Paul Healy’s Week



Fairway to White House…

With all the streaming options/podcasts now available, it’s hard to keep up with it all, but I enjoyed the snatches of a new series I saw in the early hours this morning, in which two elderly American gentlemen josh with one another about their golfing prowess.

Flicking through the channels, I encountered these chaps on CNN, just as the more boastful of the two – a wealthy looking wheeler dealer type – informed the sceptical older guy that he had just won two golf championships. Next, the brash boaster insisted he could easily out-drive the other man, who responded by unconvincingly agreeing to play a round.

It was an interesting concept – two elderly golfers (who obviously don’t get on) trading barbs about their golfing prowess. I lost interest when they suddenly started talking about world affairs.

*I later discovered this was actually an election campaign debate between US presidential candidates President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Oh well…




Croke Park trip

I can’t honestly say that the drive to Dublin was just like old times – because it wasn’t. There was no sign of the minibuses one would encounter years ago when travelling (in great excitement) to Roscommon games in Croke Park, said vehicles invariably crammed with wide-eyed teenagers kitted out in primrose and blue. Maybe they all travelled by train today.

We pulled into Kinnegad, which is generally a good idea. There, we enjoyed a very nice bite to eat in the bustling An Granuaile restaurant. Spotting a few Galway fans at a nearby table, I wondered aloud – sort of joking – about a Connacht double. Little did I know how that fanciful aspiration would unravel…

About 12/15 miles from Dublin, we were confronted with long traffic tailbacks, Taylor Swift and the Rossies all being in town on the one day.

I hadn’t been to the press box in Croke Park for a few years. Gaining admission was straightforward enough, even if I initially flashed my driver’s license instead of my press pass (by mistake).

Seated, I nervously inhaled the moment when the Rossies emerged. In the distance, Hill 16, in the vicinity of which I stood for the 1980 All-Ireland final, which Roscommon reached after a semi-final win over Armagh. 44 years on, I wondered if today might be the day the long wait to win another championship game at Croke Park ends. But we never really got going today. The players tried their utmost, but the Gods were a touch unkind (that and Armagh’s doggedness).

It was strange watching Dublin v Galway. The Dubs were devastating in the first 15 minutes, and more than a few occupants of the press area were predicting a comfortable win for Dessie Farrell’s Blue Army. But a truly remarkable second half riveted all in Croker. It was only in the last ten minutes or so that we realised Galway’s perfectly timed coup might just succeed. It was a magnificent victory.

I was alone in my row in the press area (the other reporters busy elsewhere) when Galway Bay FM’s Ollie Turner, sitting directly in front of me, delivered his emotional closing commentary (see my Sports Desk column on page 36). To my right, two Galway men half-sitting and half-standing in the Hogan were pictures of joy, as happy in this moment as any two men anywhere in the world.

It was 11 pm by the time we got back to Roscommon, ready for a pint or three, which would of course be accompanied by initially muted analysis of where it went wrong for Davy Burke’s team.

Roscommon’s deflation, Galway’s elation… Croke Park makes and breaks dreams.




TV sport

Michael Cusack and his fellow GAA founding fathers would not be happy. The Euros were more entertaining than the Gaelic football today. The problem with Gaelic football at present is that most teams are playing the same way (we get the odd exception now and again) – and it’s as boring as people lazily comparing boring stuff to watching paint dry. I mean, has anyone ever really watched paint dry?

I digress. Today, Donegal got the job done against a Louth team who have had a fantastic season. In what was meant to be the main fare of the day at Croke Park, Kerry outpointed Derry in a contender for Bore of the Decade (the first half of Roscommon v Armagh was marginally less hard to watch).

At least at the Euros there was lots of tension, followed by drama. First it looked like a completely underwhelming England team were going to exit in humiliation at the hands of Slovenia, then Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp goal rescued Gareth Southgate and his players just as the trap door was opening.

Harry Kane headed in an extra-time winner to complete England’s great escape. Even though England are unbeaten at the tournament and now into the last eight, the relationship between unimpressed media/supporters on one side and the increasingly thin-skinned players and manager on the other remains precarious. This soap opera resumes on Saturday when England play Switzerland in the quarter-finals.




Emotional Ronaldo

For those of us who didn’t go to see Taylor Swift, there’s the welcome near-nightly helping of the Euros. As usual, I watch as much for the punditry as the football (Micah Richards bland, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker smug, Kenny Cunningham the man you’d spend half an hour with at the bar before ‘going to the gents’ and not returning).

Tonight, it was soap opera meets soccer, as Portugal and Slovenia played an engrossing last 16 tie, decided in the end by a penalty shootout. As ever with Portugal, and even in his 40th year, Cristiano Ronaldo was centre-stage, breaking into floods of tears after his penalty in extra-time was brilliantly saved by Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak, before the veteran superstar atoned by scoring Portugal’s first penalty in the shootout. Their goalkeeper, Diogo Jota, was the hero of the hour, saving Slovenia’s first three penalties, meaning Portugal advanced to the quarter-finals.