Paul Healy’s Week -14th October 2016

Paul Healy on Mayo’s long winter; The race for the White House; Why Lance Armstrong is wrong to be tetchy; Why Martin O’Neill is right to be tetchy; A great weekend in Lanesboro and Ballyleague; An update on when Major met Yeltsin…and an update on (political) First Dates…
Last week

I had no column last week, so I will take this opportunity to congratulate Dublin on back-to-back All-Ireland football titles and commiserate with our Mayo friends on another Croke Park heartbreak.

When the news came through that Stephen Rochford had dropped his goalkeeper, David Clarke, all that was missing in RTE’s Sunday Game studio was the soundtrack from the movie ‘Jaws.’

Everyone, including the television viewers, seemed to sense that this could be a fateful over-reaction to a couple of poor kick-outs by Clarke in the drawn final. No doubt it was the same in the stadium, when Mayo fans heard of the goalkeeping switch.

The replacement ‘keeper, Rob Hennelly, had a calamitous game, as has been well documented by now, but Mayo’s lack of star quality in attack also contributed to their defeat.

If Mayo can develop a couple of forwards for next season, they are well capable of getting themselves back to precisely where they found themselves twice in recent weeks – within touching distance of Sam Maguire.

Sure, next year seems a long way off when the long, cold nights close in, complete with all that time for crying over spilt balls, but Mayo can come back yet again.

Mayo may be a long time on this arduous road, but Stephen Rochford has only just joined the journey.

Every day

We can only judge him by what we see and hear… We don’t actually really know enough about his business dealings, his tax affairs, his political views, his morals, his intellect, his judgement, his temperament, how he conducts himself behind closed doors. We can only judge him by what we see and hear…see of him and hear from him.

And, just now, and with no time for redemption, he cuts an ugly figure. Surely Donald Trump cannot be elected President of the United States after the latest series of controversies involving him?

Whatever good qualities the Republican candidate may have – and I have written previously that quite a lot of what he has been saying may actually be correct, if not politically correct – his demeaning of women, general sexism, bullying tendencies, crassness and related character deficits, all suggest that this man should only ever gain access to the White House with other visitors via a public tour.

Seriously, can America not do better than this? One might say to the ‘leading Republicans’ who have abandoned Trump in recent days, how in God’s name did they allow their party to select him as their candidate?

The second debate, on Sunday night/Monday morning, was a mess, full of insults and lies, with Trump adding to his repertoire of objectionable contributions by frequently walking behind Clinton as she addressed the audience. That was ugly, intimidating.

As for Hillary, she’s coming across as articulate, well briefed, highly capable – but distinctly untrustworthy. Can we just start all over again?


I heard part of a riveting exchange between Lance Armstrong – the doper who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles – and Newstalk presenter Ger Gilroy on Friday evening.

It was gripping radio. Gilroy was merciless. True, as pointed out by an increasingly irritated Armstrong, there were times when Gilroy seemed to be generalising too much, perhaps even out of his depth.

But much of Gilroy’s questioning was skilled, all the more so because he remained calm and measured in the pursuit of his prey. There were some terrific silences during the interview!

Armstrong ‘doth protest too much’ I think. He tries to give the impression that he is coming clean about everything now, yet he sheds as much doubt and ambiguity as he does clarity and contriteness.

And with Armstrong, a poorly-concealed contempt for the opinion of others is never far from the surface. Perhaps he’ll run for President of America some day.

All weekend

We spent a while at the Taste of the Lakelands/World Angling in Lanesboro/Ballyleague at the weekend, and what a buzz there was. It’s a few months since I wrote here about how well that area is looking, its natural beauty enhanced by great voluntary leadership by locals and the support of agencies, state and otherwise.

One can only imagine the huge amount of work that went into organising last week’s major events, i.e. the food festival and the World Predator Boat Fishing Championships.

Heartiest congratulations to the various committees, all the volunteers and everyone in Lanesboro/Ballyleague.

It was a wonderful success, blessed by great weather, with everyone who attended enthusing about the facilities, the welcome and the atmosphere.


In the Sunday Times, I read that former Newsnight Rottweiler-in-Chief Jeremy Paxman has written his autobiography.

It includes lots of political anecdotes, including this exchange between former British Prime Minister John Major and the eccentric Russian President, Boris Yeltsin.

Major: ‘So Boris, in a word, how is Russia?’

Yeltsin: ‘Good.’

Major: ‘Well, in two words then…’

Yeltsin: ‘Not good.’


Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more Budget analysis, I switched over to Prime Time on RTE + 1.

Miriam was in the middle of the audience, where the punters were telling us how the Budget was for them, while David McCullough was poised to pounce with a sombre looking panel of politicians, including Denis Naughten.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty tried gamely to be withering about the Budget, but his barbs were comfortably batted away by Michael Noonan, the man who has seen it all and who was chatting as casually as a farmer leaning over his gate might.

Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil did what everyone in Fianna Fáil is doing; claiming credit for the good bits but sniffily tut-tutting and saying ‘nothing to do with us’ when any dubious measure is mentioned. Ruth Coppinger didn’t smile.

It was pretty tedious stuff, not to mention strange, with the Fine Gael man keen to highlight how much their new friends (kind of) in Fianna Fáil have in common with them, and Mr. McGrath going all bashful, not to mention a touch uncomfortable with how this flirting might play out in public.

I’d had enough.

I switched over to ‘First Dates’ where there was more passion, less percentages – and no arguing about fairness and who should pay for everything.

‘If you don’t stop, Tony, I’ll bring Roy out’
Sunday (and Thursday)

Yes, I know Martin O’Neill is highly-paid, and it’s true that Ireland often play a form of football that involves little enough passing of the ball, but I can actually understand why the Irish manager usually looks like he wants to throw a custard pie into the face of RTE’s Soccer Correspondent, Tony O’Donoghue. Or unleash Roy Keane on him.

True, the affable O’Donoghue has a job to do – and he does it well – but in this age of the ‘cynical media’, it seems that every such interview has to take a negative turn, even after Ireland have actually won a game.

I often think he feels some pressure to reflect the agenda set by the ever-colourful panel. When Ireland defeated Moldova 3-1 on Sunday evening, it sent the team joint top of their World Cup qualifying group, with seven points from a possible nine.

Unbeaten in their first three games, with two wins in three days…yet O’Donoghue’s second question in his post-match interview with O’Neill related to defensive errors by Ireland in recent matches.

No wonder O’Neill’s eyes narrowed and he grew tetchy! I have no problem with guys like O’Neill being held to account for their decisions, but we’d just won the match!

There was some consolation for the manager – inexplicably, Tony didn’t mention Wes Hoolahan. The treatment of the gifted Hoolahan by successive managers has been the subject of much comment over the years. RTE panellists – particularly Eamon Dunphy and John Giles – have long vented their frustration over O’Neill and his predecessor, Trappatoni, overlooking, sparingly calling on or even exiling the Norwich clubman.

However, Hoolahan was selected on Sunday evening, and once again he showed his class. In a quirk of fate, the television audience was spared/denied what would have been a classic Eamon Dunphy contribution, because the High Prince of Punditry wasn’t on the RTE panel on the night.

The RTE sports department was in squad rotation mode, lining out with Dietmar Hamann, Damien Duff and Richie Sadlier, with Dunphy and Liam Brady presumably watching the game over a few beers while wearing Wes Hoolahan jerseys.

With Hoolahan’s vision, close control and passing highlighting what had been missing from Ireland’s performance against Georgia last Thursday – a Wes-less Ireland won unconvincingly – Dunphy would have had a field day if he was on Sunday’s panel.

He would have been right too, because while there is presumably an argument for resting the 34-year Hoolahan from time to time, O’Neill’s reluctance to start him more frequently is infuriating, and suggests that the manager is unwilling to trust individual brilliance and just a bit too fond of the long ball approach.

Now I’m sounding like Tony O’Donoghue…