The field is set and seven candidates will fight it out in the 2011 Irish Presidential election. More importantly, one of these candidates will be replacing Mary McAleese in the role of shaking players’ hands before the All-Ireland finals and major Football and Rugby internationals. Emmet Ryan ranks them from 1 to 7 based on who will provide the most fun for sports fans when going through these pleasantries.
A President of Sports dynasties
Before getting to those vying to replace her, it’s worth noting the sheer dominance of certain players and teams during the 14 years of Mary McAleese’s term. During that period Kilkenny have played in 12 All Ireland Senior Hurling Finals, winning 8. McAleese’s time as Uachtarán has also encompassed the entirety of Brian O’Driscoll’s international Rugby career. BOD made his international debut on 12 June 1999 against Australia, a 46-10 defeat which did not indicate the golden era that was to come for Irish Rugby. During McAleese’s presidency there were 5 Heineken Cup triumphs, 4 triple crowns, and Ireland’s first Grand Slam since the presidency of Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh.
On to the rankings…
I’m looking for entertainment value here during those few minutes before the game when the captain or manager introduces the President to the players. While the battle for Áras an Uachtarán may be tight, there are two clear leaders in this race.
1. David Norris
The vote by Dublin City Council may have only got him on the ballot for the election but it was enough to secure victory in this race. Above all other traits associated with Norris, none is more defining here than his voice. I worked on North Great Georges St, where Norris lives, and damn that man shouts everything. My father is nearly deaf and based on that experience the nature of the Joycean scholar’s tone leaves little doubt in my mind that he’s hard of hearing. He isn’t aggressive when he shouts, he does it even when ordering a coffee. That’s the beauty of Norris on the pitch, he will be leaning in to hear while roaring at players. Combine all of that with his being best known for his fondness of literature and a cheesy reference to the All Ireland Final in the Seanad, and you got the total package.
2. Michael D. Higgins
This was oh so close. For all the stupendous assets Norris brings to this battle, Higgins would have won were Devin Toner (who stands 6′ 10″) a regular for the Irish Rugby team. The long serving former TD for Galway West’s diminutive stature will make for a priceless image if he wins the election and walks up to shake Paul O’Connell’s hand. It’s not just the height disparity, Michael D is of normal size for a man of his height. International locks are proportionally bigger. Great effort by Higgins here but without Toner to seal the deal, it’s not quite enough to win.
3. Seán Gallagher
There is a massive drop between our leaders and the field. The battle for bronze was tight and in both cases there was one situation which could provide great craic for those watching. Though from Cavan through and through, Gallagher has substantial ties to Louth through Smarthomes, a business he founded located in Dundalk, and other local business ties. You can probably see where I’m going here but just for our readers who are unfamiliar with Gaelic Football. This happened last year:
Joe Sheridan’s goal that shouldn’t have been for Meath against Louth won’t be forgotten in the Wee County for quite some time. The Royal County may be in the doldrums at the moment but if they somehow make a run to be in Croke Park on the third Sunday in September, it could make for some awkward moments for a president with major Louth connections.
4. Martin McGuinness
I was initially going to knock McGuinness down the ballot as there’s little doubt he’d be comfortable in Croke Park and if he can share government with unionists in Stormont, he can probably get through a pre-match handshake with Ulster Rugby players without incident. There is however one fixture that could provide viewers with something to keep an eye out for and it even happened this year. A Football game between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in Dublin could potentially lead to some awkward moments. There are two major caveats which don’t allow McGuinness to rise above Gallagher based on this alone. First off, the FAI would not be opposed to using the Lord Mayor of Dublin in lieu of the President. Arguably the more important issue however is the uncertainty surrounding the Carling Nations Cup. With Vauxhall’s sponsorship of the Home Nations, it’s almost less likely that these two sides won’t meet in Dublin during the next seven years than Meath winning an All Ireland.
5. Dana Rosemary Scallon
Splitting up the bottom three was really tough, largely because none of them bring much to the table. Dana’s only advantage in this regard is her dodgy fashion history, indicating there is some chance we could see some wild outfits. That’s not a particularly outstanding characteristic. I actually watch Project Runway and if I won’t switch on to see if she’s sporting something awful, it’s not likely sports fans who don’t know who Michael Kors is will either.
6. Gay Mitchell
Now we really are scraping the barrel. Mitchell’s history, having mentioned he’d like to see Dublin host the Olympics (a mad idea then but nowhere near as much as it is now) implies he might even possess a sporty streak. There’s little chance of anything other than straightforward banter. That’s not going to contend with everything above him.
7. Mary Davis
A double-whammy leaves Davis bottom of this ballot. Having headed up Special Olympics Ireland, she knows how to carry herself in a sporting environment. That simply won’t do. She’s further hindered by potentially being the third straight Mary in office but without the proven pre-match banter skills of her predecessors.
Do you agree with me or are there potential ways in which viewers may be amused that I’ve left out? Leave a comment with your thoughts. Note, candidate hacks simply pimping their #1 will get mocked mercilessly.
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