Larry Ryan: The measure of our dreams

We are reminded near daily now that sport and song will forever outlast profit and loss.
Larry Ryan: The measure of our dreams

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: Shane MacGowan of The Pogues performs at Terminal 5 on March 15, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

For many years, the MacGowan family home was in the Silvermines, across the border from us in Templederry. A fine two-storey set-up, on a tidy acre, previously owned by the late Doctor Maurice Ahern, a stern but kind physician to a wide radius of patients. He had croquet hoops on the lawn and applied his vocation in the traditional way by knocking on our chests in various rhythms until he had his solution to our ailments. Often, the prescription was oranges and a regular teaspoon of icing sugar and a week off school, which suited grand.

Later, Shane MacGowan wrote songs upstairs in that house, finding a rhythm to his diagnoses of the human condition and its frailties. Shane was always drawn to Tipperary but wasn’t gone on borders either. “People are talking about immigration, emigration and the rest of the fucking thing. It's all fucking crap. We're all human beings, we're all mammals, we're all rocks, plants, rivers. Fucking borders are just such a pain in the fucking arse,” he is quoted as saying.

So we should abandon the habits of a lifetime and at least give the Silvermines crowd their due, in this one case. During their run in the Tipperary intermediate hurling championship in 2012, a homemade sign in Dolla, on the cusp of the border and positioned astutely on the road to Thurles, drew inspiration from one of Shane’s most beautiful songs. “Go on lads, you’re the measure of our dreams.” It was, the Tipperary Star rightly pointed out, “as poetic a declaration of support for the local GAA side as the country has ever seen”.

A Rainy Night in Soho will always be played and sung, a perfect, timeless monument to love that endures and survives and evolves. Inspired too by a teenage Jason Forde, the Mines won the county and won Munster that season, granting its own kind of immortality to the people involved.

I suppose it’s the age some of us are getting to, but we are reminded near daily now that sport and song will forever outlast profit and loss. Childhood icons deplete but their deeds survive. Bobby Charlton, Trevor Francis, Gianluca Vialli, Sinead O’Connor. What they leave behind reaches across borders and unites people. And we each colour in their genius with our memories.

I was directed this week, by the writer Jonathan O’Brien, to a lovely Twitter feed (nearly an oxymoron in these fraught times). The @sporticonobit account posts daily potted obituaries of sporting figures from across the globe. A place without borders, it should become the of world sport. A sad but needed register of deeds. I will return to it, like the mam getting the deaths on Tipp FM.

“#RIP Chris Stone AUS (64) #AussieRules player who played 32 games in the #VFL for @stkildafc between 1978-81.” 

It could feel crude, in one way, to distil a life like this. To boil it down to appearances and clubs and medals. Yet it is proper too. It’s one of the beautiful things about sport, that it gives us this permanent scaffold of recognition.

These past days, sport lost Ron Hodges (74), a catcher who enjoyed a 12-year career with the Mets, lost a World Series. Played 666 games, hit 19 home runs, averaged .240.  German striker Rolf Geiger (89), who bagged 76 goals in 186 games for Stuttgart. Croatia greco-roman wrestler Josip Čorak (80), a European champion. Italian track cyclist Sante Gaiardoni (84), winner of two golds at the 1960 Olympics. The French road cyclist José Catieau (77), who held yellow in Le Tour for four days in 1973. Brazilian midfielder Wanderley Paiva (77), with seven caps and 40 different jobs as a coach. Rod Fletcher (78), who scored 30 times in 98 games for Sheffield United. 

May they all rest in peace.

Terry Venables has been remembered eloquently far and wide, his charm was the measure of his dreams. But the nuts and bolts are important too and are logged here.

“Played for England from amateur to full international. Won the Cup with @SpursOfficial as a player in 1967 & manager in 1991. Successful coach with @CPFC @QPR, @FCBarcelona where he won #LaLiga in 1985, Spurs & #ENG reaching the semi of #Euro96”.

Give them whatever international grant funding is needed to make it exhaustive. They missed the departure of Tyrone defender Mickey John Forbes this week, who played in the breakthrough Ulster Championship win in 1973.

The names may not mean much to some of us, but many will be able to colour in the bare statistics with their memories. All of these sheltered somewhere from a shower and stepped into somebody’s arms.

Chris Stone was the 9,008th player to appear in the AFL. You could measure his dreams in the 12 goals he kicked. In those 32 games for St Kilda, he also attracted notice for his protective squash goggles. Two serious injuries to the same eye, once playing footy, once cricket, threatened his sight. 

After football, he got into advertising, moved to the UK and then Belgium. He owned his own billboard company, sold it to multinationals JCDecaux. He married Sophie Wilmes, Belgium’s first female Prime Minister. Wilmes tendered her resignation from government to the Belgian king in July 2022 when Stone became sick with brain cancer. "My husband's illness will be a difficult battle that I want to fight at his side and at the side of our children.”

The scaffold sport provides helps us learn about and remember more than the nuts and bolts. In those 32 games for St Kilda, Chris Stone made an impression. The club marked his passing this week on their website. “Saints people of his era remember Chris as a friendly, easy-going bloke with a ready smile and keen sense of humour.” 

The Manly Warringah Waratah cricketers got the same impression. “We are saddened to hear of the passing of ex-player Chris Stone. Those who played in the mid 80’s remember Chris as a laid-back teammate who was also a great team man.”


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