magic. To paraphrase Eamon Dunphy, ‘This England’ appears to be good, not great, but I plan to stick with it.

 

Friday

I have three vivid memories of the 1979 All-Ireland senior football semi-final between Roscommon and Dublin.

It is, I think, credible for me to state that I was quite a young boy at the time. Although I had been in Croke Park before (in 1977 and ’78), I was mesmerised – and intimidated, I think – by the gladiatorial-like atmosphere at that fiercely contested semi-final in ’79.

My first vivid memory is of being scarily high in the Hogan Stand (yes, I know the stadium is much steeper now), and of incredibly high noise levels as both sets of supporters cheered their heroes on in a nail-biting finale. The pitch that day was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, the exchanges ferocious, the prize so great.

(My third vivid memory is of the crushing heartbreak at the final whistle, Roscommon losing to Dublin by a point).

My second vivid memory is of the marauding Brian Mullins being a thorn in Roscommon’s side that day. My recall – as I wrote in my book ‘Nothing about sheep stealing’ – is of “each new bone-crushing tackle from Brian Mullins raising the ire of the Roscommon fans”.

Mind you, when I asked former Roscommon great Seamus Hayden this week for his memories of Mullins (see sport, page 43), he said the Dublin legend was no more physical than any midfielder of that era. And Seamus should know.

Hayden lavished praise on Mullins, who sadly died today at the relatively young age of 68. He was, without question, a giant of Gaelic football. May he rest in peace.

 

Friday

It was a real thrill to visit the Cheers bar in Boston a few years ago (not that anybody knew our names). We were in Boston a day or two when our hosts reminded us that the bar associated with the famous sitcom – Cheers – was located at Beacon Hill in the city centre. Next day, we went along. In actual fact, all the interior shots in the show were shot in studio, but the outside of this actual bar in Boston was the location for the iconic opening scenes of the comedy. So, along we went, taking the obligatory photos under the Cheers sign, and then proceeding inside, where there is a thriving bar – which naturally enough takes maximum advantage of its fame by selling Cheers memorabilia. It was a great experience.

All of this comes to mind because I heard on the radio that the famous sitcom is celebrating its 40th anniversary today. For many years I’ve been reminding readers that the greatest sitcom of all time is (of course) Fawlty Towers. It is also the case that many other English sitcoms are amongst the best ever made. But America has also excelled in this genre.

Cheers is a timeless sitcom, as funny now as when it was first shown. 40 years ago, I was a huge fan (and still am). It was the show that launched the careers of numerous stars, including Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Woody Harrelson, Kirsty Alley, Kelsey Grammer, and many others. Norm (played by George Wendt) may just have been my favourite. Cheers was wonderful. To this day that theme song/opening sequence warms the heart and invites you down Nostalgia Avenue.

 

Saturday/Sunday

Shinrone winning their first ever Offaly senior hurling title might have been the sporting story of the weekend, but there was more than a touch of satisfaction in Strokestown and Roscommon town as well!

The Roscommon SFC quarter-final wins by Strokestown and Roscommon Gaels – over Oran and Padraig Pearses respectively – were not major upsets, but to most people they were surprise results.

Strokestown and Roscommon Gaels are two clubs with proud histories and an unquenchable thirst to contest for honours. Now, one of those clubs will feature in the 2022 final, as they meet in one of this weekend’s semi-finals.

Also into the Hodson Bay Hotel SFC last four are St Brigid’s and Boyle, and these two will meet in a North-South semi-final showdown this weekend. See our sports section.

 

Sunday

I’m really not a betting man, but, after seeing he was 10/3 to do so, it did cross my mind to put a few euro on Irling Haaland to score at least twice in today’s Manchester derby. Easy money, I thought at the time, before proceeding to do nothing about it. Haaland went on to score three goals as Manchester City easily accounted for rivals United, Pep’s men winning 6-3.

Haaland is currently busy ripping up English football’s scoring charges. It’s not that long ago since a striker was deemed to be a prolific scorer if he could average a goal every two games. A 20-goal-a-season man was much in demand, and much respected. I grew up on the goal-every-two-games exploits of guys like Malcolm Macdonald, Ian Rush, Gary Lineker, Andy Cole, Ian Wright, the great Alan Shearer, and many others.

Just when forwards thought it was ‘safe’ to merely average a goal ever two games – maybe a little better – along came Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to set outrageous new standards. Now Haaland looks likely to raise the bar further. I tend to agree with Joe Molloy of Newstalk’s Off The Ball who (slightly grimly) suggested that the fascination with the Premier League this season relates not to who will win the title (Manchester City are odds-on) – but with the question of how many goals Haaland will end up scoring.

 

Monday

On Sky Sports, Leicester were hammering poor Nottingham Forest, so I went channel-hopping. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – well, I was hardly going to laugh – when fate brought me to the new series of ‘The 2 Johnnies Do America’.

I watched the first ten minutes. The easy thing to do is to pour scorn on it. In truth, they do a decent job. But it’s not for me. The format of such shows is tediously predictable, whereby the presenters engage in a series of staged setpiece exchanges with chosen topics/people. Cue much forced hilarity. Such shows can be reasonably entertaining – after all, travel does broaden the mind – but they’ve invariably been concocted purely as a vehicle for the ‘stars’. As further evidence of this trend, I’ll refer you to Marty and Bernard!

In fairness, I saw the 2 Johnnies being interviewed on the Late Late Show the other night (another moment of weakness on my part), and they are undoubtedly two nice, likeable fellows. But so is the guy down the pub. The 2 Johnnies are a bit of craic, they’re cheerful and friendly, but where their supposed comic talent lies is beyond me. Still, good luck to them!