Paul Healy’s Week – 8th April

Paul Healy on nostalgic memories of the diminutive comedy giant Ronnie Corbett; in praise of the great John Giles and the great Bobby Charlton; heartbreak for Roscommon U-21s…and an interesting day following Roscommon to Carrick for their date with the Dubs…
Real talent…as opposed to some of that other lot!

For many of us of that dreaded ‘certain age’, the passing, all in the first quarter of 2016, of Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels and Ronnie Corbett, has brought us on a nostalgic ride on an imaginary showbiz train in our memories.

As we travel, in our minds, into an era now gone, we see the genial Wogan, his eyes twinkling with mischief as he brandishes his Blankety Blank wand in front of Kenny Everett (you had to be there!); Daniels, staring into camera, effortlessly marrying his talent and the medium of television, wooing millions of viewers with his prime-time magic; little Ronnie, sitting in his chair, making a trademark adjustment of his glasses as he joyously delivers another series of one-liners before a live audience and an adoring television audience.

Corbett slipped away today, aged 85, and there was a fitting outpouring of love for the smaller half of the legendary ‘Two Ronnies’ (Ronnie Barker, a comedy genius, died in 2005). As well as being gifted at what he did, it’s clear that Wogan was a gentleman and a gentle soul.

It was perhaps harder to warm to Paul Daniels, but he was undeniably superb at his craft and it was Daniels who brought magic from the townhalls into the living rooms of millions of people.

In latter years Ronnie Corbett maintained his national treasure status with regular television and film roles, including in the Ricky Gervais series, ‘Extras,’ and in his heyday he starred in Sorry!, a simple but charming sit-com. However it was his long-running association with Ronnie Barker in ‘The Two Ronnies’ that established the diminutive Corbett as a showbusiness giant. If you are familiar with ‘The Two Ronnies’ you know how great they were. If you aren’t, then enjoy discovering them.

There are reports in recent days of world leaders, politicians, sportstars, entertainers and business people being linked to offshore accounts and possible crime and corruption. In our own baliwick, our parliamentarians prevaricate, show a lack of leadership and exude an air of misguided self-importance.

Midst the greedy, the inflated egos and the over-rated, it’s nice to remember real talent…people who were a welcome distraction from the former types…people like Wogan, Daniels and Corbett, wonderful family entertainers who made us laugh and smile.

Thank God for the joy they brought into our lives.


I hope the kids who met John Giles in Boyle on Friday (he attended the Boyle Enterprise Town Expo) have some inkling of the significance of it all.

A year or two ago I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Giles over the phone. He is a Leeds United (and Ireland) great (I am fed up with over-use of the word ‘legend’) and, as a Leeds fan, I was thrilled to converse with this giant of the soccer world.

Giles lorded midfield with the equally magnificent Billy Bremner (now deceased) in the great Leeds United team of the 1970s. Any debate on what was the greatest British club side of all time ought to at least include reference to that Leeds team, which was managed by Don Revie.

It probably wasn’t the greatest club side of all time, but at its peak (check out footage on Youtube of Leeds v Southampton, with a starring role by Giles) that Leeds team was one of the best to ever grace the English game.

Players like Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Terry Cooper, Giles, Bremner, Jack Charlton and Allan Clarke will live long in the memory. Can I say, while on the subject of soccer and stars of the past, that I was touched by the scenes from Old Trafford on Sunday when the wonderful Bobby Charlton was honoured by having a spectator stand named after him.

As a Leeds fan, I have no hesitation in acknowledging greats who graced the game for the other United (Manchester). Not only was Bobby Charlton a truly great player, he was and is an absolute gentleman and a magnificent, humble and dignified ambassador for the game.

It was touching to see how emotional this uniquely modest giant was when the stand now named in his honour was unveiled.

He is perhaps the outstanding figure in the history of English football.


Sometimes you just know it’s all going to go horribly wrong, don’t you? When I joined the Shannonside coverage of the Connacht U-21 Final this evening, I got a pleasant surprise; Roscommon were 1-2 to no score in front after about five minutes.

I couldn’t make it to Sligo on Saturday evening, but now I could visualise beautiful passing movements by Roscommon…leaving Mayo players grasping at shadows.

When Willie said Roscommon had only won one of numerous Connacht U-21 Final appearances against Mayo, I didn’t see it as a hostage to fortune – more a prelude to a timely celebration.

When we missed an “open goal” before half-time, I was okay with it (sure we were all over them!) until Willie and analyst Frankie Dolan wondered aloud if the goal that never was would come back to haunt us.

I took a half-time break but was back for the dramatic second half. With about ten minutes to go Roscommon were two in front, then three.

It was very nervy; we were standing on a tightrope – the three-in-a-row within reach but with the valley of broken dreams below us.

Never mind Willie – my own mind began to play games with me.

‘Stay where you are, stay in your comfortable chair and Roscommon will survive these agonising final minutes” a long-winded voice in my mind advised.

But I couldn’t sit still as these marathon minutes prepared to torment us, rather like at the end of the Roscommon/Fermanagh senior qualifier last year.

So, foolishly, I got up, and distracted myself, drawing the curtains and walking the tense walk of the tense fan listening to a tense radio commentary on a tense game.

Goal! For Mayo!

Willie told a horror story from Markievicz Park in the time it took me to draw the curtains. I sat down again, resigned to a single-point loss.

But there was more toying with our emotions to come; gallant Roscommon equalised – and extra-time loomed.

Then Mayo scored again and yes, it was to be one of those horrible days after all. It had been on the cards for a long time, we just had to be tortured before the outcome was confirmed.

Still, any time we lose by the narrowest margin, and in a game of so many what ifs, we can console ourselves in the belief that fate will smile on us the next time…what happened in Sligo, after all, is sport’s way of reminding us all of its compelling greatness. But it was agony on the airwaves.

Should have listened to Lyric Fm…(not really).


As the rain ruthlessly pelted down from the skies on Saturday evening, my heart sank and my thoughts were with the executive of Roscommon County Board – not to mention the Roscommon players and the business community.

By 9.30 or so on Sunday morning, the word came; no game in the Hyde and all roads lead to Carrick. Deep down, we had sensed throughout the week that this was how it would end. A mess.

In fairness to the proverbial powers-that-be, the weather was unforgiving. Whatever chance the Hyde had on Saturday evening – and God knows, the glamour fixture must have been in the balance – the skies scuppered it all once they began to weep on Saturday night.

The match should have been called off at about 9 or 10 pm that night. It would have allowed the train-plotters in Dublin to plan a party instead of becoming cast members in a farce.

Me? I rounded up two of our kids and headed for Carrick at a dubiously late 1.10. I took the road to Rooskey. There is no better road.

We got to within about two miles of Pairc Sean MacDiarmuida and, rightly or wrongly, abandoned vehicle.

It’s a long time since I’ve walked that far to a match. Along the way, we were joined by delightful Dubs and bashful Rossies.

By the time we got into the ground, Roscommon were two points ahead. Frowns followed as the Dubs took a firm grip on proceedings. Roscommon began to perish on the Rock called Dean.

At half-time, we felt miserable. I had a first cousin from London in my company. He was born in the UK. I tentatively began to explain it all to him. But, given our recently-acquired status as the emerging new force in the GAA, I felt a bit embarrassed by Roscommon’s first-half display.

The second half was magical. In poor conditions, against the All-Ireland champions – and with not an awful lot at stake – Roscommon were superb.

There were some great scores, and some turnovers that could not have been achieved were it not for the massive heart and effort of these terrific young Roscommon footballers.

It hardly mattered that we didn’t seal the draw we probably deserved. What mattered is what we saw.

I left Pairc Sean MacDiarmuida with a sense of great pride.

My English cousin wanted to know if Roscommon are now realistic All-Ireland contenders. I answered with due diplomacy.

I said something along the lines of ‘we have a long way to go…but we are one of the most promising young teams in the country – and at the moment we are moving into the top tier.’

The very long walk back to the car was the same distance as before, but less taxing now. Rossies that we chatted to on that long road beamed the beam of loyal followers who are daring to dream.

The Dublin supporters I encountered were lovely, great people. It had been a chaotic day. In a bizarre way, it had epitomised much of the magic of the GAA.

Real GAA people had risen, effortlessly enough, above the rain and the administrative mayhem. I loved the stories about Roscommon fans coming to the rescue of stranded ‘Dubs’ – offering them lifts from Roscommon to Carrick, sharing coffee, condemnation, and, truth be told, clichés.

I was greatly impressed, but not surprised, by the utter decency and priceless good humour of ‘Dubs’ who, while certainly frustrated by the venue switch, took it on the chin and endeared themselves to their fellow gaels (us).

As we left the pitch, I knew that my English cousin was watching everything – and listening intently. A friend from Rooskey greeted me and said ‘great performance.’ I wondered what my cousin made of that.

Then, as the cars slowly peeled away from Pairc Sean MacDiarmuida, fans from both counties began to stoop under a railing to move from the confines of the stadium grounds to the outer world.

And I wondered what my London-based cousin made of that. Then, on this lovely, peculiar day, I met a drifting fan with a brolly who said: ‘Paul, it’s probably no harm that we lost’ and, while I knew what he meant, I looked at my cousin from London – and his rain-splattered face – and I wondered what he really made of Roscommon v Dublin in Leitrim (via London).

I think he probably liked it. Sure what’s not to like?