Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rugby World Cup II: Out Out Brief Candle

And our poor players do strut and fret their hour upon the stage, and then they are no more.

The big problem, suggested by the Georgia game and confirmed agaunst France, is that the forwards are not getting enough possession - even from lineouts. Without possession you can't win. Even with the bits we got we could do little against a devastating French defence. The French attack was limited but they had enough territory to thrive on the scoreboard thanks to the pedantic home-town referee. I suspect that this Irish pack will be mauled by the Argentinians and we will lose (narrowly) to them - maybe 15-9. This will consign us to the dustbin and the French to a quarter-final against the All-Blacks in Cardiff. Not what the IRB had planned - France away from home mon dieu.

Elsewhere it still loooks like a NZ - SA final. France don't have enough firepower to trouble the All-Blacks, and Australia will fail up front. I still worry about the NZ second-row but suspect that they will get enough possession to ensure that NZ's greater fire power will prevail. My players of the tournament so far are the fiercesome SA lock Victor Matfield - New Zealand beware, and the Argentinian out-half Juan Martin Hernandez - Ireland beware.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kingdom Come Again

Disappointing game eh. Just as inevitable as the Kilkenny Limerick game. What do Kerry and Kilkenny have in common? An untroubled path through their respective provinces year after year and no interest in promoting the GAA sport in which they don't excel. But having said all that, this is a vintage Kerry team and Cooper is a genuine great - he has that poise and grace under pressure that characterised Best and Maradona in their heydays. And Daragh O'Shea is the enforcer extraordinaire in mid-field. Nice to see a bunch of O'Sullivans in there with Declan well deserving his hour in the sun. I wonder how much Liam Hayes' jibes in the Sunday Tribune motivated them - O'Sullivan certainly alluded to them in his speech.

It's not hard to see them coming again next year, they're a young team and the opposition just isn't there at the moment: Tyrone and Armagh over the hill; Cork cowed; Dublin limited. Maybe Monaghan will gain inspiration from their efforts this year but it's more likely they have learned to fear the inevitability of Kerry's success.

Atonement the Movie

I never read the novel (Ian McEwan is a bit sickly for my taste - and not a great stylist) but I found the recent movie totally bogus and contrived; an unconvincing artifice. Let me count the ways.

While I have no doubt that cunnilingus existed before 1935, I'm not so sure that our protagonist would ever have dreamt of making a written reference to it in that era (Lady Chatterley notwithstanding) - even for his own delectation. It seemed more like an anachronistic device to add a bit of spice to McEwan's stodgy story. Thus the basic plot contrivance seemed psychologically improbable. Also, the whole bit about the author using the book to give the wronged characters the life they never had does not seem like atonement. Rather it added being gruesomely patronising to Briony's previous sins.

Of course the recreation of stately home life was wonderful, and the much maligned Keira Knightly was perfect for the part of the English rose ready to unfurl. I also liked the romantic use made of the white cliffs of Dover. However, the scenes at Dunkirk seemed tacked on and the score throughout was too intrusive - and unsympathetic to the action.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rugby World Cup 1: Ireland Goners

There is a basic design problem with this tournament. The Northern teams are awakening from hibernation while the Southern Hemisphere teams are in the midst of their season, sharp, practised, all systems go. The final will obviously be between New Zealand and South Africa.

I don't think Ireland can now even reach the quarter-finals. The smartest thing Eddie O'Sullivan has done so far is to negotiate a new four-year contract before the start of the tournament. France will beat Ireland easily (maybe even with a bonus point). Ireland and Argentina will be close but even if Ireland win they won't get a bonus point. Ergo, we are eliminated. The pool will then end up with France having 15 points (or 16), Argentina having 14 points, and Ireland having 12 (if they manage to beat Argenina).

Ireland seemed to lack energy, intelligence, and commitment against Georgia, and they were certainly tactically out- manoeuvred - the long ball up the middle was all it took. It's astonishing that Georgia had nearly 60% possession and field position. It's lucky for us that Georgia had little creativity behind the scrum and that the out-half's drop kicks slipped wide. Where to from here? Bring on Quinlan, Flannery, Reddan and maybe Trimble - a bit of energy and ambition wouldn't hurt.

England were equally woeful against South Africa. The lumbering Farrell and the veteran Catt should not be playing international rugby, they're too slow. Only Wales from the 6-Nations have shown anything like the intensity needed to unsettle the tri-nations teams.

And by the way isn't it a disgrace that on the world stage we are represented musically by that banal Phil Coulter anthem. The shame of it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brian Bourke at the Taylor Gallery

I think that there was only one show of Brian Bourke's that I unreservedly liked and that was a series of New York skyscrapers four or five years ago. These were striking and evocative works, accurately drawn but with a quirky use of colour (reds, russets, pinks etc.) that seemed to work. He does like that part of the palette. I have a red-faced head of Don Quixote by him over my desk and a self-portrait that also favours the ruddy side of the spectrum.

This latest show in the Taylor is mainly of olive trees in Spain - and lots of red earth . They mostly have this annoying painted border around them - a device from the 60s that Bourke uses a lot, both in portraits and landscapes. I find it intrudes on the image - they already have a frame, why paint an extra one. But the trees are interesting, gnarled, alive, and demented. And then there are the surreal skies - occasionally reminiscent of Van Gogh. The whole effect is fantastical - far from naturalistic.

Bourke himself is an interesting character - an artist out of central casting. Large, loud, eccentric, hairy, with an air of one who happily indulges all his appetites. I remember being struck by his chuzpah at Tony O'Malley's funeral where he was sketching the body of O'Malley as it lay in a coffin at the top of the church - during the funeral service.

Greer Bashing

A forensic evisceration by Peter Conrad of that fraudulent old media whore Germaine Greer:,,2160530,00.html

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hurling Abu

Last week saw order restored to the hurling universe. A Tipperary team liberally besprinkled with Mahers came back from a shaky start to outclass the old enemy Cork. The beauty of Minor hurling is that the players are given time and space to demonstrate their skills, whereas in the Senior game has grown increasingly fast, frenetic and physical - tender blooms and fragile talents do not prosper. Whether this Tipp team will grow into the Senior team we pray for is moot but there are certainly grounds for optimism. Tipp dominated in mid-field through Brendan Maher and McGrath and Carey scored two marvellous goals - the second one kicked in with aplomb as defenders closed in on him. This team are managed by the great Declan Ryan from Clonoulty - just down the road from Ardmayle don't you know. Let's groom him for the Senior job and let him bring along this crop with him.

The Senior final started with an incident that demonstrated Kilkenny's intent. The first time Eddie Brennan got the ball he was tackled by Stephen Lucey - as Lucey grappled with him from behind, Brennan delivered the butt of his hurley sharply into his face, going through the helmet. Lucey collapses with blood pouring from a face wound. Kilkenny judged that Limerick would get physical on them and so decided to get their retaliation in first. It was obvious that on skill alone Kilkenny would prevail, but they also made sure they weren't bullied physically. Even the peerless Henry Sheflin got in on the act. Everyone felt that Limerick's hunger might prove decisive. The Kilkenny camp came up with their own motivational juice - the death of James McGarry's wife. They were obviously told to go out and win it for her. Forgive me for being cynical, but I found all this a bit sick and all the guff about it during the speeches a bit hard to take. I felt particularly sorry for James McGarry who was no longer on the team but nonetheless found himself and his misfortunate son pushed to the forefront of the celebrations.