Last week we ran a piece about the ‘street angel and house devil’. We gave several examples of the meaning of the term. Since then, something happened here which prompted this column to reverse the roles of ‘devils and angels’ and draw your attention to the fact that there are also street devils who are house angels.
What got me thinking along these lines was the well-publicised retirement of a famous inter-county footballer, Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly. For those foreigners among you, Connolly was rarely off the sports pages of our national papers – and occasionally he even made the front page. He was a teak-tough, uncompromising player who engaged in battle ‘on the edge’. ‘The Hill’ (The ‘Kop’ of Gaelic football) loved him above all others. It is fair to say he commanded love and hate in equal measure for his ‘uncompromising’ style of play.
I can truthfully say that I don’t hate anybody … except I would have identified with the hate camp where Diarmuid Connolly was concerned. That is until the day I got up close and personal with this holder of a multitude of ‘All-star’ awards and a bag of All-Ireland medals!
It was in the bar during the half-time break of a match in Croke Park. Diarmuid was with two other guys at a table next to mine. A couple of girls came over looking for ‘selfies’. (No … not with me – and no need to be sarcastic, Lads) I made some smart remark and with that, I got drawn into conversation with the three ‘Dubs’; and like Johnny Cash in ‘A boy named Sue’, ‘I came away with a different point of view.’
We talked about Boston – from where he had just returned, hurling, (not everyone will know that Connolly is a talented hurler as well) and mostly light-hearted banter. Diarmuid’s humour, quick wit and interest in other people really floored me.
I have to say he came across as one of the warmest, friendliest and most genuine guys one could wish to have in company. Some contrast with the terror on the pitch – and illustrates the fact that we can get the ‘house angels’ wrong as well as the ‘house devils!’
In similar vein, and whilst we are on a football theme – and doing a bit of name-dropping; let me tell you about Tommy Dowd. I ‘hated’ Tommy Dowd when he played for Meath. A stand-out player with two All-Ireland medals and four All-star awards, he epitomised the ‘hardness’ of that Meath team.
Possessing silken skills and an amazing reflex mechanism, my abiding memory of those days is Dowd going through the Westmeath defence like a battering-ram. His expression was a cross between dour and smug. No, I had made up my mind about Tommy Dowd because I didn’t like what I saw… Then I met him!
I discovered Tommy to be one of the nicest, most genuine guys I have ever met. He is warm, gentle, caring, a great family man, a good friend – and great company. We have done a bit of business together over the years and he is one man I love sitting down to have a coffee with. Oh, did I mention modest?!
So you see, when we think we know people – we don’t know them at all – until we get to know them!
I remember Pat Quinn being interviewed by Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show, after his supermarket empire had imploded. Pat Quinn was the man who came back from America around 1970 and founded the ‘Quinnsworth’ chain of Irish supermarkets. He was an overnight sought-after personality beloved of chat-show hosts and the ‘beautiful people’ of the day. Then again, almost overnight, Quinn, who had over-stretched the company, went bust and into receivership.
Interviewed by Gay, a year or two afterwards, Pat Quinn said that the greatest lesson he had learned was how difficult it is to know who your real friends are until you have nothing left. “I was wrong about half of them’, he said: “Half of those I thought I would have been able to count upon, turned their backs; and half of those from whom I would not have expected anything – they supported me.”
We have all come across the types that move on the other side of the road as soon as you are of no further use to them, but it is most often impossible to know them in advance. If a telepathic machine is ever invented, whereby everyone knows what the other person is thinking … there will be no two of us speaking to each other.
And I’ll leave you with this one: Adolf Hitler was exceptionally good to his mother…
Goodness consists not so much in the outward things we do, but in the inward things we are.