64  Questions about the World Cup

  Is everybody enjoying the World Cup so far?   Are you not entertained?   How about the 6,750 people who died so you could watch some football?   How do you feel about them?   Please tick. Do you feel: Very sad about them    Sad about them    Not sad at all    Couldn’t care less   Did you think about not watching the World Cup because so many people were killed?   Or should sport be separate from politics as Hitler and Putin wanted?   Do you have a favourite team? Anyone But England, I suppose?   Great to see Messi and Mbappé starring on the big stage, isn’t it?   If every one of the 64 games lasts 100 minutes that will be 6,400 minutes in all, about one dead person per minute of football, that’s a nice synchronicity, isn’t it?   And how do I

Anxiety, Sport, Maeve, Sadness, and Ukraine

Hope you’re all doing well. It’s a tough time. Again. On the Zoom the other day Adrian said: ‘First we had to deal with Trump. Then we had to deal with Covid. And now this.’ He was, of course, referring to Russia’s brutal and barbaric invasion of Ukraine. We talked about watching or not watching the news. Doomscrolling. The pitfalls of getting sucked under by the horror. Or ignoring it and not being informed. I said I’d watched the BBC news on Monday night and it featured an item from a children’s cancer hospital in Kyiv. Unspeakable horror. Last Friday I got news that my friend Maeve was dying. Poor Maeve. It’s too sad to think of her, so I try not to. But of course I do. And her poor family. And everyone in our book club, which Maeve has been a member of for over 30 years. Earlier

Smoke Rising in the South: Some Memories of 9/11

Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion, too   Everybody remembers where they were on 9/11. I was in Manhattan, with Ciara. We were staying in Brian and Julie’s apartment on the Upper West Side. It was a stop-off on our way to Canada – a couple of weeks’ holiday in Vancouver and British Columbia. It was morning, around nine. I was having a cup of tea and reading. Ciara was having a lie-in, she was still a bit jet-lagged. The phone rang and I answered. It was Dusty O’Callaghan calling from Mallow, enquiring if Brian was okay, if he was down near the Twin Towers. ‘Brian is fine, he’s working over in Columbia,’ I said. ‘Why? What’s happened?’ Dusty told me. I put the phone down and woke Ciara. ‘Something’s happened,’ I said. ‘You have to get up.’

Dark Passions – extract from a sports essay

I’m walking down the Ennis Road in Limerick. It is the summer of 2019. Cork have just beaten the All-Ireland champions, Limerick, and I’m feeling good. The Cork fans are buzzing – it doesn’t take much for us to roll back out our cocky strut. A lone and drunk young Cork supporter is taunting some Limerick people nearby. He sings (badly): ‘We’re from Cork and we’re better than you, We’re from Cork and we’re better than you, We’re from Cork and we’re better than you.’ Over and over again he sings it, smiling, pointing his finger at the Limerick fans, walking down the Ennis Road.

A Better Version of Ourselves

I’m in West Kerry, on holidays. I’m standing outside Paudie Ó Sé’s pub catching my breath after a fervid two hours of championship hurling magic conjured out the air by Tipperary and Wexford. Sandmartins weave a dreamy thread of air above me. A benign sun pulses light and heat, easing away the dark intensity of the match inside. I check my pulse: 89 bpm – good. When Séamus Callanan scored his transcendent goal after ten minutes of the game – delaying and delaying and delaying the hit until the ball was the apex of its third bounce – I felt my breath catch and my heart lose purchase and my ears buzz and I had to put a hand on the counter of the bar and calm myself. The fitbit showed my heart-rate then at 103 bmp – not good.

The Corkman who loves Kilkenny and looks up to Women’s Sport

What time should we hit the road on Sunday? The bloody road works in Naas still aren’t finished. Before we get to that, I’ve a bit of news. Oh. Is it the prostate again? The prostate is fine. It’s this: I love Kilkenny. Jesus, keep your voice down. What are you on about? I’m reading a brilliant book at the moment called Amateur. It’s by Thomas Page McBee and he’s a transgender man who took part in a boxing match in Madison Square Garden in 2015. In the very first chapter of the book, he describes the fight and his opponent. He writes: ‘The truth was, I loved him even as I danced around him with my hands in the air.’ The purity of revelation in that statement floored me.


We gather in the usual way, a bit earlier because of the 2pm throw in. A driver, three passengers, all living in Cork city. We’ve done this many times before. Pickups, then heading for the Jack Lynch tunnel. The novelty of the Cusack Park venue rendering us a little more giddy than usual, perhaps. Good to be together, too, on a summer Sunday morning, with a purpose, a shared endeavour. We know this, we don’t take it for granted.

The Hawthorn and The Swift: You Have to Smile

It’s a summer Sunday morning and you’re on the road in South-East Limerick. From your passenger seat you watch the blossoming hawthorn ribbon the countryside. There’s a cycling charity event on the road and the going is slow, so you have time to enjoy the undulating view. Hawthorn enfolding fields all shapes and sizes – good land, middling land, fallow and scrub. Draping the livestock in the promise of a summer of plenty, a promise older even than the old promise of hurling’s plenty.

All The Old Feelings

I’m sitting in a Costa in Douglas on Sunday morning waiting for Cummins Sports to open and it hits me. The match approaches with all its baggage: anxiety, stress, the need to win, to be validated again by sport. All the old feelings. I can hardly drink my Cortado, my knee starts hopping. Fuck’s sake, calm down, it’s only the bloody first-round. The sunshine is harsh and bitter when I step outside, I forgot my sunglasses.

Remembering an Old Team Mate and Friend

It’s been a great few weeks for UCC and for sport in the college. It’s wonderful to see photos of young people with smiles on their faces and silverware in their hands. As someone who was once lucky enough to have my hands on such silverware (The Fitzgibbon Cup, many moons ago), it’s bringing back a lot of memories. I know I’m not the only one thinking back, and I know I’m not the only one remembering old team mates and friends. I know too that I’m not the only one remembering one special person in particular these days – that special person being Paul O’Connor, whom we lost in 2012.