Brian O'Connor Captains' dog day afternoon


ON TELEVISION/Brian O'Connor: On BBC's coverage of the golf at Wentworth on Friday, an adult wrote in to the commentary team to find out: "What do I do if my ball hits a bird?" Everything you need to know about an entire sport in one question. 

Seeing as we're on about questions, try another: which of the following is the most likely to play golf: Roy Keane or Mick McCarthy? Can you spot which man would want to belong among clubby types? Which one would want to fit in among other adults who live in such fear of bucking the traces that even the idle chance of belting a bird with a ball has them writing to the Beeb? You can see where this is going, right? Roy Keane might have overstepped this famous "line" everyone is banging on about but surely only the most uptight member in the clubhouse would turn pale at a bit of fruity language.

On Friday's Late Late Show, Jack Charlton hinted broadly he might have chinned Keane in the circumstances but stopped short of saying he'd have sent him home. Crucially, he also said the clash would have been man to man.

But having escaped Saipan, Keane goes and does something to enrich the cult of "Keano" even more. There might have been a hundred cameras outside his house but the dog needed a walk. Did Keane huddle indoors? Did he f***! Think Steve McQueen at the end of the Great Escape, add a touch of Keith Richards in his pomp, and recognise just how cool the colossal two-fingered sign Roy Keane gave the critics by walking that ecstatic labrador.

Say what you like, but if Irish soccer cannot allow room for such wonderful defiance, then it might as well hike up its membership fees and insist on the right shoes.

Keane had finished walking the dog by the time RTÉ's panel kicked their hobby horse into a full gallop following Munster's defeat in Saturday's Heineken Cup Final.

Munster looked as if they could have been hammering away at the Leicester defence until tomorrow. But when Neil Back's hand touched the last scrum ball into his own forwards, high dudgeon was released. "Bad sportsmanship," "cheating," "dirty pool," thundered Brent Pope.

"It will be said in the next few weeks about Neil Back, the old head, but, no," seethed Denis Hickie before George Hook settled into a "sport is about . . ." spiel. In fact, if competitive sport is about anything, it is about winning. Nobody seemed to grasp that fact more than the losers. "A bit of cuteness," was how the Munster coach Declan Kidney downplayed Back's sleight of hand.

An earlier feature on the "secret" of Munster rugby, and its "working-class" roots had seen Hook return to that renowned Cork academy of carpentry and mechanical drawing; Presentation College. "Rugby and family tradition run deep in Pres," we were informed.

Richard Harris proceeded to unveil a red jersey he had picked up for Munster schools. "The only thing I took with me, when I ran away from Limerick to become an actor, was the jersey," he boomed. "I wouldn't take £1 million for the shirt."

Things got onto more familiar territory when RTÉ started taking the mickey out of Hook's record of tipping against Munster and then seeing them rip his forecast to pieces. "The Wrong Hook" ended to snorts of laughter from Pope and Hickie.

"He's laughing now," crowed Pope, hinting the smile maybe didn't run so deep. And who could blame George? He's the best thing that has ever happened to RTÉ's rugby coverage, arguing his point and taking the heat if it goes wrong. But taking it doesn't mean he has to have the you-know-what taken. The phrase biting the hand that feeds comes to mind.

No one on the Munster team seemed to want to bite Back's hand. "The bottom line is they got the tries and we didn't. I think they just outsmarted us on the day. It's part of the game, cruel at time, and we just have to live with it," declared Mick Galwey.

Proof that when it comes to style, if a Cork captain can show it, so can a Kerry captain.



BBC1 (11.05 p.m.): Paul Whitehouse, aka Ron Manager, introduces classic World Cup moments of the past.


Network 2 (8 p.m.): World Cup - A Preview. Look ahead to the tournament.

BBC1 (7 p.m.): A Question of Sport World Cup Special with guests Kenny Dalglish, Norman Whiteside, Peter Reid and Ray Houghton.


Network 2 (11.15 a.m.) ITV (11 a.m.): The opening ceremony of the World Cup in Seoul. France v Senegal kicks off at 12.30.

BBC1 ( 7 p.m.): Match of the Day, highlights, plus latest news.


Network 2 (7 a.m.): Live coverage of Group E opener between Republic of Ireland and Cameroon.

ITV (5.10 p.m.): Highlights of Group E game.