Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

There are so many unanswered questions in life, such as where did it all begin, is there life on other planets, what happens when we die, and of course, why do some men hesitate when the bill arrives on the TV hit ‘First Dates’.

  The Irish version (RTÉ 2, Thursday nights) is every bit as entertaining as the UK one. The format works a treat. For viewers, the best parts are not necessarily the ‘Getting to know you’ exchanges over the actual meal. Usually more entertaining is that moment when one (or both) in a potential pairing head to the bathroom and blab all to a friend/mother, while simultaneously checking the mirror to see how their hair and general appearance is holding up. The most suspenseful moment is obviously when they reveal whether or not they would like a second date. The fun moment is when that bill appears.

  Tonight, the villain of the show was unquestionably Aran, a naïve young army man. Interviewed on his own after his date with Kirsty, arrogant Aran said he didn’t want to see her again. Moments later, when Kirsty is seated beside him, he encourages her to speak first – she wanted to see him again – and then says he’d go on another date too. Aran hadn’t bargained on the interviewer exposing his cowardly approach, with the lady slightly icily commenting: “Is that what you said to me?”

  Kirsty escaped, while Aran walked into the inevitable social media dressing down.

Friday

A woman in Canada, fearing an intruder might be about to enter her house, contacted police online in a frantic rush. She was so stressed, instead of contacting local police in Durham, Canada, she mistakenly raised the alarm with officers in Durham in England.

  The episode had a happy ending, with the English police contacting their counterparts in Ontario. The Canadian police called to the woman’s house and arrested a man at the scene.   

  The fact that police in England could help come to the rescue of a woman in Canada gives me another opportunity to air that great story about the late Tom ‘Toss’ Keavey, a well-known character in Roscommon Town, whose quick-fire wit is still talked about.

  One of the great ‘Toss’ stories relates to his work as a fireman. One day the lads were called to the scene of a traffic accident. There are a few slightly varying versions of what happened next, but all are agreed on the characters involved and the punchline.

  The version I have is that an American tourist pulled up in his car just as the members of Roscommon Fire Brigade were beginning to tend to the scene. The American man got out of his car and took a keen interest in what was happening. Eyebrows were raised. Feeling he should explain his hands-on interest, the tourist approached ‘Toss’.

  “I’m a firefighter in the United States” he announced.

  Toss: “Well fair play to you, weren’t you quick to get here!”

Saturday

I’d never, ever heard of Harry Ruddle until today, not until he burst out of my laptop and, a short while later, appeared on the RTE News. Harry Ruddle? More like Harry Potter.

  On the clip on the News, The Man I’d Never Heard Of was about to do what Twitter said he had done a little earlier…that is score the winning goal with the very last puck of an All-Ireland Club hurling final. I waited for the clip to reveal the goal, expecting a touch from Harry in a crowded goalmouth, or maybe a bobbling, hopeful shot which would conveniently elude a despairing goalkeeper before booking a place in the history books.

  But it was more than that, it was Roy of the Rovers at his most outrageous, because Harry was full of intent, running from deep, like a man who almost knew his destiny, who certainly knew the desperation of the moment, his team two points down and the curtains moving in.

  And, as much as he ran from deep, he was still an awful long way from goal – several times the length of that table that Putin and Macron were sat at – so Harry, in the parlance of these ball games, still “had a lot to do”. Then, at the bidding of destiny, he struck, and Harry Ruddle briefly became Harry Potter.

  I had missed the magic moment when it happened, as sometimes happens with magic. Driving back from Galway, I’d lost track of the sport on radio, partly because Leeds were leaking goals to Everton, partly because I had toyed with trying to avoid score updates (later) on Ireland v France, then being recorded in our house.   

   By the time I was back in Roscommon – in time for the rugby in Paris – Harry had worked his magic, as confirmed when I checked in on Twitter. When I saw his goal a while later – it gave Ballygunner a sensational All-Ireland win over favourites Ballyhale Shamrocks – I thought of all the kids, our son included, who play with an innocence that inevitably fades, while pursuing dreams that never really wilt.

  The Man I’d Never Heard Of was a replacement on the day, anything but a household name, a man who once was a boy who used to plod through muck and rain, indulging his love for games and daydreaming of long-range goals that might settle close finals, all the better if they came from the last puck of the game.   

  Some kids want to be Harry Kane. Some might want to be Harry Potter. Now Harry Ruddle’s name will stir the emotions of kids in Waterford, in all hurling counties, in football circles too. His magic was our magic, the magic of our daydreams as kids.

Sunday

Having, in a moment of weakness, recorded Friday night’s Late Late Show (Valentine’s Special), I watched the first 20 minutes today. After a pleasant and surprisingly unhysterical opening (featuring a live wedding proposal), it suddenly became ‘smug central’ as a guffawing Ryan sat down with perennial guest, Dermot ‘Have I told you about my latest show?’ Bannon. I stuck with their tiresome prattling for five minutes, before exchanging a knowing nod with the dog, both of us simultaneously reaching for the remote control.

Monday

Often I’ll switch to bowls or cricket when Claire Byrne Live comes on, but tonight’s debate on the rise of Sinn Féin was a lively show, mercifully free of the gimmicks too often employed by Claire & Co.

  On Twitter, Sinn Féin supporters were quick to express outrage at what they claimed was an attack on their party, but at least we were spared prop-happy Claire dropping miniature republican figurines into a basket.

  Much of the programme centred on the housing crisis, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy outlining his party’s position, much to the scepticism of developer Michael O’Flynn and financial advisor Eddie Hobbs. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill (Fine Gael) was, as ever, articulate and calm. Fact-checking fan Tony Groves had a memorable purple patch, slaying all before him. Suffice to say, there was no meeting of minds between Sinn Féin supporters in the studio and those of a different view.

  At the end of the day, no one from Sinn Féin was hurt in the making of this programme; if anything, RTE’s dubious decision to devote an entire show to an opposition party on the march may well have boosted said party.   

  Anyways, my hero of the night was the very droll farmer who sat at the back and addressed the nation at his own (one gear only) pace, hands steadfastly in pockets, expression suggesting he wouldn’t ever give you the wrong change out of a tenner.

  “I was an accidental landlord 15 years ago, I got sucked into buying a house…” he lamented, from which point on no further ‘Quote of the Night’ entries were accepted.

Tuesday

“Some of the Paris (Saint Germain) fans aren’t convinced about Messi” says the match commentator during tonight’s big Champions League game. Personally (but I’m not an expert), I thought he was a decent enough player.