Master of all he surveys

Having often wondered whether I had missed a trick in not pursuing a career in journalism more aggressively, and harbouring an ongoing interest in the goings-on inside the Fourth Estate, imagine my delight upon discovering that one of my new work colleagues had been a correspondent for a proper national newspaper. Finally cornering them at a post-work session – all hail Lunchtime O’Booze – I eagerly set about mining them for information on the life I might have missed.

By the time we were finished, any lingering ambitions had been buried under an avalanche of reality. I knew the life of a hack was a hard and often lonely one, but I was shocked to discover just how hard it was. I blame Lou Grant. Having watched the titular TV show, I had this image of the journalistic life as centring on a newsroom, all chattering telex machines, legs propped up on desks, and shouting into phones. It was from this hive of activity that reporters would be dispatched to uncover juicy scandals for a grateful readership. Sure, most of the work would involve the grind of court reports and celebrity christenings – Lou Grant et al would be stuck doing bar mitzvahs – but ultimately the news would come to you. All you had to do was make it readable.

In retrospect, I hadn’t a clue. Where did I think ‘the newsroom’ was getting the stories, from the news fairy? My new colleague made it clear to me that it was the reporter who got the story, and the only way to get the story was to continually plámás everyone who might conceivably be able to provide them with the scoop when it happened. Woe betide the hack who missed a story because the source was cosier with Phil Space than to Philippa Column. A hard life. Way too hard for a 9-5 wannabe like me.

The reason I mention all this is to explain the air of confidence with which Jackie Cahill pronounced that Derek McGrath might be about to stage a spectacular come-from-behind victory over Peter Queally in the quest to become the new Waterford hurling manager. The gushing nature of the article does not suggest that it came from McGrath and/or his camp, but from someone on the interview panel who liked the cut of McGrath’s jib. And thus it has come to pass. Who says you can’t believe everything you read in newspapers?

What to make of it all? I would have gone for Queally. It’s all very well saying that you shouldn’t put too much weight on recent events when deciding who is best qualified to be manager. Had De La Salle gotten a late winner and avoided an extra-time defeat to Ballygunner, it might be Derek McGrath who is the coach of the county champions rather than Peter Queally. But the fact is that that didn’t happen. Just as we judge politicians on Harold McMillan’s Macmillan’s famous events and how they react to them, surely we should judging coaches on their results rather than what might have been. On the face of it, De La Salle have regressed in the last couple of years, and here we are replacing the man who presided over the more illustrious DLS era with the man who presided over the regression. Factor in how Queally’s failure with the Under-21’s has looked better with time – no-one gave Clare a bigger rattle than we did – and my take on it is that the County Board have made the wrong choice.

That’s my take anyway. I don’t have access to all the facts and, après Jackie Cahill’s column, it would be fair to assume that Derek McGrath went in for the interview and, to use a metaphor appropriate to this time of the sporting year, knocked it out of the ball park. There’s a lot of approving chatter on Twitter about the quality of the out-of-county choices in William Maher and Frank Flannery, and I can even give a little bit of insight into the new physio, Conor McCarthy (Jackie Cahill didn’t get everything right). He was the physio to the Irish Olympic boxing team last summer which is a pretty good thing to have on your CV (Update: might not be that Conor McCarthy – one to watch). Then there’s Dan. If Dan were the coach I’d be in hysterics right now, but he’s a selector where his penchant for (ahem) straight talking should be an asset. So there is much to be optimistic about going forward. It’s certainly been a bold choice, not going for the ‘obvious’ candidate. Not that it’s setting the bar very high, but let’s hope they know more about it than I do.