Special times shared with late Houseman
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?