what ye make of this article?
onday September 08 2008
So the big, stark patriarch with the flushed complexion delivered history. The temperance folk would have Kilkenny banned on the basis that excess is corrupting. But Brian Cody remains such an emblem of uncomplicated desire, it's hard to be aggrieved when his striped wonders start piling the silver high.
You could feel disappointed for Waterford yesterday, without begrudging Cody a single second of this day in the sun.
His management of perhaps the greatest hurling team ever seen has long been rooted in simple, understated delivery. He leads with a quiet ferocity that we like to tart up in mystery. We want him to be profound, even if he never feels that way.
And, so, he looks at us from under those slender eye-brows, his hard mouth pinched in quizzical discomfort.
Cody rations his animation to a once a year ignition, that giddy, self-conscious sideline dance once Liam McCarthy is secured. For the remainder, he is unreadable as stone.
He laughs at the idea of genius in what he does. To him, management is no more than housekeeping. Brian Cody loves hurling and the heroism it deposits into otherwise plain lives. That is the beginning and end of his story.
Cody is the great, surviving constant of a practice getting more layered and nuanced by the season. He is old-style, a one-man rebuke to the management by numbers impulse that seems so increasingly de rigeur.
You look at some county teams today and everything they do is so trussed up in theory and philosophy, it's little wonder that their thought processes seem robotic.
Dublin footballers reside in a claustrophobic world and, increasingly, they look spooked by that world. The search for an edge has carried them into easily lampooned territory, the choreographed march to the hill, the arm-linking intimacy of the backroom, the practiced hostility to media.
In a sense, the harder Dublin tried to distance themselves from others, the more fragile they became.
Somewhere within the camp, a lust for mind bending overtook the plain demands of preparing young men for hard football games. Mental preparation morphed into dangerous psycho-babble.
This year, Dublin came up with the 'Blue Book'. You won't have seen one because it came with pretty stark 'rules of engagement.'
Holders had to (literally) sign up to a creed. And rule four of that creed declared: 'I will not show or admit to the existence of THE BLUE BOOK to any other person except another Blue Book holder.'
It didn't quite promote the cyanide pill solution to interrogation, but this was loopy stuff. A constitution written in Branch Davidian language.
The Blue Book was constructed in diary form, running from January to September. Every month carried an assembly of quotations, each page topped with the line 'Dublin, All-Ireland Champions 2008'. Page One demanded that the holder sign up to the seven-point creed, which had to be then counter-signed by a 'witness.'
And point number five of that creed declared that the holder would accept 'any disciplinary measures including withdrawal of MY BLUE BOOK, should I not apply myself as a BLUE BOOK HOLDER is expected to.'
The line between constructive motivation and oppressive thought control wasn't so much blurred as obliterated.
Thirty eight years after his death, Vince Lombardi's little wisdoms exist as such pet tools for lazy GAA psychology, he ought to be claiming Irish royalties from the grave. Lombardi's wall mottos have become clichéd through over-use. They need to be de-commissioned.
The Blue Book is -- naturally -- speckled with his words, but it's the company Lombardi keeps that leaves the starkest imprint.
The profundities of Bruce Lee, General George Patton, Confucius, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Isaac Newton, Churchill, JFK, Gandhi are all invoked within as a kind of booklet-form mission statement for the modern Dub.
Page after bullet-point page itemises the specifics of preparation. Players are invited to fill in 'Game Reports'. Everything is segmented, broken down. Confidence. Success. Feedback. Mental Preparation.
The Blue Book seems intent on shining a light on every mental shadow.
The Feedback section proposes ignoring media as 'publicity is like poison, it only kills you if you swallow it.' It celebrates Omagh '06 as a day 'we crossed the line together as a Dublin squad hasn't done in years.' It lists being 'more cynical' among the positives.
Sometimes the attempted air of gravitas is lost in a curious lurch of language, as in the declaration that 'some of the people making these judgements are the ones that had us as sh*** from the start.'
Reading the Blue Book, you get a sense of lost perspective. Of an attempt to intellectualise the pursuit of All-Ireland glory when the obligation should surely be to simplify, to rinse away all vain threads of mythology.
Watching the great, looping carriage of Brian Cody cross another mountain-top yesterday, you could see he had reality pegged like few others in the great, soaring horse-shoe of Croke Park.
It wasn't just the glow of achievement that drew his people to him. It was the quiet, knowing carriage. The sense of an uncomplicated man enjoying an uncomplicated moment.
Nothing quite became him like the simplicity of his pleasure.
- Vincent Hogan