Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Ten Big Questions of 2007- Part One

1. Will Ireland be Croker Chokers?
Just as the tail end of 2006 amounted to one long, overwrought farewell to Lansdowne Road (honestly, Maria Callas had less curtain calls), the first weeks of 2007 should see all manner of giddiness at the impending arrival of the international big top on Jones' Road. Passengers on north bound DARTs in recent weeks will have noticed the new floodlights being tested (ooh, so bright!) and ticket trade is brisk for the Dublin v Tyrone NFL fixture on 3rd February - which sees the first action under lights in Croke Park.

By the time the Six Nations and Euro 2008 qualifiers come around, the foreign games mob will be thumping on the barricades to take their smartly appointed seats in Croker.

How, though, will our brave boys in green cope with all this hullaballoo? Will they freeze under the high wattage spotlight like some Am-Dram musical society unsuspectingly thrust into Carnegie Hall?

The rugby boys should be fine, one feels. Cocks of the northern hemishpere walk right now, and no little of the type of check-me-out-ladies swagger needed to flourish on the enormodome stage. But the soccer team, currently in intensive care, clinging to life only through the defibrillating force of that spirited draw with the Czechs?

In Croker, no-one can hear you scream.

2.Fergie or Mourinho - will both be in their jobs in August?
The scenarios are presented thusly:

A) Manchester United (buoyed by the arrival of Henrik Larsson) continue more in the vein of their more scintillating performances of recent months, eradicating their flimsier displays (like the recent defeat at Upton Park); Chelsea stutter and toil in contrast, and United coast to their first Premiership title in four years.

Jose Mourinho, descending into paranoid lunacy, locks himself in the Stamford Bridge trophy room with Shaun Wright-Phillips as a hostage ("At last," he considers ruefully in a rare moment of clarity, "I've found a use for him!") and refuses to let the Premiership trophy out of his grasp.
As the crack SAS unit remove him from the building, Peter Kenyon hands him his P45, before slithering up to the newly retired Sir Alex Ferguson, who has just announced his intention to go out at the top.

"Sir Alex, my old friend," he hisses, "fancy one last challenge....?"

B) Chelsea, stiffened by the return of Cech and Terry, rampage mercilessly through the second half of the 06/07 season, winning the title in 5-0 trouncing of Manchester United. Didier Drogba scores four; the final one coming when, straight through on Edwin Van Der Saar, the striker simply growls in the keeper's face, before rolling the ball past the whimpering, cowering Dutchman.

Ferguson throws in the towel, exhausted and bowed by the failure of his last great endeavour, and spends his retirement in a stupor of bitterness.

Mourinho ascends into heaven.

3.What route will the open-top bus ride for Ireland's Rugby World Cup winning team take?
Essentially boils down to one issue: will Paul O'Connell bang his head off the Port Tunnel roof when Ireland's heroes bring the Webb Ellis Trophy from the airport into the gala reception in College Green?

This would necessitate going into town via Santry, for it would be unacceptable for Sir Paul (Huh? What do you mean we don't do knighthoods? That's ridiculous. Republic Schmepublic!) to be inconvenienced in such a fashion after leading us so stirringly to victory over the All Blacks in the final. But then, what if it's raining? And the traffic?!

That's it - helicopters it is! I mean the open top bus thing will be so passé after the Grand Slam celebrations and Munster's Two-In-A-Row. A chopper each for the whole squad. Stick it on the National Development Plan account, no-one ever checks that.

No time to rest, though! There's commemorative books and DVDs to get cracking on!

4.Will Ireland stop worrying (about the majors) and learn to love Padraig Harrington
It's not that we don't like him. Far from it. We very much like Europe's top golfer, the Order of Merit winner, the backbone of the last three successive Ryder Cup-winning teams (ignoring the poor showing in the K Club, and presuming that, had Europe needed the points, he would have stepped up).

We very much like the 8th best practitioner in the world of an infuriating, fiercely challenging and truly global sport; the 8th best of millions from every corner of the planet in which a suitable expanse of land on which to play can be found. We very much like the rigorous, determined approach to practice which brought him such achievement.

We greatly like the charming, friendly manner; the open, honest approach to interviews, the self-effacement, the lack of braggadocio. We possibly like him very much because he seems like that fellow next door (an accountant too perhaps!), who keeps his lawn neat and whose kids are perfectly sweet.

But we don't love him. Maybe because he hasn't won a major, yes. That can be addressed. But maybe, despite the fact that he is probably quite representative of very many modern Irish people (ambitious, hard-working, educated and, well, an accountant), maybe we'll never love him.


Why did so many of us find a book called Back from the Brink, about the nightmarish life of an self-loathing, alcoholic ex-footballer under our Christmas trees?

Because we love Paul McGrath.

Or maybe we just wanted to read about the time he drank Domestos.

5. Will the Mickey take up the mantle?
Is it a trend enough to be called a pattern? Tyrone 2003; Kerry 2004; Tyrone 2005; Kerry 2006. If Armagh are gone - if, I said - will these two trade All-Irelands indefinitely, like Cork and Kilkenny are doing in hurling?

Kerry scooped up Sam Maguire like a busy Mum collecting a bunch of rugrats at the school gates. Mayo's consolation for their hammering in the final was that they were second in a 32 horse race. If that's the case, it was only because Tyrone fell at Becher's Brook.

Crippled with injuries and the metaphysical contemplation of a world without Peter Canavan, they never got going last season. Like in 2005, when the fallow year that preceded it allowed them to regenerate and stoke the intense fire that characterised their run to the All-Ireland, will 2006 have provided the period of quiet renewal necessary to keep the pattern going?

Over to you, Mr. Harte.

“Two-thousand-and-six is over now, though, and hopefully we can now set our sights on more All-Irelands. With the panel of players we have at the moment, we should be challenging for All-Irelands and now is the time to act before it’s too late."

Sounds like he means it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what does braggadocio mean tom?



4:53 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what does ten mean?



4:55 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

From dictionary.com = "Empty or pretentious bragging.
A swaggering, cocky manner. Origin: after Braggadocchio, boastful character in Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590), "

The other five in next post!

8:11 p.m.  

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