Less about the world, more about me.

Month: July 2012

Marriage Equality (Letter)

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 18 July 2012 edition

I was reading Stephen Fry’s Autobiography recently and was struck by a wonderful anecdote he relates, which demonstrates just how close we are to history. He describes an event he had organised in honour of the journalist Alistair Cooke. They shook hands and Alastair Cooke reminded Fry, that his hand had also shook the hand of Bertrand Russell, a famous English philosopher. Further, Bertrand Russell’s Aunt, had one danced with the Emperor Napoleon.

Think on that, five people linked, from the end of 18th century to the beginning of the 21st. Consider also, that for a great deal of that period, Catholics in this country were second class citizens. It took a Kerry Man, Daniel O’Connell, to mortally wound this vicious discriminatory system, though it wasn’t until 1871 that we were finally rid us of this heinous imposition.

Many of us will have been held in the arms of grandparents, who themselves will have been held in the arms of grandparents, who were alive in a time when Catholics were forced to pay for Protestant Churches. That’s how recently laws were allowed, which harmed and oppressed citizens rather than helped and protected us.

Well that’s not exactly accurate. Everything didn’t become wonderful and equitable in 1871. Neither did it in 1916, 1922, 1937, 1973, 1993, nor yet even today. An exclusionary law, based on nothing more than prejudice and custom, remains on our statute books. We still bar gay men and gay women from marriage.

For centuries, the Protestant Ascendancy felt no quibbles about imposing their values on disempowered Catholics. They were in charge, thus they felt entitled to behave as they saw fit. It took centuries and it took heros like Daniel O’Connell to remove this hated rule from our country. Unfortunately, it seems the lessons that should have been learned and remembered from that short short time ago, have been forgotten or are being ignored.

We appear to feel entitled to impose a singular and narrow version of morality on others. On people without the numbers to resist this discrimination. We persist in condemning gay men and women to second-class citizenship. Would we endure laws which encroached on a Catholic’s marriage rights, inheritance rights, reproductive rights? No, we fought wars to ensure this would never happen again in this country, yet we allow it, nay willfully enact it, against our gay neighbors, our gay brothers and sisters, son and daughters. We allow it against our gay grandparents, who can remember the grandparents who were forced to pay tithes to another person’s Church.

There are many things wrong with our country. Many things that call for our immediate attention. Not least is the struggle many of us have with debt, unemployment and other financial wounds. It can all seem so disempowering, wondering what negotiations are being held in what EU country today and what will our politicians achieve. Did any of us envisage a time when we would have to so care about the economies of Italy, China, the US? Did any of us really think there would be a time when the outcome of the French Presidential election would be assessed in terms of what it added to or subtracted from our bargaining position vis a vis the Germans and the IMF?

It’s like being back in school and being forced to study a subject where the exam will determine the rest of our lives, yet the answers have yet to be decided on. It is in fact a perfect time to stop caring about things that don’t pay the mortgage, the bills and for the new and eye-wateringly expensive school books. But today we are writing the history our grandchildren will be studying. Today we are deciding what our grandchildren will think of us.

We get to decide if our grandchildren will assess our generation as that which fought and struggled for equality, just like our ancestors did, in the midst of economic turmoil, or do we bequeath them a legacy of condemning gay men and women to continued second-class citizenship because we had neither the interest nor the inclination to see past our own prejudices and financial woes to rid our nation of yet another Penal Law.



Child Deaths (Letter)

As appeared in Letters – Irish Independent – 29 June, 2012 edition

Reading ‘The Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group’, I could not escape the feeling that only the mad and the naive believe we will ever spend the kind of money required to keep all our children safe, happy, content and fully equipped with the emotional wherewithal to live their life to its potential. To even suggest the possibility is silly and so bedevilled with ideology that I doubt one could even get a consensus on what ‘safe’ means.

As for the other three? Well, good luck with that.

What I think we can safely agree on is that a social worker should maintain records to an agreed standard or risk censure. We can agree that the death of every child should be fully investigated and statistics collated, be they in or out of the notice of the HSE. We can agree that the in camera rule may be protecting the identity of individual children, but it is blinding the entire child-protection field, professional and academic, to what is happening to children in the courts.

We can agree, because it was agreed nearly 20 years ago, that any child who comes into the care of the State should have an individual care plan. A plan that is regularly assessed by a multi-disciplinary team. We can agree, or should agree, that the professional standards that social workers, teachers, doctors and judges apply to themselves in theory, should actually be applied in practice.

And we surely can agree that anyone who aspires to a management position in any of the child-protection professions should be able to recognise as failing any professional for whom they have responsibility.

Once recognised, they should be able to support or, if necessary, terminate the job of that failing professional. The job is just too important and too poorly resourced for bloody amateurs to be continually endured.

Anatomy of a Goal

This evening as I was watching Spain play themselves into the history books, I was taken by the epic scope and beauty of their first strike. At the time I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but it appeared to me that the goal scored by David Silva, originated deep in Spanish Territory. I had been taken by the raking cross-field pass by Xabi Alonso, which was a pivotal and eye-catching part of the build up, but I wasn’t sure where it had all started.

Fortunately I was able to look at a replay on the internet and discover the full story of this epoch defining goal. Yep, I said epoch defining. I won’t apologise, I admire this Spanish side that much.

If I wished to write a book on the subject of this goal, I could get altogether melodramatic and write an opening chapter on General Franco. If it were a thesis, I would most likely begin with Cruyff. An article, would begin with the pressure being exerted on this fine and only recently lauded Italian side. But this a blog post, written at 2am, on a school night, so I will start at the only beginning that really matters.

It begins with a rather aimless and uncharacteristic punt forward by the Italian defender, Leonardo Bonucci. He wasn’t being pressed particularly hard, but there weren’t many obvious options open to him. He was striding from his own box and possibly he could have found Andrea Pirlo to his left. Instead, he tried to hit a striker with a long ball.

His pass went directly to Iker Casillas, in the Spanish goal, or in the interests of accuracy, went directly to Casillas who was patrolling the edge of his box. The time elapsed was 12.45. He rolled the ball, to Sergio Ramos, about ten metres outside and slightly to the left of the box. Ramos, controlled the ball, turned and passed it to Xabi Alonso, a further 15 metres up the pitch. As Alonso was immediately pressed, he returned the ball directly to Ramos. He took one touch and then passed it further left, to Jordi Alba, who was just over half-way between his box and the half-way line, hugging the side-line.

Alba dribbled the ball to the half-way line, still hugging the side-line. Finding himself closed down, he turned and passed back to Alonso, who was more or less in the same position Alba had been when he had received the ball from Ramos.

Alonso, from his position close on the left side-line, hit a diagonal (approximately a 50 plus metres pass, I’m poor at judging such distances) pass to Alvaro Arbeloa, who was about half-way between the half-way line and the Italian box, ten metres in from the right side-line.

Arbeloa controlled the ball instantly, as is the Spanish way. At this point there were seven Italian outfield players in the Italian half. Of these, three were ahead of Arbeloa, who immediately passed infield to David Silva. Who again, almost immediately passed to Andres Iniesta, who was to his left. Iniesta with is first touch returned the ball to Silva and continued towards the Italian box.

At this point in the sequence, the ball is half way between the centre circle and the Italian box, more or less dead centre. The Italian back four are set and their middle four look like they are in the positions they should be in. This is a little deceptive, as the control being exerted by Spain in this passing movement and the pace of that control means they have a momentum, which we shall see later in the sequence, is irresistible.

Silva then passes out to Arbeloa on the right, who is now about ten metres closer to the corer of the Italian box, still near the side-line. Arbeloa then passes in-field to Xabi, who passes a few metres in front of him to Iniesta, who has doubled back on himself. Iniesta turns and spots that Cesc Fabregas is making a run into the box, to Iniesta’s right. Iniesta, when he passes is again half-way between the center circle and the Italian box. Fabregas receives the ball, in the Italian box, midway between the small and large squares, to the left of the Italian keeper.

The Italians are still in their two banks of four and look like they are set, but not once since Alonso’s pass into their half, have they gotten close enough to the ball to make a tackle. They are not even in a position to hurry whatever Spanish player is in possession.

Iniesta to Fabregas is the thirteenth pass in this movement. It has started in the Spanish box and is now with Fabregas, receiving the ball, on the run, in the Italian box. Here finally an Italian defender gets within shouting distance of the ball. Fabregas takes it to the end-line and cuts the ball back.

Here the Italian defense can possibly be criticized. I would contend however, that Iniesta’s pass and the speed at which Fabregas used the ball, meant that the Italian defenders were turned and chasing back, thus were unable to track the simple run of Silva. He, a rather small player, ran down the centre of the Italian box, between two Italian defenders, and met the crossed ball from Fabregas. He headed the ball from the line of the small box, to the far corner, his left. The ball having come from his right.

Nine different Spanish players touched the ball, in this sequence of fourteen passes. Silva’s goal was clocked at 13.21, 36 seconds after Casillas had gathered the ball in his own area. It is, to my mind a perfect goal. The only real Italian mistake was giving the ball away so cheaply and needlessly in the first place.

Once given away however, they were never allowed the opportunity to take it back and once Alonso had changed the point of attack so dramatically, the Italians, while appearing prepared, were never quiet in this game i.e. that game the Spanish were playing for those 36 seconds. A game where only a Spanish mistake could have prevented the Spanish from winning. A game which defines this Spanish side. A game of short and long passes, of incisive passes, of controlling passes, of good runs and of ball retention. Of domination and of finishing.

36 seconds of total football. It is epic.

© 2022 datbeardyman

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑