Trouble at the top? Dung always falls downwards

Do you ever simply stop and ponder how we all got by before social media? On one occasion recently, it was Twitter that informed yours truly that the following day’s National Hunt racing fixture at Newton Abbot had been postponed. That was only one example of the tsunami of information people can access in seconds online nowadays and it set me thinking.

Some, perhaps many, of you will know this, but, to enlighten newer followers it’s worth stating that yours truly spent 11 years alternating between PRO and Asst. PRO of St Peter’s GAA Club. And that it was the happiest period of my life bar none. Consider that it’s only a little more than two decades ago and even at that it’s impossible to quantify the changes that have occurred. Both in terms of the size of our club and – of more relevance in this instance – how the media works.

My first match reports were produced via an old Canon typewriter. It was the iPad of its day and without it as a starting point what you are now reading would never have been possible. Submitting material to the Meath Chronicle or the Weekender – God bless it – was a marathon process.

Not realising for a long time that content could in fact be phoned in, it involved my dear mother racing to Tommy’s Newsagents in the village – now also sadly only a memory – to make sure copy was submitted by the 9pm Sunday deadline. Mind you, one could never be triumphalist about it given that one of predecessors and my greatest mentor in the role – the incomparable Pat ‘Spoggy’ Kelly used to cycle to Market Square to ensure the Dunboyne gospel was spread.

All that seems a world away from now, but it came to mind recently. Especially upon seeing story of John Delaney’s (belated) departure from the FAI break at 11:30pm on a Saturday. Aside from the fact that it underlines the world never sleeping, I’m hardly only in feeling that it was a sinister dig at the media – and one outlet thereof in particular – to articulate such a move at such an ungodly hour.

One of the biggest steps on the road to being a writer is to read ravenously. This corner will admit to taking far too long to latch on to the concept. However, once the bug had bitten, the Sunday papers became an essential facet of life. Not only in terms of that particular day’s news, but also due to the fact that in most of the papers on the last day of the week there is a week’s worth of reading.

Furthermore, no matter what age you are or what line of business you’re in, there will always be people you look up to and aspire to be. For me, in terms of writing, Con Houlihan will always be atop the list. However, across the Sunday papers there is an abundance of quality wordsmiths.

From John Greene, Paul Kimmage, Eamonn Sweeney, Marie Crowe and Dermot Gilleece in the Sunday Independent to the Walshs – Denis and David, Christy O’Connor and many others in the Sunday Times. If a gun was placed to my head, the latter named would be pinpointed as the favoured publication. Solely due to the sheer volume of coverage therein.

For a long period now, wordsmiths Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan have been fearless and undaunted in their pursuit of revealing the ins and outs of the goings on within the FAI. Now, this corner doesn’t know the full story of what eventually led to Delaney’s late-night getaway, but, the timing of exactly that seemed a direct dig at the publication – which had done so much to expose what was going on – was just going to print.

John Delaney: Late-night departure

It is perhaps the case that nobody will ever know exactly what went on. In my case, sole motivation for producing what you are reading was recollection of what a departed friend once said, basically, when there’s trouble at the top of anything, the dung always falls downwards.

With the case in point, what that basically means, is, it’s actually affairs on the field that suffer. Now, to my mind, the re-appointment of Mick McCarthy as manager was another nod to the culture prevails within the organisation. Delaney’s man. I’ll admit, I am not McCarthy’s biggest fan – for reasons which scarcely need to be re-hashed here.

However, there’s no ‘I’ in team and it’s beyond debate that the Barnsley man has over-achieved whilst in charge of the national senior team, if not so at club level. Indeed, the beginning of the current campaign would suggest he is in the process of doing so again.

Yet, even in squad selections there’s still hints of conservatism that look eerily familiar. Granted, the inclusion of Jack Byrne bucks the trend. True also that it’s great to see League Of Ireland players getting a chance. There are plenty of very talented players thence.

However, what grates most – and this is only my opinion – are those who are not in the squad rather than who is. Troy Parrot being the most glaring case. The ex-Belvedere FC youngster has been earning rave reviews in his fledgling career with Tottenham. There are others, though, such as Michael Obafemi and Aaron Connolly and Caoimhin Kelliher (darling of the English commentators!) who’ve been overlooked.

Troy Parrott is one of the rising stars in Irish football.

Team selections will always cause debate and rancour, regardless of what sport it is (Devin Toner’s exclusion from the rugby squad). Doubtless, most, if not all, of the young lads listed will eventually get their chance.

What’s far more important and urgent is that those is leadership get their house in order quickly. Chances of that may be slim, as best evidenced by the fact that Niall Quinn has distanced himself from the Association having seeming put a lot of work into proposals to reform it. But we must live in hope.

As with all sports, you can be sure there is great work going on at grassroots level in Irish football. There are players of the ilk of those mentioned above being moulded every week. Indeed, there are a few known to me personally. None more so than Ireland U-17 goalkeeper Josh Keeley and my own nephew Ian Byrne – both with St Patrick’s Athletic and John Finnerty, from a great GAA family, of Bohemians.

All of these lads and so many more have bright prospects but unless there’s steady guidance of the ship it’ll hit choppy waters.

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