I could be anywhere, sitting here as I am at a desk in a hotel room, a hotel room that looks much like any hotel room I’ve ever stayed in for work purposes over the years. I’m networked – after a fashion, mind, but still networked most of the time – so it would be easy to slip into trite assumptions about how small the world has become and how, as Bob Geldof put it in a very different context all those years ago on the stage at the old Wembley stadium, we’re all part of the same global village.
But we’re not, you know, and anyone who has ever been to Africa will quickly attest to this. I feel like I’m in some kind of parallel existence here: in here, and in the 4×4 which bounces over some of the roughest roads and the biggest potholes I’ve ever seen in my life on the short journey between here and the office where I’m passing this week, I’m still in the world I know, the world I work in, the world I understand. But out there – on the other side of the walls that surround the hotel and the office compound, outside the darkened windows of the jeep – out there, it’s Africa. The clichéd term I’m straining for isn’t the one that belongs to Bob Geldof, instead it’s beardy old Rodney Rice and his Worlds Apart.
But relax, hombres – I’m not going to do a Rodney on you. I’ve seen so little of the place here that I’m in no position to and it’s all work, work, work till I get back on the plane on Friday night to begin a journey that will end with my being spat out at the other end early on Saturday morning in Dublin having missed an entire night’s sleep. Just the thing to prepare you for Tyrone v Armagh the following day, eh?
As I travelled down here last Sunday, on a route from Paris that took us down across France and then out over the Med and the Balearics before bisecting Algeria and then coming straight down over the Sahara where, for two hours or so, all you could see out the window of the 777 was blue sky and red sand, back home the first snarlfest of the summer was being played out up in Celtic Park. I haven’t seen any of it yet – The Sunday Game is theoretically available on the RTE Player worldwide from tomorrow but I’m not sure the creaking internet connection would hold up sufficiently well to show all the nastiness that apparently took place – but, from what I can gather, it wasn’t at all pretty.
I was never a fan of the experimental rules but, in criticising the blunderbuss approach adopted from the start of the year, I did concede that something had to be done on the discipline front to stamp out the kind of stuff that the Northern teams have made commonplace over the course of this decade. I was – and still am – a fan of the sin bin; I think match bans would be far better than meaningless time-related ones that invariably run out the midnight before the next game; I’d be all for consistently-applied refereeing (though I’m not naïve enough to think I’ll ever see it). I’d wire up the linesmen, I’d even wire up the umpires and have an extra pair of eyes up in the stand.
So would many others, I’m sure, and if, as seems likely, we’re in for another summer of Nordie thuggishness, reform of the disciplinary code is surely on the way. I just hope they frame their proposals right this time – if they do, they might just get the two-thirds majority for them.
So, what else has been happening? Brolly and Spillane were apparently at it on Sunday on the telly. Well, that was probably as predictable as Susan Boyle’s qualification for the final of whatever she’s now in the final of.
Galway were pretty poor against London, by all accounts. Was that the unseasonably warm weather in Ruislip, I wonder, or are the Tribesmen still in the tailspin that started when we fired that buckshot in their arses in Tuam at the end of March? Suddenly, that semi-final down in Markievicz Park against Kevin Walsh’s Herrin Pickers doesn’t look so straightforward after all.
And what of our lads? Tom Cunniffe has a groin strain, so says the Mayo News, which could keep him out of the semi-final on June 20th. While this isn’t welcome news, it has to be said that the half-back line is one where we’ve got plenty of options, with Trevor Howley looking like he’ll be okay to resume his centre-back career and with the likes of Peadar Gardiner, Keith Higgins, David Heaney, Chris Barrett, Jimmy Nallen and Andy Moran (the latter two are also injured at the minute, apparently) all scrapping for places in that sector. Ronan is also injured too, which makes the decision not to start Seamus O’Shea the last night against the Dubs even more of a mystery. If he doesn’t need game time, then who does? (Here’s the match report from the Mayo News on that one, by the way. And the same paper’s report on the hurlers’ super win over Kildare in the Christy Ring).
Oh shit: I think I’ve been bitten by a mosquito. Or was it a tsetse fly? Dunno but I have a cream somewhere that I think I should apply to the afflicted area. Just in case, like. After all, it is Africa that’s out there.