Paul Healy’s Week


Greece lightning

Stephen Kenny’s fate as manager of the Republic of Ireland was surely sealed tonight as his team lost 2-0 at home to a slick Greece.

I felt some sympathy for Kenny, who is seeing his management death warrant being slowly typed out in full public glare.

Kenny’s revolution hasn’t worked, and it is time for those less than inspirational ‘suits’ in the FAI to start afresh. Watching this poor Irish performance, one was struck again by how limited our current crop of players is. However, there are examples of other international squads of similar ability performing better. Kenny, for all his sincerity and good intent, has been what Napoleon dreaded most: an unlucky general. It hasn’t just been bad luck, I hasten to add; Kenny has come up short. Our fortunes are not going to radically change under his stewardship, not least because his own confidence and that of his players must be greatly tested by now.

Kenny is a decent man, who came to this role with a noble football philosophy, but a confluence of sobering realities has brought us to the end of the road. Good guy, failed project. It’s time for The Call. It remains to be seen if his successor can mould more from the ‘raw material’ currently available.


‘Hand of Jordie’

Ireland are out of the Rugby World Cup, but they died with their boots on. Andy Farrell’s team weren’t at their very best in Saturday’s quarter-final against New Zealand, but still contributed magnificently to an all-time classic. Every time the All Blacks threatened to pull away, Ireland patiently dragged them back.

Tiny margins dictated our sporting destiny; Jordie Barrett’s try-saving intervention near the end may have cost Ireland not just this match, but the World Cup itself. Ireland’s 38-phase barrage of the New Zealand defence in a gripping finale was mesmerising – and evidence of our quality – but it also highlighted why the All Blacks won. The ball retention during those waves of Irish attacks was world class, but the composed New Zealand defence ultimately prevailed in that epic climax.

As close as Ireland came to winning, the All Blacks fully deserved their victory. They were magnificent. Dealt two yellow cards, they played with fourteen men for 20 minutes, but still kept Ireland at bay.

This was a heartbreaking defeat for an Irish team that has graced the summit of world rugby over the past couple of years. For Johnny Sexton, it was a sad and emotional end to a great career. I felt particularly sorry for Bundee Aki, Ireland’s player of the tournament. What a joy it was to watch him these past few weeks, dancing past dazed opponents as he devoured ground for our cause, a leader in his prime.

The odyssey ends with heartbreak, but I did feel in the build-up to the game that there was too much hype (and over-confidence) about our chances. Ireland v New Zealand was always going to be a 50-50 game.

Talk about Diego Maradona and the Hand of God. For Ireland, Rugby World Cup 2023 will be remembered for the Hand of Jordie.

Sunday’s quarter-final between France and South Africa was one of the best rugby games of all time, the first half hour the most exciting I’ve ever seen (I was going to tweet that, but Piers Morgan beat me to it).



Who’s Ed?

On Newstalk today, the presenter said: “Now let’s talk about sex, Ed”. I waited to hear studio guest Ed say something – anything – but it turned out the presenter was switching topics to sex education, as in “Now let’s talk about sex ed”. Commas matter.



The fire flickers…

Working late on a busy issue of the Roscommon People, I checked in on my recording of the Republic of Ireland v Gibraltar when I got home (we won 4-0). It was genuinely nice to see Stephen Kenny celebrating each goal as I fast-forwarded, but it is the ‘rewind’ of recent outings that will seal his fate. Afterwards, this rare easy win meant peace broke out between RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue and Stephen, who were like an old married couple who hadn’t the heart to argue over silly stuff, instead almost poignantly gazing on the flickering embers where a proud flame once soared.



On keeping lists!

A meeting of the recently formed County Roscommon branch of the LISTS (Lists in Society Totally Satisfying) Club was held at a secret venue (near Tulsk) last night.

The chairperson welcomed all present. “As you all know, this club is for people who obsessively keep lists, in order to get things done. Fed up with procrastinating, they realise that keeping ‘To do’ lists can bring order and happiness to their lives”.

He drew breath.

“However, it has become clear that some people are finding that the actual discipline of drawing up lists can be counter-productive, and risks the opposite outcome… i.e. nothing getting done”.

There were some nervous coughs from audience members.

The chairperson then asked the secretary to do a roll call, which she read, from a long list.

Next, the meeting was thrown open to the floor. As people raised their hands, the secretary wrote their names (on a list), and eventually opinions were voiced.

One man said he writes a ‘20 things to do this week’ list every Monday morning. He uses different coloured markers in order to prioritise the tasks listed. ‘Buy new markers’ has now entered at No. 7.

A neighbour with a very untidy garden claimed the system is working very well for him. “I keep an indoors list and an outdoors list” he said, smugly. “On my outdoors list, I write stuff like ‘cut the grass’, ‘service lawnmower’, ‘weed garden’ and ‘spray paths’. I don’t always act on the list, but it’s comforting”. His wife rolled her eyes.

A lady in the third row spoke up.

“My husband insists on sitting up in bed every night and writing out a long list of tasks to complete the next day… it drives me mad”.

The chairperson uttered an awkward chuckle. It was his wife.

“It seems” the chairperson later, “that when it comes to lists, there is for and against”.

On hearing that, the secretary had a lightbulb moment.

“Can everyone take a sheet of paper… on one side, write the pros of keeping lists, on the other side, write the cons. It will be a useful exercise”.

The meeting finally ended after midnight, with everyone exhausted. As people filed out, the chairperson opened the master (priority) list in his notebook.

“Organise another meeting of the LISTS Club soon” he scribbled – in between ‘Get the dog groomed’ and ‘Clear out the attic’.