Paul Healy’s Week

Saturday

As sequels go, this evening’s prime time thriller didn’t disappoint. Stylistically, it was significantly different to the original. Last time, the impact came via one dramatic, short scene. This time, viewers were in suspense right up to the final shot.

In the first instalment of the dark Cody-Shefflin handshake franchise, the protagonists had gone for that short, sharp, scary impact…stunning viewers. That original – ‘The Icy Stare’ – was quite terrifying, and had Cody in the lead role. Fans were already familiar with some of Cody’s earlier work, including his memorable performance in ‘Marty Morrissey, say one more feckin’ thing and I’ll eat you for breakfast’.

This evening’s sequel to ‘The Icy Stare’ wasn’t like the original – which revolved entirely around one dramatic, spine-chilling moment that will live in our memory forever – but was more of a drawn-out suspense thriller.

For starters, Shefflin had more air-time. The action began (at the final whistle in the Leinster Hurling final) with Cody (playing the villain) bounding on to the stage (Croke Park). Meanwhile, his brilliant protégé-turned-rival surprises viewers by standing rooted to the spot, arms stubbornly folded. Viewers are kept guessing.

Next, in a production which is all about a handshake, Cody shakes hands with almost everyone…bar his great rival. In a clever twist, Shefflin, who used to dance around Croke Park while Cody stood largely expressionless on the sideline, now stands largely expressionless on the sideline while Cody dances around Croke Park. They’re playing with our minds now.

After all this almost unbearable suspense, the finale…Shefflin suddenly sprints towards Cody, viewers are on the edge of their seats, Cody steels himself, moves forward slowly, they meet, there’s a brief handshake, Cody appears to mutter something, and just when you think that’s it, Shefflin – camera still rolling – retreats, while shaking his head several times. As sequels go, this was good!

(In the great tradition of the cinema, the main feature had been preceded by a light warm-up film, in which 30-odd men are seen pucking about with hurleys and a sliotar).

 

Sunday

An odd front-page graphic on the Sunday Independent, which shows a photo of each of the main party leaders – McDonald, Martin, Varadkar and Ryan – along with their poll ratings. Plonked in the middle (on 50% approval rating) is Queen Elizabeth, hardly a prospective future Irish Taoiseach. Lamely seeking to justify the Sindo’s silliness is a sub-heading – ‘Queen more popular than all party leaders’.

What a stretch! It’s not as if those polls were comparing like with like, i.e. respondents weren’t assessing the Queen on her approach to the housing crisis/Coalition options! I mean, if they had asked the people of Ireland what they thought of Harry Styles or Ed Sheeran or Ant & Dec, any of the aforementioned would presumably have polled higher than our political party leaders! (The Sunday Independent graphic helpfully has the caption ‘United Kingdom’ under the Queen).

 

Sunday

Tony Kelly’s sideline cut to catapult today’s Munster hurling thriller into extra-time was beyond stupendous. This is sport at its most wondrous.

Limerick – the team of the era – in front by a point, in possession, time almost up. As Limerick defenders try to escape their pursuers, Clare pressure forces sliotar and man across the line. Kelly arrows an extraordinary score between the uprights from an utterly unforgiving angle.

Limerick went on to win this classic in extra-time, but Kelly’s astonishing skill and audacity under pressure was the stuff of childhood sporting fantasy.

 

Monday

It’s nice the way bank holidays effortlessly slow everything down, stripping the streets of traffic, an air of serenity descending.

It seems as though everyone (well, maybe bar people who have to work on the day) routinely slows down their own personal ‘Pace of Life’ dial on a bank holiday.

What to do? Well, being self-employed and with another Roscommon People going to print on Wednesday, I could work…but there are other options. The garden. Or a lazy day! Could we even begin a Netflix series, or finally watch – without feeling guilty – an old black and white movie? Where’s Alfred Hitchcock when you need him?

Problem is, you feel you need to be doing something. So I find myself (I can find little else there) in the shed, ready to declutter it again (official title: ‘Rearranging things in a largely pointless exercise’).

Various mysterious DIY-type items I’ve bought over the years rest on shelves, as if hinting at our sometimes tense relationship. The strimmer lies against a wall, and suddenly I remember I have to put a new line into it. A job for Thursday! But I digress.

By mid-afternoon, we decide to go for the proverbial ‘spin’. So, at the expense of the strimmer and Alfred Hitchcock, we hit the road. A couple of hours later, we’re in Sligo, which is as appealing as ever. A drive to lovely Drumcliffe (where WB Yeats rests) followed by a bite to eat in the renowned Donaghy’s Bar in Sligo.

Back by 7.45 pm, but it’s too late to even contemplate Strimmer-gate. No football or golf on TV (and no, I won’t be watching Love Island). Thankfully, you can rely on the Tories to provide political drama. Earlier today, they announced a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in their leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They don’t mess around in Westminster.

On Sky News, the breathless reporters are beside themselves with excitement. The presenter’s filling in time, chatting to a ‘Conservative Commentator’ live from his house in Salisbury. But something is really bugging me. It’s a ‘Declutter Alert’. The guest is all smug analysis, but I’m completely distracted by the absolute mess his study/bedroom is in! I’m sorry, sir, but we cannot take your political commentary seriously if you’re prepared to go on live TV with a pile of rubbish in the background!

Another man dealing with his own ‘mess in the background’ is the embattled Prime Minister. While Johnson wins the vote, far from being a great endorsement, it’s a pretty disastrous result. As Sky reporters keep gleefully reminding us, 148 Tory MPs have rebelled against their own leader. Boris has won a battle, but he may be about to lose the war. At best, distraction lies ahead for the Conservatives; at worst, civil war.

In whirlwind interviews with delighted hacks, Johnson loyalists twist logic in a desperate attempt to spin this as a good result. In the shadows, even in the open, rebels are sharpening their knives. Alfred Hitchcock would have loved it.