Health Rugby

Joe Schmidt Defies Appendicitis to Watch Ireland vs Australia

After a magnificent, blood-and-guts autumn international battle between Ireland and Australia at Lansdowne Road, news began to emerge that Joe Schmidt, the Ireland manager, had endured an entire day of torture in order to see the match.  Suffering from acute appendicitis, Schmidt gritted his teeth and got on with things, explaining his absence from the team-talk with the cover story that he had some sort of infectious bug he didn’t want to pass on.

The first reaction of the whole country, including me, was What a man.

Much respect.

But later, as I thought about this, it dawned on me that what Joe Schmidt did was utterly irresponsible, not only risking his own life but, even worse, tapping into the same old macho mindset that for years returned concussed players to the game when they should have been under medical observation for head injuries.

Instead of saying What a man, maybe we should have been saying with some annoyance, Typical man.

If Joe Schmidt’s appendix had burst while he was watching the game, he could easily have died.

Presumably, the IRFU and the management of Lansdowne Road knew about the medical situation, so what did they do about it?  Did they defer to Schmidt’s dogged refusal to leave his seat until the final whistle?  If so, they are guilty of culpable weakness, having colluded in a highly irresponsible and potentially fatal act involving one of their employees.

I don’t agree with everything the Health and Safety Authority does.  Sometimes they can be too officious, too overbearing and rather robotic, but I hope they investigate this incident because its ramifications go far beyond the consequences for one man.

In the last decade, rugby has gained popularity in an unprecedented way due to the success of the provinces in European competition and the increasingly effective international squad who now expect to go out and win the Grand Slam and who come home slightly disappointed if all they win is the Six Nations.

This is a good thing.  It has produced marvellous role models for the kids in the dignified, respectful, self-effacing superstars we produced, people like Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll.  Who didn’t admire Peter Stringer at the height of his Jack-Russell-like cheekiness?  Everyone in Ireland admires wonderful tacticians like Joe Schmidt.

But if kids look up to the heroes, there’s a corresponding responsibility not to send out bad messages, and what worse message could be sent out than the manager of a world-class team stoically ignoring the warnings his body is giving him, disregarding his health for the sake of a football game?

At a time when men are being encouraged to look after their health, these aren’t the attitudes we need to be fostering.

Admirable guy that Joe Schmidt is, I think he got this one badly wrong.


Limerick On A Beautiful Day

What a lovely morning.  What an utterly lovely start to the day, with blue skies and all the little birds threatening each other in song.  Not that you’d know it if you were listening to Radio RTEland, which informed the nation that we’d all be better off in bed because it was raining outside.

Outside their studio in Dublin.  Or outside their house, also in Dublin.  Or outside their car, on the way from their house, in Dublin to their studio in Dublin, but that’s the national broadcaster for you.  Meanwhile, here in Limerick, the weather was mild-to-warm with sunshine, but of course none of that matters in Medialand.

I got into the market a little late today due to a wild goose chase that should remain in the shadows, but when I finally made it, the rewards were great.

Very often on Saturday mornings, it’s nice to meet up with friends in nearby Nancy Blakes and have a coffee, but first, of course, it’s essential to pick up some delicious buns or cakes at one of the market stalls.

Limerick Milk Market 051



But of course, you can’t walk through the market without being accosted by vendors selling other delicious fare, which is why not one, but two Turkish chaps stopped me.  The lad with this stall sold me a really tasty pastry sort of thing made with Feta and vegetables, Baklava, he called it.  As I left the Big Top, another Turkish man handed me a delicious lamb sausage and I guarantee you, I’ll be back to him next week, but with photos and lots of lip-smacking.

Limerick Milk Market


On the way between one Turkish man and the next Turkish man, I met this charming lady selling Clangers, though I don’t believe for one second her story of how they got their name.

Limerick Milk Market

It’s another sort of pastry thing, with a sweet filling at one end and a meat filling at the other, though there is a vegetarian option for vegetarians and for people trying to convince themselves that they’re vegetarians, and for other people who think it will make them healthier, and why wouldn’t they?

The idea is a lot like the Cornish Pasty, except that it didn’t originate in the tin mines.  It’s actually from Bedfordshire and you don’t throw away the crust.  But apart from that, it’s the same.  I got a sample and it was delicious.

All that before I ever get my nice cup of tea, which will be flung in my face unless I present a nice cake to the terrifying German barman.  I’m no fool, though, and so I have my delicious little confection tucked away here, ready to present in return for a nice cup of tea.

Hello.  I would like a nice cup of tea, please.

You will do as I say.  We own you.

Have a bun.

Oh thanks.  Would you like a nice cup of tea?

It’s great.  It’s all good.  I pass a happy thirty minutes among witty raconteurs and the weather remains good, apart from the cloud hanging over me.  I forgot to pay the electricity bill and they sent me a snotty letter, so I’d better stroll down to the Post Office and pay it.

Before leaving, I bump into a New Zealand friend.   A rugby-playing Maori cannibal type.  What do you reckon our chances are of beating South Africa?

Pretty good, he says, to my surprise, me being of  little faith.

You reckon?

I rickon,  he nods.

I bid my friends a good day and wander off, still enjoying the indescribable mildness of being, until I come to O’Mahony’s bookshop, a place of iconic significance to me.  This is the place where, as a teenager, I bought most of the books that made me who I am today, and therefore it’s almost a place of pilgrimage.

And there, in my place of pilgrimage, is the man who single-handedly, though temporarily,  convinced me that journalism is dead.  There, signing his latest book, is Paul Williams, a man whose access to hard information about criminals is in direct proportion to his usefulness to his Garda handlers.  There he is, in a bookshop in Limerick, signing copies of his latest book about crime in Limerick, even though the lowlifes he writes about are all in jail, and even though he has not the slightest access to facts about life in our town.

Paul WIlliams

I pause in mild surprise , but then I notice the title of his book: Murder Inc. This, according to Paul Williams is the nickname given to the small family of useless morons who, for a while, sold drugs in this town.  Who gave them this imaginary  nickname?  Nobody in Limerick, or anywhere else, except in Paul Williams’s imagination.  Limerick people just called them what they are: scumbags.

It was such a nice day up to that point.  What a shame that Paul Williams, a man who knows nothing about Limerick, should be milking an old story to death, and what a worse shame that Limerick people might be lining up to buy his book and solicit his X on the flyleaf.

What a further shame that should slavishly and moronically repeat his blurb in their What’s On section.  I see that they’ve taken it down following complaints, but here it is anyway.

paul williams blurb limerickie


This is a website paid for by our local taxes and managed by employees of our local authority.  Ponder that for a minute or two.  Promoting a self-publicising fantasist who has done as much as any man to tarnish the reputation of our town by talking up the activities of a small gang of scumbags for his own personal glorification.

Is that what we pay for?

Anyway, the gloom didn’t last long.  Paul Williams is far too small a man to take up my whole  day, there was a rugby match to see, and besides, it was quite a thing to see him pulling copies of the book out of his arse as easily as he pulls facts.  He should charge for that.

Finally, let me confess that I didn’t really expect Ireland to beat South Africa but the cannibal was right, as usual.

Yay!  Take that, South Africa!  And take that, Paul Williams, when you’ve finished fiddling with your orifice.



Autumn Internationals. Ireland 22 — New Zealand 24

I’ve been sitting for about six hours now staring at a blank TV screen and asking myself, what happened there?

Forty minutes of sublime rugby from the Irish had reduced the New Zealanders to disarray and while their fight-back in the second half was inevitable, our boys had the means to wrap them up and choke the life out of their counter-attack.

Every single Irish player was immense.   Everyone from the captain Paul O Connell to the immortal BOD, from poor Rory Best of the broken arm to the amazing Kearney brothers.  Conor Murray was magnificent, though Jonny Sexton perhaps a little less so, especially when he waited so horribly long to take that crucial kick that went wide, though I’m not saying it cost us the match.

With about a minute to go, all Ireland needed was to retain possession and we would have beaten the All Blacks.  One minute of up-the-jumper five-man rugby, the kind that Anthony Foley would understand, and Ireland would finally have defeated the best team in the world.  One minute, that’s all.  One agonising minute.

But instead, they gave away possession, to a side notorious for never giving up and the visitors were away, sensing blood.   Throw in a bad call by the TMO on an obvious forward pass, a very harsh decision by referee Nigel Owens, to re-take the New Zealand conversion and it’s easy to see why the Irish are feeling so hard-done-by.

I don’t normally say this kind of thing because I believe a team should take its beating and shut up, but on this occasion, we were robbed.