Paul Healy’s Week – 5th August

Paul Healy on Hillary and Donald in the race for the White House; Tipp, Mayo and others in the race for Sam; Musing on who Ireland’s greatest ever sports person is…and on enjoying August, the silly – but super – season…

I saw more of the speeches from the recent Republican and Democratic conventions in America than I should perhaps admit to.

Tonight/this morning, I stayed up ridiculously late to see and hear what Hillary had to say. Ms. Clinton’s speech was fine, nothing special, perhaps delivered a bit too sharply (her tone can be a bit off-putting).

Still, she’s a very safe pair of hands, indeed more than that, she’s a very accomplished politician, and probably well qualified to occupy the Oval Office.

Donald Trump? Well, I don’t think he’s mad, but he might be dangerous. Then again, if he does win, he will probably be reined in by ‘his people’ – and the world won’t end. This is likely to be a close election, and a Trump win is very possible.

He is becoming the ultimate anti-establishment guy, and voters worldwide are in establishment-kicking mood. Also, Hillary Clinton isn’t particularly charismatic, and is distrusted by millions of Americans.

And, while I thought a frail looking Bill Clinton delivered his speech with customary charm and skill the other night, his presence during the campaign could yet backfire.

Looking at Bill and Hillary now – effectively presenting themselves as a White House dream team – many voters may think ‘we don’t want to go back to the past’ and ‘we don’t want a cosy coronation of another Clinton.’

Still, this particular trump card is such a wild card, you’d expect Hillary to win.


On Sunday, the team gracing Croke Park with a style of football which was reminiscent of what Roscommon were producing in this season’s league, was wearing blue and gold; unfortunately it wasn’t Roscommon.

Tipperary ignited the All-Ireland Football Championship at the weekend, and, God knows, it needed a bit of spark.

They could have scored six goals against Galway; as it was, they won by nine points, pulling up. Clare came to the end of a great journey, but weren’t able to trouble Kerry.

The Kingdom, as ever, have lots of class, but I’ll be surprised if they see Sam this September. I saw some of Cork against Donegal on Saturday. Donegal are some championship warriors at this stage.

Usually they are liable to squeeze the life out of a team; on their day they can also score freely. I didn’t see the full game, and others who did, say that Donegal weren’t particularly impressive.

I will still be surprised if they don’t give Dublin lots to think about this weekend. Mayo beat Westmeath, but not very convincingly.

I would love to see Mayo win the All-Ireland. They haven’t inspired confidence this season, but they will still take beating. I think they can take Tyrone.


August rolls in today, and somebody, somewhere, is (quite understandably) saying ‘I can’t believe it’s the 1st of August, this year has flown.’

As I have noted before, the year never actually picks up speed or goes faster than a previous year – I think the problem might be that we live our lives with undue speed, seldom stopping to pause.

That, I imagine, is one of the reasons why mindfulness – and such techniques or approaches to living – is now ‘all the rage.’

August is a lovely month. The kids are still off school. There’s usually time to enjoy the countryside, to do a few day trips, to take a breather. In the newspaper business, it’s generally a very quiet month.

Hence, the ‘silly season’ label. Courts and state agencies effectively close down. Politicians go on holiday, or at least ‘cease fire.’ If you do happen to see Enda or Simon or Leo in the coming days and weeks, they’ll be wearing a casual jacket (no tie). They’ll be photographed at football matches, festivals, race meetings and street parties. The Six-One News is already no longer stretching to 7 pm.

Instead, we’re reeling in the years. The top radio presenters, some of them at least, disappear. We are left with the stand-ins. Here at the Roscommon People, PR companies bombard us with press releases about ‘Staying safe in the sun’ and ‘How to host the perfect Barbeque’.

I’d email them back and tell them there’s no sun in Roscommon just now, but most of them don’t know where Roscommon is. The Olympics will loom large this August. I detect a distinct lack of public enthusiasm. The once-great Games have been tarnished by a culture of cheating.

Doping has sullied everything, stealing our faith. It is such a shame. Still, we should think of the thousands of clean athletes who have prepared for the Olympics. I think once the Games start, interest will grow.

In fairness, London 2012 was tremendous. I will try to forget about the doping and await the great sporting stories that are about to be told. August gives us a chance to kind of slow the year down, certainly to smell the roses, and maybe even the rosé.

Soon enough it will be time to make the school lunches.

‘Evocative reminder of Padraig’s class’

Further proof that ‘form is temporary and class is permanent’ this weekend via the great Padraig Harrington, who I can forgive for anything, including chronic loss of form, collapses around holes surrounded by water, and his (admittedly kind of endearing – and probably therapeutic) tendency to over-analyse where his game is at any given time.

Many years ago I would have debated for some time if asked who is the greatest sports person Ireland has ever produced. Sonia O’Sullivan, Roy Keane, Paul McGrath, Mike Gibson, all would have been on my short-list.

If you go north, then George Best majestically glides into contention. O’Sullivan’s claims are very strong.

I thought she was wonderful, a truly marvellous athlete, a world class ambassador too, and all the more compelling because she wore her heart on her vest sleeve. Her career had its dramas too; falls, injuries, disappointments, heartbreaks. The lows made her many highs all the more glorious, and the nation was with her every step of the way.

And yet…when Brian O’Driscoll and Padraig Harrington came along, any debate on Ireland’s greatest surely had ‘new information’ now. (I am not discounting all our GAA greats, not to mention the fact that we produce the greatest jockeys on the planet).

O’Driscoll graced the rugby stage for many years, and while it was his attacking flair that established him as a superstar, his defensive strength and sheer courage ultimately defined his great career.

Even towards the end of his playing days, his body ravaged by battle, he was always brave and often brilliant, with magical, inventive interventions in games reminding that ultimately, and simply, he was a genius. So, on the ‘Ireland’s greatest sports star’ debate, I think of all our greats with pride and I single out O’Sullivan and O’Driscoll. But then I make a special place in my mind for Padraig Harrington. And I give him my vote.

And yes, it is surely true that a golfer can never really thrill us like a rugby star or athlete can. As a moment in time, Harrington sinking a tournament winning putt cannot compete with the sight of O’Sullivan or Eamonn Coghlan (another favourite of mine) passing opponents on the final bend, or O’Driscoll slicing through a powerless defence through a perfect marriage of body swerves, pace and vision.

However, the scale of what Harrington achieved at his peak cannot be overlooked. He was the first Irishman to win any of golf’s four majors. He went on to win two more. For decades, we lauded great Irish golfers like Christy O’Connor (Senior and Junior), Des Smyth and Eamonn Darcy.

Harrington took it all to a new level. At his peak, he walked in the company of Tiger Woods. Harrington conquered the golf world three times. Over the years, he has had many other triumphs.

He does it all with a smile, and is a supreme gentleman. This weekend, in the latest major (the PGA), Harrington finished six under par, not far from the top of the leaderboard, a quietly evocative reminder of the permanence of his class.

And, despite the passing years, I have a feeling there are more big moments to come in Padraig Harrington’s great career.