LAST FRIDAY an official from the Russian Space Agency walked to the front door of a locked capsule located in the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems, keyed in the passcode and opened the sealed door.
Within seconds, six frail looking men emerged into the sunlight, blinking. The men had just completed the final gruelling phase of the Mars 500 programme, designed to recreate a manned trip to the red planet.
The six cosmonauts were subjected to the most severe psychological challenges. For 520 days, they were locked into a mock-up spacecraft. During this time, they were entirely isolated from other human contact. No visits from wives or girlfriends or boyfriends. No e-mails or Facebook or Twitter. All communications with the outside world were carefully controlled, conducted via radio and with a 25 minute time delay to simulate the real life communications lag between the earth and Mars.
The Donegal players will know the feeling.
They better hope that Jim hasn’t been following the Mars 500 experiment. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before the blueprints are drawn up for an underground GAA facility in a remote area of North West Donegal where Jim’s followers will live and train.
There will be no mobile phones, no Internet, no conjugal visits (as we know from the ‘troubles,’ women can’t be trusted not to ferry messages to the outside) and no conversations with strangers.
The squad could develop their own unique sign language so that in time they wouldn’t have to speak at all. Jim would handle the media (“Kildare are very cynical, Antrim are a great team and very hard to beat”) and could tell his players without fear of contradiction “ the world is against us!”
The problem for Jim is that his players are human.
Sometimes they will go out to a bar, ‘drink and toast to nothing and smash their empty glasses down.’ Sometimes they will text opponents to do a bit of trash talking. Sometimes they will talk about the method of play and give a bit of detail about training.
If only there were decent androids of the ‘Bladerunner’ kind, he could have a team that would make him truly happy.
Another fortuitous result of using real robots is that in future, whenever Rory Gallagher, of Fermanagh, Cavan, Dublin, Antrim and now Donegal demands absolute loyalty to the green and gold from the players, their feeble human minds wouldn’t be thinking how ironic that is.
Kevin Cassidy is a fine young man. Warrior on the field, altar boy off it. He teaches severely disabled children at the ‘Little Angels’ school, is married and has twin baby daughters. It goes without saying that he is a terrific Donegal man, having spent the last decade fighting for the cause.
You can tell a man by the way he plays his football, which in Kevin’s case is all that needs to be said. Now, at 30 years of age, his freshly minted All-Star gleaming on his mantelpiece in Gweedore, he has been banished from the Donegal squad, becase of some details he gave to Declan Bogue about Donegal’s year.
The idea behind Declan’s book “This is our Year,” was to get the inside track on all nine Ulster counties from either a player or manager. The result is an honest and interesting book, which prompted Eugene McGee to reflect that he was: “Astonished at the frankness and sincerity of the players.”
Ryan McMenamin frankly gave the details of his pre-match exchanges with Donegal and gave an interesting insight into the workings of the Tyrone world.
He also provided some very enjoyable snapshots of the workings of Mickey Harte, widely regarded as the pre-eminent manager of the last decade.
You can take it that Mickey will not be calling him to a meeting in Quinn’s Corner to explain himself.
The Cavan manager, Val Andrews, let his hair down and then some with his contributions. Again, it was nothing more than refreshingly honest. Likewise, Dick Clerkin, who chastised me roundly for comments I made once about him on RTE radio. The upset of his family is vividly chronicled: “ My mother was distraught. She called me twice in tears after hearing stuff on the radio.” It was a chastening experience for me to read his chapter. No one will be calling Dick to a meeting to complain!
Meanwhile, Jim and Rory sit in an hotel room somewhere and banish a really good man because he told the truth. What exactly did he reveal?
Well, that he ‘trash talked’ Peter Harte in the Ulster semi-final. 765,000 viewers saw that for themselves on television. Worse still, the stunning revelation that they retreated into a defensive shell against Tyrone and Dublin!
Let me tell you Jim. We didn’t need the Goodyear Blimp in Croke Park to know that you were playing 14 men inside your own half.
There is an amusing passage in the book about his team-mate Martin McElhinney bringing Kevin’s attention to the on-field habits of American footballer Brian ‘Wolverine’ Dawkins.
It is safe to say that the elevator no longer goes to the top floor for Brian. Off the field, he is quiet, peace loving Brian. On it, he becomes Wolverine, the sabre clawed wolf man from the ‘X Men’ comic books.
In the Denver Broncos changing room, Brian has two lockers. One for Brian. One for his alter ego. In the hours before the game, he slowly transforms into the wolf man. He then takes the field bounding on all fours and growling. He approaches opponents rapping in gibberish.
During the game, he keeps it up, howling at them to: “ Bring it to the wolf” and other such psychologically challenged phrases. After one such bout of trash talking a few years ago, he was hit so hard by an opponent that he lay on the ground screaming in pain and weeping hot tears. You can see the clip in YouTube.
The point is that Kevin tells the author that they discussed trash talking as a group and it’s value in certain circumstances. You don’t say!
Gaelic football is a community game. Ten All-Ireland medals are not worth the loss of one good man. Jim and Rory have acted foolishly. They have spoiled the chemistry of the group.
Someone should tell them ‘X Men’ isn’t real . . .