Tuesday, May 29, 2007

They Might Be Giants

I can't decide whether last night's Reaching for Glory: Inside Irish Rugby (RTE 2) demystified the mighty men of Ireland's first XV, or merely added to their growing legend.

On the one hand we were allowed to see them as they presumably are: larking about and cracking jokes, or suffering inconsolably the pain of defeat. And then there was the fact that phrases like "let's get stuck into them from the start" survive in the highest echelons of international sport, and are not just the preserve of bumbling amateurs.

But on the other hand there was the monstrous physical and emotional expenditure that was a constant theme throughout. For all the hotel room high-jinks and training ground banter, it's hard not to think of these guys as supermen when you get such a close-up view of their exploits. The weights, the muscles, the hits, the blood - made me think twice about another Tesco Finest Triple Choc-Chip Cookie (will you eat EVERY LAST OUNCE of this biscuit?!!).

And while we've all done a bit of pre-match roaring during our own miserable pursuit of sporting glory, if I delivered Paul O'Connell's already-legendary "DID YOU SCARE ANYBODY, DID YOU PUT THE FEAR OF GOD INTO ANYBODY??!!" speech before one of my 6-a-side astro league games, it would be quietly suggested that I might have a bit of a lie down.

O'Connell perfectly encapsulates this dilemma, even down to the cute little spectacles he wears when not crushing Saxon skulls. Seeing him squeezed into the seat of the plane returning from the Cardiff victory with his dainty designer glasses, you could almost imagine him whimpering "I'm not all that I seem to be, Lois". Then next thing he's pummelling a punchbag like it was Lex Luthor himself.

Of course, it's the swearing that brings them closest to us mortals. Oh my goodness Father, the swearing! While not quite at the level of the documentary about Sunderland made during Peter Reid's time at the club (if you think Reid is less than articulate on television, that's because he's not allowed to use 50% of his vocubulary before the watershed) the Irish dressing room was as rich in expletives as any another.

It sounded natural coming from O'Connell, when in full Maximus Decimus Meridias mode, and Eddie O'Sullivan has enough of a scowl about him that you'd expect a bit of effin' and blindin'. But Brian?! Oh Brian darling, what were you thinking? It's not big and it's not clever you know!
Then again, O'Driscoll does his talking so persuasively on the field that he could have a speaking voice like Julian Clary and it would not detract from his aura.

We feel like we know them, these boys. It's hardly surprising, given the success that they have enjoyed in recent years, but there's no doubting the degree to which this team have been taken to the hearts of the Irish people. Apart from seemingly being perfectly decent skins altogether, and demonstrating exceptional prowess on the sporting field, they have also been agents of reconciliation, uniting Ireland's opposing cultures: I refer, of course, to Culchies and Dubs (well, the posh ones anyway).

Time was that if a country fella walked into his local pub and introduced the gathered throng to his new friend 'Girvan', he would have been met with the gravest inquest into what kind of "quareness" he was getting up to above in Dublin. Now we have the likes of Marcus Horan, Banner-man to the core, on the couch beside the not-quare-in-the-slightest Girvan Dempsey, talking over the year that was in it, and no-one bats an eyelid.

The inference is clear: any friend of yours, Marcus, is a friend of mine - I don't care if he talks like Prince Philip himself!

The mixture of awe and affection this Irish rugby team generate in equal measure is one of the finest sporting tales of our time on this isle. There's much to aspire to in the way that they have achieved such excellence, yet seem distinctly human also. As Reaching for Glory demonstrated, these men are giants, but they are walking among us.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Dan said...

Love the synopsis, I live in London so I had no way to see the show last night. Is there anywhere to stream it online or download it?

8:41 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

I believe it's going to be released as a DVD, I think last night's was an edited version of what will be on DVD. Keep an eye on the RTE website. Alternatively, some kind soul might upload it onto Youtube!

10:57 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classic Tom, please send a copy to Australia as soon as you can (along with a package of those Tesco Finest Triple Choc-Chip Cookies (in fact make that 2 packages... I'll watch it twice) Ricky

8:45 a.m.  
Blogger Fence said...

It is out on dvd now. I thought you might be able to get it from the IRFU's online shop but I don't see it there, and there are a fair few clips on youtube. Won't be long I'd say, before the whole thing is up there.

Excellent post, I still haven't watched it all, as the flatmate isn't a rugby fan, but the bits I've seen are great.

9:37 a.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

Ricky - Don't tell me you're getting sick of Caramel Tim-Tams already?

DVD is out now here

12:39 p.m.  

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