This isn’t happening. Not here, not now. This is all George Hook’s fault! Hook and the long arm of the Maltese Oligarch. Those maligners are working to deny us, the loyal listening man-shed, our daily dose of the news that matters. The only news, when it comes down to it, that we really care about. This is our church. They can’t do this. I’m as angry as Ewan McKenna at a Dublin GAA fundraiser and I’m not going to take it anymore!
Thus went the first two stages of grief (Denial and Anger), when on that fateful March evening of 2013, news broke that the entire crew, Eoin, Ken, Murph, Simon and Young Hogan, had resigned form Off the Ball.
I remember the palpable anger, the impotent rage. I smile now, remembering how some fast thinking individual created an Off the Ball twitter handle with the bio: just an egg, looking for my sports news team. Before we’d even arrived in the third stage (bargaining), Ger Gilroy was back on air, opening that nights show with a genuine eulogy for the departed. Farewell to our friends, taken too soon. Oh holy sweet Jesus, why didn’t you take Pat Kenny* and not the lads! Rage, rage against the dying of the light…
That the bargaining took place in private was a welcome respite. No need for lengthy court proceedings. The kids don’t need be subjected to a messy public divorce. A mutually agreed Separation Agreement must exist. After all, one party got custody of U.S Murph, one got Graham Hunter and so and so forth.
Then on we moved, Ger Gilroy almost seamlessly parachutes in the crew of Joe (who likes to be given his full title of PPI award winning Joe Molloy) Angry Producer Mick, “Wolly”, Cian, Adrian and a cast of thousands. Queue great radio, Brian O’Driscoll and Road Shows in the 3 Arena.
It’s a funny thing to reflect back on it now. The fourth stage of grief, depression, usually manifests itself by way of some metaphorical dark cloud hanging over us; a dark cloud for every silver lining. But that didn’t really happen here. The lads on Off the Ball delivered and as if by magic, the Second Captains Crew materialised from the ether and found their way onto our TV screens, iTunes Podcasts and must have Christmas Annuals. The irreverent ruffians (and Ken) came back and somewhere between Richie Sadlier’s dog, Frank, passing and Pierce Brosnan’s Poitin Swilling we realised that we, as consumers and devotees, had been double blessed. We had 2 man-sheds of the mind to escape to. We had skipped the final two stages(Depression & Acceptance), or so I thought.
But it has slowly dawned on me that we haven’t been so lucky. No, the Depression has been riding shotgun on journeys between OTB & SC for over 30 months now. He’s sitting just to my left, not saying anything but, stares at me with a look that I know means “You’re going to have to talk to me at some point.”
The reality is that the two reciprocal worlds of Off the Ball & Second Captains exist, independent (and Irish Times), aware of each other, while avoiding any convergence. It’s kind of like ESPN talking about the upcoming Super Bowl and ignoring the main protagonist, Peyton Manning, is the subject of a Human Growth Hormone scandal, just because it was uncovered by Al Jazeera. It’s a mutant strain of the Gwyneth Paltrow conscious unconscious uncoupling.
Nearly 3 years since the divorce, the depression remains. While neither side acknowledges the other, in some public way, we cannot hope to move on. Acceptance is a foreign land. I want so much for Mum and Dad to be able to acknowledge that they’ve both moved on, that they are happy apart and that they can are happy for one another.
Whether that manifests itself as Joe Molloy (PPI winning Joe Molloy**) interviewing the “Flame-Haired-Thrower of Truth Ken Early” about his Brendan Rodgers fixation or we glimpse Ger Gilroy on the screens of the next Second Captains TV season, doesn’t matter. That it happens is what matters.
I’ll paraphrase Tommie Gorman; he can say it for me. My heart is just too heavy:
What about all the little kids(middle aged men) who see you as a role models, who love you all, who’d love to see you back together and who are absolutely distraught…kids who wear your name on the t-shirt they got at your live shows, who are absolutely haunted, who don’t know what to make of it!
Tony Groves Jan 2016
*I’m kidding Pat
**I’m not kidding Joe, ah no, I am kidding