herald

Saturday 18 November 2017

Philly, Jackie and the storytelling art

Dublin footballer Philly McMahon with his book ‘The Choice’ outside The GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Pic: Donall Farmer
Dublin footballer Philly McMahon with his book ‘The Choice’ outside The GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Pic: Donall Farmer

In a world full of 'Gah-speak', where protocols of engagement with the media drive said media around the twist, let us salute Philly McMahon and Jackie Tyrrell.

Two hard-as-nails defenders whose capacity to shut down an opposing danger man is thankfully not matched by a desire to shut out the public.

For those who believe all utterances by modern footballers and hurlers should be heaped upon that worthless conflagration called the bonfire of Gaelic banalities, this duo are the perfect antidote.

They are both, in their different ways, utterly engaging. Always have been.

So those of us who have interviewed McMahon many times about all things Dublin, over the years, weren't remotely surprised to see him emerge as the star turn of Friday night's The Late Late Show.

Even though football was barely mentioned at all.

And those of us who have interviewed Tyrrell about all things Kilkenny probably knew all along that here was a great story just waiting to be told ... curiously enough about a hurler who didn't deem himself great at all to begin with; one who rather had to fight the crippling scourge of self-doubt.

Tyrrell has made a seamless transition from tungsten-tough corner-back to call-it-as-he-sees-it pundit. We have yet to get our hands on his autobiography, The Warrior's Code (written with Christy O'Connor), but the extracts have whetted the appetite.

Not that he'll have earned too many friends in Tipp with his depiction of their "fluid attacking game" in the early years of this decade: "We viewed all this moving and switching as a means of disguising that they couldn't take us on, that they hadn't the balls to really go at us. It always felt like they were scared to beat us," he wrote.

Such openness helps when you've a book to sell. Sceptics might argue that this also explains McMahon's Late, Late appearance ... except that he is not peddling a book that glories in his achievements.

The Choice - penned with journalist Niall Kelly - is essentially about his late brother John and how he ultimately succumbed to heroin; but in a deeper sense it's about the choices all of us face and how circumstances can steer you down a particular path. It's a powerful story, courageously told by its author.

GAA managers who seek to micro-manage their players to the extent that they become robots in front of a microphone might well take note from Jackie and Philly.

The first retired with nine All-Ireland SHC medals. The latter has five (and counting) in football. So much for the notion that inter-county players can't be open with their opinions and simultaneously successful.

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