Paul Healy’s Week


A sporting week

Sport was everywhere this past week, as it should be. This evening, I settled in to watch Greece v the Republic of Ireland, our latest ‘must-win’ game (until the next ‘must-win’ game). Some supporters from Roscommon made the trip to Athens, the rest of us settling for somewhere between our living rooms and an apathy born of the frustration of watching too many impotent campaigns.

Under manager Stephen Kenny, we’ve become used to an unconvincing but well-intended philosophy of attempting to play good passing football, an approach  which, even when executed adequately, is fatalistically

undermined by an inability to put the ball into the opposition’s net. We pass, miss, concede at the other end, and occasionally when we’re one or two down we pull a goal back from nowhere, and claim another heroic draw or honourable defeat.

Tonight, there was no need to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. They didn’t. Instead, they outplayed us. As ever, we battled to the end, but without even the consolation of many of those fancy passing routines we’ve been working on.

After Ireland’s 2-1 defeat, the pundits in the RTE studio couldn’t muster any anger worth talking about, only a sense of resignation about the possibility that we’re doomed forever (football-wise). Liam Brady looked like a man who had been strapped to a chair and forced to watch the Lotto draw, when he – and everyone else – knew we had no ticket.



Rory & Rod

It’s the hope that kills us…Rory included. Sky Sports are utterly obsessed with ‘the Northern Irishman’ (Rory McIlroy), but then he really is (Sky) box office.

It’s been nine years since the flamboyant star last won one of golf’s four majors. This Rory famine is mystifying, given his immense talent and multiple wins on the regular tours. Will his major wait end in 2023?

The quest continues this weekend in the US Open at the Los Angeles Country Club, a course which Sky repeatedly informs us is overlooked by Lionel Richie’s house. Are they trying to suggest that it’s a different world to the one we mere mortal Sky viewers are used to? They also report that an acre of land costs about £5 million there. And that Rod Stewart recently sold his Los Angeles mansion for £56 million!



Tullamore twist

Neutrals would have loved the Roscommon-Kildare match in Tullamore today. We’re not neutrals. We were there, following every twist and turn. See my views on pages 42-43.



The 3 am shift

Thanks to Rory McIlroy, I am bleary-eyed. I stayed up until 3 am (‘All Night Long’ as ‘owner of house overseeing course’ Lionel Richie might say) to watch Rory come up just short in the US Open. Better news for Cavan’s Leona Maguire, who stormed to her second LPGA Tour win.



Liam’s seen enough!

There are a handful of spectators and no dogs at this evening’s Glen Celtic v Roscommon Town U-14 soccer game, played in Ballymoe. It’s a very pleasant hour, with great endeavour and skill on show.

On Newstalk, the commentary team sound incredulous as Ireland draw a first-half blank against lowly Gibraltar in Dublin. Naturally, we are reminded that Ireland’s opponents are mere part-timers, made up of the usual motley crew of firemen, butchers, bakers and others (as though firemen can’t play football). At least the goals are flying in on the Ballymoe pitch in front of me.

We’re back home just in time to see a guy called Mikey Johnston save Irish manager Stephen Kenny’s blushes – possibly his job too – with a 53rd minute goal. Ireland go on to win 3-0. Liam Brady retires after 25 years as a pundit. He peaked in that role during the glory era alongside the wonderfully provocative trio of Giles, Dunphy and the late Bill O’Herlihy.

(As a player, Brady was mesmerising, his left foot like a wand, a genius who’s still revered by Arsenal fans particularly).

Brady’s a gentleman, and he’s right to retire. After all, Liam’s been ageing before our eyes, and I put that entirely down to what he’s had to watch (from the RTE studio).

How long do you think Picasso would have lasted if he had to continually watch (and critique) a group of game but very limited painters?



Fiery Michael D!

No doubt there was synchronised eye-rolling and groaning amongst government ministers following the latest pushing of boundaries by President Higgins. In a weekend interview, the president bluntly spoke out about what he sees as a move towards possible NATO membership by Ireland.

President Higgins said Ireland is “playing with fire” in relation to its neutrality. He clearly relishes pushing the boundaries – crossing them, some might say – in relation to how far someone in his position is constitutionally permitted to go.

Given the president’s popularity with the public, the last thing the Government will want to do is publicly rebuke him. So they just have to take it on the chin!



‘Swift’ response…

People are hugely frustrated by the rise in hotel prices, which mainly applies in certain Dublin establishments, and other big urban areas too. For many families, these exorbitant prices are closing down the traditional option of weekend breaks/annual holidays.

The pattern in Dublin whereby hotel prices often spike when there is a big event ‘in town’ – such as a concert or match – is disgusting, and has to be causing reputational damage for Ireland.

On Newstalk this morning, presenter Shane Coleman cited an instance of a Dublin hotel quoting €999 for a double room for one night on the weekend of June 28/29 2024…when Taylor Swift will perform in concert at the Aviva Stadium. The same room is priced at €339 for the corresponding night this year.

We know the hospitality industry was probably the sector most impacted by the pandemic. Hotels suffered terribly, and are themselves now hit by rises in costs. But these soaring hotel prices are completely unjustifiable.

Hotels may be booked out for major events/peak season, but the public resent what is effectively a combination of greed and price gouging. Some of the prices being quoted, particularly in Dublin and other urban areas, are just unacceptable – and may yet prove to be counter-productive for the industry.