Paul Healy’s Week – 11th November 2016

A bleary-eyed (blame Hillary and Donald) Paul Healy on…Regretting not seeing Ireland play the All Blacks; Regretting seeing a stilted RTE sports quiz; Long faces on the train…And a slightly surprising development over in America…
Saturday

I saw the All Blacks doing the Haka on BBC on Saturday evening, just before 8 pm. Delighted, I pressed the button to record. We were just leaving the house to attend a social evening in Ruby King Chinese Restaurant in Roscommon Town. Ireland were playing the All Blacks in Chicago, 8 pm kick-off, Irish time.

I was delighted that I could record it, just in case we did something special against the aristocrats of world rugby.

Then I studied the screen and realised that what the BBC was showing was the All Blacks versus Australia in Rugby League. Oh well, it’s not like we were likely to win in Chicago, was it?

On arrival in Ruby King, friends inform us that Ireland have raced ahead against New Zealand. We proceed to keep in touch with the drama via our phones.

Most of our focus is obviously on the delicious food and great company, but every now and again we get score updates from what is obviously an epic match.

When Ireland’s incredible win is confirmed, it adds an extra glow to the evening. But one very keen rugby fan whom I got talking to made a very relevant point: why had this game not been shown live by RTE or one of the established channels?

There was a real feeling of having lost out. Three days on, I don’t know anybody who actually saw the game, and to my knowledge, RTE, BBC, TG4 and others haven’t even got access to highlights.

For those of us who don’t have eir Sport, Ireland’s greatest ever rugby performance is being replayed in our imagination only!

Sunday

This evening, flicking through the channels, I came across an RTE sports quiz presented by Jacqui Hurley. It was dismal stuff, in my opinion (no reflection on Jacqui).

It was slow, stilted, wooden. Attempts at humour were pretty wretched. Team captains Shane Byrne and Ruby Walsh tried gamely, but didn’t have the charisma one associates with a certain BBC programme on which it is clearly based.

Maybe the guys deserve a better format or, dare I say it, the aid of a script. That BBC programme I’m referring to is the long-running ‘A Question of Sport’, which has somehow maintained its high standards over the decades, and which is fast, slick, entertaining and always marked by a sense of fun. What happened next? I switched channels pretty quickly…

Tuesday

The blank ‘page’ is formidable. It’s like the yips for golfers, where the afflicted player finds they can’t make the required motion with their putter. They freeze.

It happens to darts players too, where even a world class competitor can suddenly find they can’t release the dart at the desired moment. So maybe there’s a writing version of the yips, the ‘staring at a blank page’ feeling. But now we’re up and running.

I’m writing this column on a train, painstakingly typing on a tablet with one finger, hunting down the keys like a tortoise pursuing a fly. It’s not exactly ‘party central’ so it’s just as well to be occupied.

Everyone has a long face this morning. It’s Tuesday and it’s wet and miserable. Thirty or so of us are huddled in Athlone station, watching the rain and the time. The train is five minutes late.

The only openly cheerful person is the Irish rail employee who punches our tickets. Then a loud confident voice breaks the silence and a tall, well dressed man with a briefcase, scarf and impressive head of hair begins to laugh and joke with the ticket seller.

From behind, with his briefcase and his fine hairstyle, he reminds me of the conman, aka Lord Melbury, who incurred the wrath of Basil in Fawlty Towers.

In fact, when he turns around, it turns out he’s a priest. The train pulls into Athlone, five minutes late. We shuffle to our seats. Long faces getting slightly less long. Silence, except for two women in the distance.

They chat non-stop.

They surely can’t keep that up, can they? I open the blank page and idly start chasing keys with one finger, slowly chasing a column all the way to Clara.

Tuesday/Wednesday

I may have missed Chicago (Ireland v the All Blacks) but I didn’t miss the circus (Clinton v Trump).

1.30 am, Wednesday morning: I head for bed after watching the first couple of hours’ of coverage of the US election results. I’m bleary-eyed, but the impression I’m left with from the bewildering series of graphics on various channels is that Clinton is on course for her expected victory.

Trump is doing okay, but he has to win just about every ‘swing state’ or key battleground and that, the pundits assure us, is not going to happen. The wise Andrew Neil on BBC is as reliable as any of the American anchors and I’m not ruling out a re-run of what happened with the Brexit Referendum, when millions of people went to bed believing the UK had voted to remain, only to wake up in the morning to a seismic shock.

4 am: I wake up, turn on the television, and it’s quickly apparent that Donald Trump has been winning some of those battleground states. The quiet confidence of the Democrats has turned to nervousness and actual fear. Incredibly, against all predictions, Trump is on the march.

5.10 am: I’m awake again – channel-hopping again, bombarded with more graphics of the map of America, with the various states shaded in either blue or red, some of them already declared, some ‘called’, others still the subject of speculation. The presenters love playing with those graphics!

The message is clear: Donald Trump is the candidate with momentum, Donald Trump is on course to cross the winning line. Soon it’s official – Donald Trump is President-elect of the USA. Or am I still asleep? The American people have spoken, and they’ve told their ‘Apprentice’ host, ‘Donald, you’re hired!’ Amazing.

You’re on your own – God bless America!