Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

I’ve never seen an episode of ‘Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week’ (RTE 2), but happened to catch 15 minutes of it tonight. While I understand the show’s concept and can (just about) see its appeal, the humiliation of contestants leaves an unpleasant taste.

  The physical endurance and psychological tests make the programme what it is, but the ‘hooded cameo’ I saw tonight (I realise the show is now into series four in Ireland) was particularly dark.

  A ‘recruit’ is led into a dungeon-type room, their head fully covered with a hood, the atmosphere deliberately quite intimidating. It makes for uneasy viewing.

  Once the person is seated in front of the course instructors, the head covering is theatrically whisked off. Cue a quick switch from the aura of intimidation to the contestant emotionally talking about their ‘journey’, or how much this means to them, the ‘leaders’ suddenly turning empathetic, their customary shouting replaced by philosophical nodding of the head and a gentler tone. More of the contrived nonsense which reality shows thrive on. ‘Guantanamo Bay meets The X Factor’ is the phrase that popped up in my head! I can understand people wanting to push themselves to limits, but this programme has uncomfortable dimensions to it.   

Friday

While I accept that mowing the grass in your garden is of itself satisfying, arguably even more satisfying is that moment when you get to tell someone else that you mowed the grass in your garden earlier…

Saturday

I’m grateful to the indefinable Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath for introducing me to the latest rap music today while I was driving into town.
Mattie was on RTE Radio, telling Damien O’Reilly about his views on Ireland taking in Ukrainian refugees. While he may have elaborated later in the programme, Mattie’s policy was summed up (by him) as follows: “We need to say hold on a minute here…we need to make hay more slowly”.
For fear of what was to come, and bearing in mind the ‘Life is short’ maxim, I duly switched over to Today FM, where the rap was really quite good.

Saturday

He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but retired Dublin county footballer, Philly McMahon, is writing a mighty column every Saturday in the Irish Independent, one that stands out because the style of writing is so good and particularly because of its starkness and honesty.

  He includes a few decent anecdotes too, including this one today, when writing about trying to wind up Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper: “…I knew he was getting frustrated. At one stage, we were coming back up the pitch, he charged at me and just hit me in the chest. Just a bump. I stopped and said ‘Did you hit me there or was that the wind?’”

Saturday

Just my luck that casual channel-hopping brought me to the longest frame in the history of the World Snooker Championship (85 minutes, Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao). Sometimes, the only way to watch snooker is the highlights!

  Watching, I longed (a bit unfairly, as this evening’s marathon men are both brilliant players who just happened to get involved in a tight, tactical frame) for the glory days of the late Alex Higgins, the man who put snooker into wider public consciousness with his thrilling, swashbuckling play.

  40 years ago this year, Alex won his second world title, defeating Ray Reardon in the 1982 final, the memory of which is vivid in my mind. Higgins’ emotional win followed a classic semi-final against his great friend, like-minded soulmate Jimmy White.

Sunday

On the cover of The Sunday Times’ magazine, beside a photograph of the likeable former X Factor and America’s Got Talent judge Sharon Osbourne, is the headline: ‘I don’t want to be judged’ (Sharon Osbourne on race rows, facelifts and her wild life with Ozzy). I don’t want to be judged? But, but, but…

Sunday

Sometimes the menu in a restaurant can offer too much choice, leading to indecision, delay, and the dreaded talk of sharing courses!

  It was a bit like that today for armchair sports fans. There was so much to choose from, it was hard to settle on a specific viewing course. I chose Donegal v Armagh (BBC) for my starter, but had to sample a little of Chelsea v West Ham (Sky Sports), and the rather unsatisfactory England v Ireland (Virgin Media) in the Women’s Six Nations. Naturally, I also availed of a helping of Clare v Tipperary in the hurling (RTE).

  My main course was the Connacht semi-final between Galway and Mayo (RTE), served with a touch of a fiery Liverpool-Everton derby game (Sky Sports). Later, The Sunday Game and Match of the Day 2 wrapped up a busy sporting day on TV. I have no interest in ‘doubles golf’ as it tends to lack the competitive edge, entertainment value and drama we see in the weekly singles’ events. (The snooker was overlooked small print on today’s menu).

  Galway produced a tremendous third quarter to take control of proceedings in Castlebar, before Mayo donned their trusty superhumans’ cloaks and scooped five points in five minutes from their bottomless bag of tricks. No Houdini act this time, but it was close. A great win for Galway.

Monday

No, it’s not a Roscommon version of Ultimate Hell Week in the county town (see ‘Thursday’). I repeat, it’s not a Roscommon version of Ultimate Hell Week. It’s just a different week, challenging yes, but something we will get used to. We will get used to that new (8.45 am) early school starting time in Roscommon town…it will be okay.