Paul Healy’s Week


Magic of Motson

For generations of followers of the beautiful game, John Motson was the voice of football in this part of the world.

There were other top commentators, but nobody quite like Motson, who so frequently exuded a contagious joyfulness when describing memorable moments on the pitch.

We grew up entranced by the warmth and enthusiasm of his voice. Motson’s knowledge of the players he was commentating on underpinned the depth of his preparation. It gave him the platform with which to work his magic. Mic in hand, he delivered passionate, exciting commentaries over several decades.

A soundtrack to our young lives, his brilliant commentaries on Match of the Day elevated great goals and great games to even greater heights.

We thought he would always be there. The BBC legend actually hung up his mic in 2017, meaning he sadly only had five years or so of retirement.

The People’s Commentator died today, aged 77. Mention of John Motson’s name, certainly hearing his voice, will always evoke nostalgic, happy memories for football fans. It just won’t be the same without him.



Successful voyage

On that Friday afternoon a few years ago, I was having  coffee with my friend, Ciaran Mullooly. With customary passion and enthusiasm, Ciaran – always a great man for a positive community project – informed me of exciting plans to acquire a boat to be located at the River Shannon in Ballyleague-Lanesboro, a vessel which would provide access to watersports for people with disabilities.

Ciaran and his fellow volunteers were on the job. The ‘Access for All’ boat concept sounded visionary – and very ambitious.

It turned out to be the beginning of an exciting ‘voyage’. From the outset, the project was a great success. Fast-forward a few years, and today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrived to perform the official opening of the Access for All accessibility centre on the waterfront in Ballyleague-Lanesboro. Congratulations to all involved on the realisation of this project.

I had listened to Ciaran with great interest during that chat over coffee a few years ago, and remember being well impressed as he outlined the collective vision of the then just-formed Access for All committee.

Having wound down my own modest voluntary activity by then, I could offer nothing comparable in return. Well, I’m sure I paid for the coffee…



Shameless Bailey

Today’s Sunday Independent reports that Ian Bailey, self-proclaimed main suspect in the unsolved Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case, is releasing the first part of his podcast this week.

The French filmmaker was murdered in Cork in 1996. We’re told that Bailey’s podcast will deal with his life before and after the murder, which sounds like a lame attempt to elevate this typically distasteful Bailey venture beyond the valid accusation that he’s cashing in on his notoriety. In classic Bailey style, it is of course grossly insensitive.

The self-proclaimed ‘chief suspect’ – who insists he is innocent of any involvement in the murder – is of course within his rights, but as usual his enthusiasm for media engagement to do with the case is deeply distasteful. Bailey always seems happy to cooperate with documentaries/podcasts, and now he’s going solo, revisiting it all ‘in his own words’.

All this unseemly attention-seeking, when the decent thing for Bailey to do would be to show respect for Sophie’s family and convey a dignified silence. Sadly, that appears to be too much to ask of this very unpleasant individual.



Clones to the Hyde

It’s a beautiful day, as Bono sang. Today, we made a first trip to Clones in many years, Roscommon senior footballers facing Monaghan in the National Football League.

There was a good turnout of Roscommon supporters. Unfortunately, Davy Burke’s team struggled to reproduce the form that had brought them very impressive wins against Tyrone, Galway and Armagh. On this occasion, Roscommon were off the pace. When they did find some rhythm, attacks broke down too often. There were misplaced passes and soft turnovers. It was an off day (Monaghan deservedly won, 0-14 to 0-11).

Roscommon should not lack motivation this Sunday, when they host Mayo in Dr Hyde Park. Given their recent rampant form, the visitors will be raging hot favourites. There’s a lot of talk about both sides not wanting to show their hand, given that they will meet in the Connacht Championship in April. Talk too of neither county being that keen on progressing to the National League Final. Of course that’s only speculation; it could be misplaced, and either or both teams might have an open mind about the prospect of chasing down a national title.



Will Jeffrey dance?

And so, the interminable protocol saga is set to be consigned to history. Or is it? On Monday, the UK Government and the EU confirmed they have agreed a  new deal – ‘The Windsor Framework’ – which we are told addresses the post-Brexit trading challenges faced in Northern Ireland.

Cue a rather breathlessly (suspiciously so?) excited Rishi Sunak flying in to Northern Ireland to tell business leaders they are now operating in “the world’s most exciting economic zone”. It’s not clear that the UK Prime Minister’s optimism is widely shared!

In terms of political reaction – and the prospects of the long-dormant Assembly being restored to action – not for the first time, the ball is in the DUP’s court. Will they sign up to the new deal?

On the always superb Channel 4 News on Tuesday, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson briefly dispensed with the usual cliches and announced that he is “a warrior, not a dancer”. No, I don’t really know what he meant either. But it’s high time dancing Jeffrey and his colleagues waltzed back into power-sharing in the North.