Spe­cial times shared with late House­man

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT -

THE first sports event I re­mem­ber tak­ing a big in­ter­est in was the 1974 World Cup fi­nals, most of which I watched with my father in a pub a cou­ple of miles west of Spid­dal. It was the tour­na­ment of Cruyff, “Did you see that turn, Daddy?”, of Muller, “That’s what you call an op­por­tunist goal, Ea­monn,” and of the fly­ing Ar­gen­tinian winger Rene House­man.

House­man died dur­ing the week and the first thing most of the obit­u­ar­ies men­tioned was his World Cup win­ner’s medal from 1978. But whereas four years ear­lier he had been ir­re­sistible and thrilling, in the later tour­na­ment he was a pe­riph­eral fig­ure.

His drink­ing might have had some­thing to do with that. House­man strug­gled with al­co­holism most of his life and fell on hard times. There was a very sad in­ter­view with a US mag­a­zine four years ago where he told of hav­ing to sell his medals. The only one he hadn’t sold, he said, was his World Cup medal be­cause his mother-in-law wouldn’t give it to him.

Drink got House­man in the end. He was 64. My father was 59 when he died from tongue can­cer, the same thing that killed House­man. But we did have one great sum­mer to­gether, the three of us, back when I was six years old and dis­cov­er­ing foot­ball a cou­ple of miles west of Spid­dal.

THE Amer­i­can col­lege bas­ket­ball fi­nal tour­na­ment pop­u­larly known as ‘March Mad­ness’ is an un­fail­ing provider of en­ter­tain­ment, drama and the kind of sto­ry­lines State­side sport seems to spe­cialise in.

This year’s big story has been the un­likely run to the Elite Eight of Loy­ola Chicago, a school which hadn’t even qual­i­fied for the tour­na­ment since 1985. Three up­set wins by a com­bined to­tal of four points means that last night they were play­ing Kansas State for a cov­eted spot in the fi­nal four.

Yet what’s made the run ex­tra spe­cial has been the role played by a 98-year-old nun, Sis­ter Jean, who leads the team in prayer be­fore the match and goes on court to greet them as the game ends. She’s not your av­er­age nun. Be­fore a bro­ken hip put her in a wheel­chair she went to games wear­ing Nikes with ‘Sis­ter’ writ­ten on one heel and ‘Jean’ on the other. She also likes to present the Loy­ola team man­ager with ex­ten­sive re­ports on his own and other teams. This is one class sis­ter act.

IT’S prob­a­bly un­fair to crit­i­cise the GAA for the fact that the club fi­nals clashed with the Ire­land-Eng­land match on St Pa­trick’s Day, re­sult­ing in the poor­est at­ten­dance in 24 years.

The irony is that this was prob­a­bly the best club fi­nal dou­ble bill in years. The Na Piar­saigh-Cuala game was a nail-bit­ing thriller and while the foot­ball fi­nal wasn’t, it did wit­ness one of the great­est club at­tack­ing per­for­mances from Co­rofin. You have to go back 36 years for a big­ger win­ning score and mar­gin. Back then when Mayo cham­pi­ons Gar­ry­more con­ceded 6-11 and lost by 18 points. The win­ners? Nemo Rangers. Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.