Paul Healy’s Week – 11th March

Paul Healy on the need for Late Late Show reform; ‘GAA pubs’ and the bonds formed by ex-players; those post-election talks about talks…and the ‘big fight’…
Saturday evening

At times, it can feel like one of the most cherished pieces of property in the country – the bar counter in Down The Hatch. When you rest your elbow on that counter, the talk soon turns to the GAA. Opinions are spun from one end of the counter to the other.

Verdicts are handed down. Postmortems take place. Slagging is encouraged. There are many great GAA pubs in County Roscommon, indeed in Connacht, and ‘The Hatch’ is certainly up there with the very best.

Last Saturday night, the counter in ‘The Hatch’ was mostly taken over by a group of very large GAA men from the County Down. Ex-players, present-day supporters. ‘Up Down’ was the message in Down The Hatch. But their hearts weren’t in it. They knew they were the underdogs and that it was Roscommon, their opponents the next day, who – just now – are the talk of the GAA world.

The big men from Down were in mighty form as they exchanged banter with the man behind the bar, and with locals too. The man behind the bar was Seamus Hayden, who the big men from Down knew well…from GAA battles past.

The friendliness and banter in evidence was a reminder of how great and lasting the bonds are between ex-players. The big men from Down knew that Down had no points yet in the National League, and that Roscommon had beaten Cork by eighteen, so the big men from Down – most of them now in their late 50s – felt they were up against it the next day.

They enjoyed the craic, but what would really have made their night would have been the appearance of a Clann na nGael great from the past, because the big men from Down kept going on about their club – Burren – winning two All-Ireland club titles. (Burren beat Clann in one of those finals, back in the late 1980s).

As the banter continued, Seamus Hayden showed great versatility, serving up the pints while simultaneously taking all the Clann/Roscommon slagging on the chin from the big men from Down. Indeed Seamus gave as good as he got.

Of course the big talking point in Roscommon town last Saturday night was the loss of the game to the county. Several pubs, B&Bs, hotels and restaurants were hosting guests from Down, supporters who had booked accommodation in the county town long before the game was switched to Pearse Park in Longford.

They were happy, in the circumstances, to use Roscommon as a base and then travel on to Longford the next day, but, to put it mildly, the loss of the game was deeply frustrating for the business community in the county town. Revenue lost to Longford on the Sunday was in the tens of thousands of euro.

It would be unthinkable for the upcoming glamour home games against Mayo and Dublin to be lost to a venue outside Roscommon.

Meanwhile, back in Down The Hatch, the Down lads were flying it as the night moved on. No one from Clann arrived, but Mickey Menton from Roscommon Gaels came in, and quickly got chatting to the big GAA men from the County Down.

A damn good impact sub on the night, Mickey Menton had come to the rescue of the gallant Seamus Hayden!


Believe me, I tried to avoid politics over the weekend. But avoiding politics, no more than avoiding Marty Whelan, is easier said than done.

I couldn’t bear the prospect of listening to the radio reviews or watching the same old faces on ‘The Week In Politics.’ I looked at the Sunday papers, to get a sense of where we are at.

It seems that Enda is sending out signals to some Independents. And that Micheál is sounding them out too. Everyone wants to talk to the Social Democrats. Everyone wants to talk to those nice Greens. No-one is talking to Sinn Fein, but that’s fine, because Sinn Fein doesn’t want to talk to anyone, not at the moment anyway.

Enda has been talking to Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice. Micheál has been talking to Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice. No one seems to be in any rush to talk to Labour.

Well, Fine Gael would talk to Labour, but it’s not clear that Labour actually want to talk to Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael haven’t started talking, not yet anyway. Some in Fianna Fáil say they won’t talk to Fine Gael unless Enda is gone. Some in Fianna Fáil say they won’t talk to Fine Gael at all. Some in Fine Gael don’t want to talk to Fianna Fáil either.

I put the Sunday papers down for a while. I couldn’t take any more. The last straw was seeing an article by Willie O’Dea (first elected to the Dáil in 1982) calling for Dáil reform.

Meanwhile, as the politicians talk about talks, the weather remains erratic. It was lovely on Saturday, but there were outbreaks of rain. Sunday started badly…wet and miserable. As revealed here last week, this has much to do with the fact that we have a caretaker Government.

Once a new Government is formed, the weather will improve dramatically (especially if the Healy-Raes are involved).


‘Did you see the fight? Wasn’t it savage? Sure if you ask me, it’s barely a sport at all!

Nothing only fellas rolling around, blood everywhere, and no regard for rules…sure they were a pure disgrace…that’s not sport!’

‘But sure I’ve never considered UFC to be a sport…’ ‘UFC? I’m talking about Kerry and Donegal!’

The Late Late: Where misery is light entertainment…
Friday night

Another dire, tedious Late Late Show (sorry, Ryan, though I should add that it’s far from all your fault). I sat through it all, willing myself to fall asleep.

It started with a very disappointing interview with Padraig Harrington, who I really like and who I consider to be Ireland’s greatest ever sportsperson (followed by Brian O’Driscoll and Sonia O’Sullivan). The interview only occasionally rose above the mediocre, such as when Harrington, whose opinions are always considered, spoke about Shane Lowry and his (Harrington’s) ambition to be Ryder Cup captain.

Ryan’s apparent lack of knowledge about golf did not help. This section of the show finished with a painfully dull bout of ‘Crazy Golf’ between Harrington and a member of the audience, who, in keeping with the night, turned out to be annoying!

Next, we had a UK-based television presenter telling us about her mother’s obsession with hoarding stuff. Now if that’s not world class light entertainment for a Friday night, I don’t know what is!

Surely ‘My mum hoards stuff’ belongs on daytime television, or in one of the hundreds of magazines now on the market? Hardly in a slot once filled by people like Peter Sellers, David Niven, Mother Teresa, John Cleese, Terry Wogan, Tony Curtis, Spike Milligan, and so many other famous people!

Next, we had an actor and actress promoting their latest work (boring), followed by two gay men talking about their children (reasonably interesting), with a few musical acts (nothing special) thrown in. It was a ridiculously late 11.24 pm when the headline acts – Michael and Danny Healy-Rae – made their appearance.

Predictably, this was a rushed and unsatisfactory interview, saved only by occasional witty contributions by both TDs, and some fine straight-talking by the particularly impressive Michael. The Late Late Show needs to be gently put to sleep by RTE or – more realistic, given its appeal to advertisers – reformed.

A revamp should see its running time reduced to ninety minutes, and a ruthless new approach to guest selection. And, if they can’t always attract A-list celebrities, maybe the last half hour of the show should be dedicated to a panel of home-grown ‘personalities’ reviewing the week.

But my biggest gripe is this: in my opinion, shows like the Late Late Show and The Ray D’Arcy Show ought to be solely in the business of entertaining people. It’s the end of the week, and viewers want to relax and wind down. And surely the audience members, who are out for an enjoyable night, also want, above all, to be entertained?

Why then do programme planners often intersperse interviews with comedians, actors and other entertainers/personalities, with stories of tragedy and heartbreak?

I don’t think that interviews with people who are encountering difficult personal circumstances are really appropriate material for shows such as these.

Such ‘stories’ should be covered at other times on other programmes, with all the sensitivity and skill that RTE and other channels are capable of. To me, their inclusion on what really ought to be light entertainment shows is a bad judgement call by producers.

Only in Ireland – on the Late Late Show or the D’Arcy Show – is it entirely normal to hear the presenter say something like: “And, after the break, mad-cap comedy with Jason Byrne; we talk to the man who killed everyone in his village – on a whim and with an axe – but who says he’s now reformed; and we’re sending one lucky viewer to Disneyland, with 10,000 dollars’ spending money!”