Sport

Paddy Heaney: still a youngster at heart, jumping through the puddles

Paddy Heaney
Paddy Heaney

Our youngest son, Christopher, got a new pair of wellington boots last week.

The second he saw them, he had to get them on.

Christopher loves getting outside for a walk.

Outdoors - he is no problem. Indoors - he can be hard work.

On a good day he is aggressive, bad-tempered and headstrong - he is very like his mother.

He’ll be two in April.

Once Christopher got the new wellingtons on and got outside he was transformed. Watching him jumping through puddles was to watch joy itself.

A few days after Christopher got his new wellingtons, I was getting ready for a run.

Just as I was about to head out, the delivery man arrived.

He had my new trainers. I was delighted. I ripped open the package and put them on immediately.

Not long afterwards, I was bounding down the Tamneymartin Road as happy as a man can be.

As I was jumping around the puddles, it occurred to me that I’m still about two, possibly three years old.

I think Christopher could be a sports journalist.

More than five years have passed since I stopped writing about sport for a living. While I can’t say I miss sports journalism, I do miss sports journalists.

I also miss the trips. The trips were great.

Last week while I was road-testing my new trainers, I was listening to the sound of my foot strike.

‘You’re no Ian O’Riordan,’ I thought to myself.

I was thinking about the time Sean McGoldrick (Sunday World) and Ian (Irish Times) and myself went for a run in Kuala Lumpur.

Sean has run marathons and ultra-marathons. Ian was a very gifted athlete who was awarded a scholarship to Brown University in America.

As we were running through the park, Sean and I were in front of Ian who was chatting away as if he was sitting in the backseat of a car.

“Listen,” said Sean

“Listen to what?” I asked.

“His foot strike,” replied Sean.

You could barely hear Ian’s foot hitting the ground. He was like a bird landing on a perch. That’s what a real runner sounds like.

Sean and I also ran together when the Allstars went to Boston.

We did a big circuit of the Charles River. We were hoping to see Haruki Murakami, author of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but he never showed.

The sound of my feet pounding off the ground maybe scared him away. I’m too fond of the grub.

Declan Bogue (Belfast Telegraph), Colm Keys (Irish Independent) and myself paid a visit to The Boston Cheesecake Factory on that trip.

Commenting on the fare, Big Colm (6ft 5in) said: “You know, it’s so good, and so sweet, it’s actually disgusting.”

I told Colm I had no idea what he was talking about.

I ate my own portion and whatever Declan and Colm failed to eat of theirs.

They were astounded at me. I was astounded at them.

The Irish GAA press corps gets on remarkably well.

Put two dozen of them in a plane and send them anywhere in the world and they’ll get on famously. There are no cliques.

Naturally they all gang up on the Nordies every now and again, but that is to be expected.

They are biased that way - but you already knew that.

There aren’t even demographic divisions and the gaps in age can be significant.

That thought struck me on the Allstar trip to San Francisco when a crowd of us hired bikes and cycled over The Golden Gate Bridge.

Jim O’Sullivan (Irish Examiner) was flying that day.

When we caught up with Jim, I asked him how long he’d been cycling.

“Since the last big oil crisis,” answered Jim.

“The Gulf War?” I ventured.

“No. ’74,” said Jim.

Jim was a much valued member of the press pack.

He was our shop steward. Calm, polite and diplomatic - he was very good at ironing out problems.

Take the famous ‘31st Floor Crisis’ which occurred on the 2008 International Rules Trip.

For the games in Melbourne, the players and press stayed in The Grand Hotel on Collins Street.

Traditionally, we were allowed access to the corporate suite on the 31st floor which provided internet access, computers and an extensive spread of all the food and drink you could consume.

However, on arrival at the hotel, we were duly informed that the 31st floor was off limits to us.

I suggested petrol bombs. Fortunately Jim was left to sort it out. And Jim got it sorted.

If Jim was our shop steward, then Sean Moran (Irish Times) was our chairman.

A Trinity law graduate who starred in the university’s debating team, it was collectively acknowledged that Sean was our wise old owl.

So, in recognition of Sean’s all round sageness, he was bestowed a very important job.

In restaurants, it was Sean’s job to order the wine.

Watching Sean with his glasses tilted on the edge of his nose as he studied a wine list, you might struggle to see the toddler jumping through puddles. But he was there all right. You just had to wait until Everton were playing.

While you couldn’t draw Sean Moran into an argument, you couldn’t stop Martin Breheny (Irish Independent) from starting them.

I have argued with Martin Breheny for hours. He can be hard work. We always got on extremely well.

In the last few International Rules trips, Sean, Martin and myself organised our own travel package.

Sean did all the heavy lifting. Martin’s job was to get the seats beside the exit doors (more legroom). This involved talking nicely to the person at the check-in desk.

Galway charm is an international currency. Regardless of the continent or the language - Martin has a 100 per cent success rate.

One of my favourite arguments with Martin took place in the residents bar of The Grand Hotel in Melbourne. It was the early hours - Martin, Sean and myself.

Even by his own Olympian standards, Martin was in magnificent form.

His opening pitch was fantastic. “Based on your style of column writing, which instrument would you play in a band?”

I was still thinking when the Killererin full-back came steaming in hard and heavy. Needless to say, it wasn’t a question. It was a set-up.

“You’d be a big Ulster drummer, bashing out one steady predictable beat the whole time.”

He could barely contain the smile.

And that kicked it off, as Martin knew it would, and off we went, jumping through the puddles.