‘If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough’
One bitter Sunday evening on January 18th, 2015, four UCD students on an internship sat in the Banshee pub on Dorchester Avenue, shooting the breeze, knocking back a few Samuel Adams (the local Bostonian beer). As they wistfully discussed their next steps in life, a tall man from Co. Clare pushed in on their conversation. He had a sharp angled chin, and white hair, well combed back, with a few curls towards the nape of his head, probably there since birth. He had a theatrical presence, was loud, and he quickly steered the discussion on to Davy Fitz, and Clare hurling. It soon turned out the man had never been home since he emigrated in the mid-1970’s. All he really remembered was the names of the fields he had worked on with his father all those years back.
There was a sad feeling about his story, and in a sense, maybe to remind himself of home, he internally rhymed the names of the fields he had worked before he lay to rest each night. At times, it may have brought a tear to his eye. He spoke in a strong Clare accent, proud that the many years abroad hadn’t changed the chords on his voice box. “Folks, if ye ever feel lonely in Boston, come to the Banshee Pub, it won’t be long before ye bump into someone from home.”
In the dusty shade outside, he squeezed each of their hands hard, gave them a slow wink, as if the side of his face had just crinkled like a sheet of paper, and said “I’m very glad ye met me” and one piece of advice, which he distilled from life: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” He walked slowly into the darkness of the night. The guys headed for JFK train station. Fifteen minutes south took them to Park Street, where a house city burger was sentenced to death at Emmets Irish pub, and washed down with another beer, which was quickly followed by the orange tube line to TD Gardens.
When they got off the tube, they were met by a sea of Irish flags and jerseys. It was some sight. Fourteen thousand people packed into the home arena of the Boston Celtics, like sardines, and after one minute and fifty four seconds, into the second round of the main event, Russian-born Dennis Siver lay crying in the corner like a beaten child, while Conor McGregor jumped the octagon fence, like a cheetah after a worn-out gazelle. That night, Jose Aldo ran back to his hotel room, like a mouse running under a cupboard, knowing true well he was about to lose his featherweight belt. A quick ‘Hail Mary’ helped him sleep.
The four UCD students woke up the next morning with eyes looking like road maps, hence a quick text was typed – “Sorry, won’t make it in today, full steam ahead tomorrow.”
It’s very hard to pinpoint when McGregor’s fate changed, but that story springs to mind. Recently, in conversation, I asked a question which has been ringing in my ear the last while like a little fly – “So what’s your thoughts on the upcoming McGregor v Mayweather fight?” “Ah, I’d rather watch a decent travellers fight on YouTube to be honest. It would be more entertaining anyway.” It was a glib answer, and not an uncommon response to those I’ve got the last few months.
For better, or worse, McGregor’s name has crawled inside everyone’s head the last while, including mine. Last week, I was doing a Google search on the greatest and best loved Irish sports writer, Con Houlihan. When you hit the last letter on the keyboard of his first name – ‘N’ – and look up, you will see Google’s psychic power enters your brain quicker than a drag of a cigarette, and automatically predicts what it believes you want to search. The name that Google predicted wasn’t Con Houlihan. It was Conor McGregor. This speaks more than the Gospel at Mass on a Sunday.
A few years ago McGregor was legging it down the M50, wiping cobwebs from his eyes each morning to catch a lift to a mercenary plumbing job, which he despised. He had one possession to his name, and that was his dreams. On Saturday night, he will step into the ring to lock horns with Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, the greatest ‘pound for pound’ boxer on earth. Dripping, with glitz, and glamour, the image addicts, socialites, and the who’s who of the celebrity world will watch on ringside. Arguably, if it goes the distance, or not, this could be dubbed one of the greatest sporting events of the 21st century, similar to that of Ali verse Foreman in 1974, in Zaire (Rumble in the Jungle). Depending on your point of view, it could also be dubbed the greatest ‘money-spinning outrage.’ Cynicism sometimes sets in easily. An obscene amount cash is up for grabs ($100m-plus), pay for views are set to break all records, so why shouldn’t McGregor have a crack at the whip? As a society, do we double down on our own? Or do we let envy eat us to shreds?
There has been a lot of negative commentary by the political correctness brigade regarding the level of trash talk and profanity used in the lead-up to this fight. I wouldn’t encourage this, but they should try wearing a Mayo jersey in Hill’16, when the Dubs maybe surprisingly are a point or two down. They will encounter plenty of verbal warfare, if they’re feeling well, and up for it. The US media have gobbled this up like a child eating a candy bar. One sports channel even had a special themed programme dedicated to “Who won the trash talk between McGregor and Mayweather?”
McGregor is artfully playing that gambit to their drum, and why wouldn’t he be? He’s just gone 29 years, and is unquestionably the ‘baddest’ person in world sport right now. They say everyone in life gets fifteen minutes of fame, and if taken, your name could get stamped in the history books. On September 19th, 1982, it took Offaly’s Seamus Darby a half a second.
I was on a bus just two days ago, and with two men in their mid-60s conversation got kicked around, from Stephen Rochford’s bizarre strategy of robbing Peter to pay Paul, by putting Aidan O’Shea in on the Statue of Liberty, Kieran Donaghy – to the Conor McGregor fight. Before one departed at Lower Lesson Street, Seamus Darby’s goal was discussed, and it will be discussed long after I become worm diet.
McGregor has certainly stuck his claws into his fifteen minutes of fame. He has won 21 out of his last 24 MMA fights. Mayweather, who surely has Mickey Harte on speed dial, noting his defensive boxing style, is unbeaten and has won his last 49 out of 49 fights, 26 knock-outs (his last ‘ko’ being five years ago), which is just a jaw-dropping statistic. He is on the brink of breaking the longest undefeated streak in pro boxing history, currently held by Rocky Marciano, who came out of the womb with his fists clenched.
It’s hard to describe McGregor. A crazy fearless human being is maybe one way, or a very savvy business kid the other. His journey has been remarkable, his mental machinery undoubted. Some bright Dublin media pundits are peddling that there are some similarities between himself and Donald Trump (in their craziness). Wow! Let’s be crystal clear here, Trump is about to start armageddon via Twitter with a headcase dictator in North Korea, who suffers from nuclear anxiety (which punctures a hole in my frontal lobe) – if Twitter was around when Hitler was at the helm, would I be; (Dies auf Deutsch schreiben?).
The notorious Conor McGregor is an Irish kid who’s lapping his fame up on the world stage, like a cat drinking milk. On Saturday night, in Las Vegas, the boxing capital of the world, where confession boxes are few and far between, and while the Dublin team lay fast asleep, dreaming of a possible three-in-a-row, he will walk out decorated in green and gold. One quote will be planted in the centre of his brain, like a chestnut seed, since he was a 19-year-old boy, with a bad bout of acne. He has lived by it, day by day ever since. The quote is by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head of state in Africa – “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” When I hear this, and think of his unbelievable success story, it would be selfish not to share some thoughts with the Co. Clare man back in Boston. God knows where he is now, but maybe some day, he will snatch his fifteen minutes of fame right out of the clouds, and enter the theatre of heroism, just like Seamus Darby did, and wouldn’t it be one rip-roaring story if he did.
* Best of luck to the Roscommon
U-17 team this Sunday and best wishes to the Kilglass Gaels 1992 U-21 team (and all who made it happen) on their upcoming reunion.
‘Teach positive mental health in schools’
When is the Irish Government going to introduce mental health on the curriculum in our schools? We now have children as young as four years of age who are more computer literate than their parents and older siblings. There seems to be no issue introducing this, even though we know that phones and computers isolate children from society itself. Of course there are benefits to this in terms of future job opportunities. However, if you aren’t feeling well mentally it may be difficult to hold your focus while in work every day.
Our thoughts create our future and the children and youth of today depend on us as the older generation to stand behind them. Why is positive mental health not part of everyday learning so the children of today can recognise issues at home or in school should they arise?
The subject would be especially important for a child who is at the receiving end of bullying, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if that child was taught at a young age that it is not a reflection on them and not to take it personally? Our children could also be taught to recognise situations such as when other children were experiencing problems.
We were all born into this world as powerful people until society edges that out. We are not defined by what we wear, drive or do for a living. Nor are we defined by school results –whether good or bad – or whether or not we go on to third level education.
There is potential greatness in each and every one of us but when speaking to other people we need to learn that the spoken word has the ability to heal or destroy. Those in power in our country need to bring changes to the school curriculum in order to save lives. Mental health falls under a very big umbrella and not one of us at some stage in our lives gets to avoid standing under it…these changes need to be made!
(Name and address with Editor)