Sunday, February 16, 2020

Prognostications on the Six Nations

So far so reasonably predictable except that I thought England would beat France in Paris. But history tells us that home advantage is a huge indicator except where Italy are concerned. Things look finely poised for the championship at the moment but I suspect that on the final weekend it will come down to the result of the Ireland/France match. Here’s what I think will happen. Wales will beat France in Cardiff and England will beat Ireland in Twickenham. Forget Scotland and Italy - they’ve both lost two matches and so are out of it. Scotland may eke out a result in Italy. These round 3 results could mean that four teams are on 9 points so the odd bonus point here or there could be vital in the final analysis. In the next round England will beat a declining Wales and Ireland will obviously beat Italy. France and Scotland is hard to call but I’ll give the nod to Scotland. That means that coming into the final weekend it’s between Ireland and England for the championship – both could have between 13 and 15 points. It’s hard to see England put 4 tries on either Ireland or Wales so an Ireland losing bonus point against England would be crucial. It would mean that before the final round England have 13 points and Ireland 15 (I’m giving us 5 points against Italy in the previous round)  England will probably get a winning bonus point in its final match against Italy but a mere win will suffice for Ireland (if we get those two aforementioned bonuses points). Now a win away to France is hardly a foregone conclusion but they will have nothing to play for and may play a young team with an eye on the future. So the most crucial factor in all this is to avoid losing by more that 7 points against England. Winning of course means that the Grand Slam is firmly on the agenda. A fly in this ointment may be England getting 4 tries against Wales – not impossible. This could mean points difference comes into play. So we may need a very big score against Italy. I’d risk a few bob on Ireland at this stage.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Here’s the Solution...

For those of you who might scoff at this finely-tuned aesthete getting involved in the world of politics might I refer you to my piece back in October about how Boris and the Brexit debacle would play out in the UK. Read it and marvel at my prescience:

But let’s move on. What the fuck is going to happen here now with the deadly impasse thrown up by the General Election. Here’s what I think, based on three premises.

Premise 1:  Eamon Ryan is a nice middle-class lad who would be quite comfortable going into a coalition with FF and FG. FG are his social peers who eat in the same restaurants, enjoy muesli for breakfast, and watch Leinster at the RDS. He could just about endure the more horny-handed FFers. However he’s not thick. He knows that such a coalition would give him a few cabinet seats in the short-term but would annihilate the Green Party in the long term - especially where the younger vote is concerned. Think of the party that once was Labour.

Premise 2: Micheal Martin is a man at the end of his tether. He’s history unless he can cobble together a coalition that will allow him to become Taoiseach. He knows that even if he becomes Taoiseach he’s finished but he doesn’t care - give him a couple of years and he’ll die happy.

Premise 3:  Leo is brighter than Micheal and he knows full well the gig is up - for the time being. He relishes the idea of a shaky coalition between SF/FF/Greens with FG on the opposition benches taking pot shots at the shaky edifice. All the while  intimating that the adults in the room are ready to take over again when the nation comes to its senses.

So there will be a coalition between the Greens, SF and FF. FF will use the Greens as prophylactic saying it would only touch SF with the Greens interposing their bodies. And of course that it is doing it for the sake of the country because there is no other solution. The Greens can say they are abiding by the desire for change which they could not do if bound to FF and FG. So they can hang on to their core vote.

This coalition will not live long of course. SF and FF will never endure each other for five years and SF know full well that an election will serve them far better than it will FF. Michael Martin may become Taoiseach (or rotating Taoiseach with Mary Lou) but it will be a Pyrrhic victory for him and possibly fatal for FF.

This whole theory is of course based on Eamon Ryan thinking long-term instead of short-term. History (as the cliche has it) will judge him harshly if he sells the Green out for a mess of pottage.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Tommy Smith and Memories of Grogan’s

Tommy Smith’s recent death surely marks the end of the Grogan’s we knew and loved. It can hardly remain the same – he was the soul of the place, the presiding spirit. I attended his funeral service in Mount Jerome last Wednesday where a huge crowd paid tribute to the man. While establishment Ireland (including the President) attended the estimable Keelin Shanley’s obsequies in Gleanageary Church, the artistic community and royalty from the political left gathered at Mount Jerome to honor an arguably more influential figure in Irish life. He was a selfless supporter of all the arts and a life-long republican both in the French Revolution sense and in the narrower Irish sense. Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams were amongst the congregation and the final act at the service featured that old socialist war horse Des Geraghty delivering a rousing version of The Parting Glass – with audience participation. Robert Ballagh and Finbarr Cullen delivered fulsome and entertaining eulogies and there was plenty of music. Tommy was great lover of poetry so it was fitting that our female laureate Paul Meehan was there to celebrate him with a moving reading.

I first came to live in Dublin in the late 1970s after completing a degree in English and Philosophy at UCC and spending a few years working on the oil rigs without any great notions of making a career of it. I landed a job with Altergo – an IT company on Pearse Street that trained foreign students and developed software for IBM-based systems. A propitious time to get involved in that industry. I was introduced to Grogan’s by a writer friend and it immediately became my city-centre pub of choice. On my very first visit I went to use their classic old style urinals (now gone alas) and found a very tall man stretched the length of the ledge on which one stood. Knowing my literary figures I recognized him as the poet John Jordan – a prominent figure in poetry circles at the time. He was clearly the worse for drink so I let him be and took myself to the nearby cubicle. It confirmed for me however that I was in the right pub – this was surely the epicenter of Dublin bohemian life. Another writer who frequented the place was Des Hogan – an outsider figure now (and a not very likeable person back then) who never quite recaptured those early glory days after the publication of The Ikon Maker. He was obviously a rabid note taker because he was forever pulling out dozens of small bits of paper covered in writing from various pockets to find a particular phrase or piece of information he wanted to impart. He had a very evident belief in his own talents – one not generally shared by the more discerning around him. Visual artists were also there in abundance - with Tom Matthews a seeming permanent fixture – and of course the walls were adorned with a rotating collection of work which we’ll politely describe as eclectic. 

The American artist Charlie Brady was a great favourite of Tommy’s. While the art on the walls was of mixed quality – the exception was Charlie’s work. Even though he was a made man with regular exhibitions at Taylor Galleries and a hardy annual at the RHA he always had a piece hanging in Grogan’s for sale. And he kept his prices democratic. I doubt he ever sold a work for more than £1,000. My wife exhibited in the Caldwell Gallery where Charlie’s wife worked (although Charlie showed at Taylor Galleries) so we became friendly. He lived near me in South County Dublin so at a certain point in the early evening he would say “c’mon Sullivan we’re going home” and I would obediently drive him to his doorstep. Which was just as well as he was frequently in no condition to walk – nor was I in truth. The last time I met him in Grogan’s he was sitting at the bar with a medical friend having just received a diagnosis for terminal cancer. When I went up to chat he told me in a somewhat bad-tempered way to “go home to your wife”. A non-sequitur I put down to his fraught circumstances. In an awful irony, the frequently impecunious Charlie had been left a large legacy ($800,000 I believe) by an aunt in America a few months before his fatal diagnosis. Charlie is long gone but his image remains in the bottom right-hand corner of the stained glass work in the main bar. It was hard to get barred from Grogan’s but I do remember Mannix Flynn receiving the rough edge of Tommy’s tongue when the now respectable and sober councillor was going through his manic phase. Flynn was proceeding from table to table informing drinkers that “we kill quickly”. Tommy sent him on his way with little ceremony. They must have made up because I saw a suited and booted Mannix at the ceremony in Mount Jerome. A number of years ago I almost suffered the same fate as Mannix when I was importuned to play the accordion by an over-friendly member of the traveling community. The tall and very stern lady behind the bar was having none of it as the following clip demonstrates:
Music was not allowed although it’s said that Brendan Behan’s mother got a dispensation. 

Tommy Smith was of course the soul of the place. In addition to running a very efficient pub and making sure all were looked after he was always on for a chat. Frequently he would deliver the drink and himself together – sitting down to discuss Shinnors or Michael Hartnett or the latest show at Taylor Galleries. Conversation was the primary charm of Grogan’s in those days. You could walk in for a pint at four in the afternoon (my preferred time) and chat away to anybody in residence – the scale was just right for cross-pub banter. These days with TripAdvisor touting its attractions it’s got so popular that for much of the day it’s no longer the loose agglomeration of like-minded folk that it used to be. I suspect that Tommy’s death, the ATM machine, and the renovation of the bathrooms are harbingers of a new order. I hope not. As long as the TV is not introduced I’ll keep the faith.

John P. O’Sullivan
February 2020