Luke Scanlon - he showed the chase and spirit a certain Mr Cody likes to see
Match highlights being inherently misleading, one of the few viable takeaways from RTE’s coverage of the Wild Geese hurling match in Sydney at the weekend was Luke Scanlon’s block on Colm Callanan that led to a Kilkenny point.
The fact that Galway went on to win the trophy on frees was neither here nor there. Come to think of it, the fact that a score accrued from Scanlon’s intervention was neither here nor there.
The important part was that here was a fringe player busting a gut to get a touch. In the dying minutes of an exhibition match. On the far side of the world. In November.
Can you think of one man who’d have been thrilled by this? Yes, of course you can.
For the rest of the world, 2019 will begin on January 1. For Kilkenny’s manager, 2019 began in Sydney last Sunday.
Meanwhile, it's mid-November, so it’s Kilkenomics. To Cleere’s Theatre last Friday night, then, for a gig entitled ‘The Economics of Politics in Sport’.
The MC is Karl Spain, a comedian and – something that is not a given with Irish comedians – a good one. Of the three panellists, not only have I heard of Simon Kuper, an author and columnist, I own a couple of his books.
Mike Driver and Martin Lousteau, on the other hand, are unfamiliar names to me. It turns out that Driver is a serial entrepreneur and Lousteau is a former Argentinean government minister and, more recently, his country’s ambassador to the United States.
Karl Spain throws in the ball and off they go. The first item of interest is the future of televised soccer. The Sky Sports model that’s been so wildly successful over the past 25 years is, it appears, reaching the end of the line. Today’s children – the YouTube generation - don’t want to watch a 90-minute match. Too long, too boring.
Football, Kuper claims, is beset by an existential terror. “Television is dying. What comes next?”
The conversation moves on to the sense of community, the shared experience, that the beautiful game brings. Diego Maradona, says Lousteau, remains revered in Argentina because he gave a population beset by decades of recession, poverty and hyper-inflation the only good news story they had in their lifetime.
An audience member wonders if there are grounds for introducing a draft system, as obtains in American football, in order to level the playing field in England. Kuper, apologising “for sounding neo-liberal”, shoots the idea down on the basis that it’s unnecessary.
Everyone, he argues, is getting along quite nicely as it is. “Each club has a position in the food chain. Sunderland exists for people in Sunderland. Manchester United exists for people around the world.”
On to the scope that sport offers to populist politicians. Think of C.J. Haughey attaching himself to Stephen Roche in Paris in 1987 and to the Irish team after the 1990 World Cup quarter-final in Rome.
Lousteau: “If Maradona had not taken so much cocaine he could have been a very successful politician.” We laugh, then contemplate the truth of the observation.
On to dictators, real or would-be, and that nice Mr Putin. Kuper describes Putin’s message to the Russian people as one of, “The world hates us, you need me.” But what happened during the summer at the World Cup?
The world came to Russia. Russians, only eight per cent of whom had ever met a foreigner before, were highly excited to meet these exotic creatures from around the globe: Argentinian fans in the formerly closed city of Nizhny Novgorod and so forth. It all went swimmingly and Putin’s popularity ended up falling.
Maradona again. Lousteau, who it turns out was a war correspondent in a previous life (is there anything he hasn’t done?), spent time in Afghanistan, where on running into his local downtown branch of the Taliban he hurriedly attempted to establish his credentials by chanting, “Maradona! Maradona! Maradona! Maradona!”
It worked. The Taliban immediately recognised Lousteau wasn’t an American (phew!) and were so impressed to meet a compatriot of the great man that they fixed up an interview for him with the mujaheddin. Nice one.
A lady in the audience poses an interesting question. In this age of objectionable club proprietors, she wonders, is there room for an ethical club? A club of resistance? An entity something along the lines of, say, the leftie St Pauli outfit in Hamburg?
Kuper is too polite to giggle aloud but his answer leaves no room for doubt. “In the Premier League you can rationalise any owners. Russian crooks. Saudi Arabian torturers. As long as they’re winning, the fans don’t care.”
After an hour of intriguing, thought-provoking chat we’re done. Not for the first time, one is grateful to Richard Cook, the presiding genius behind Kilkenomics.
Other than Brian Cody, has any individual done more for Kilkenny in our lifetime? Certainly one cannot possibly ask the same question of any of our local politicians and administrators without laughing uncontrollably.
Brian Cody was accorded the Freedom of the City. Richard Cook should be in line for it too.
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.