Think helium balloons and amphetamines and maybe some drink. In fact, definitely a few drinks. Think roaring and panting and breathlessly talking into a mic. Think a man who is always in line for a good dose of laryngitis. He has voice with more animation than a child’s on Christmas morning. It’s hyper and hearty and soprano and alto all at once. It could probably break glass. Think Tom Jones, Big Tom and Frank Patterson all rolled into one.
What language does this voice-lord speak you ask? Déise. Pure Déise. A native form you might find around the sidelines and dressing rooms of De La Salle, Waterford. Like all dialects, it has its own vocab, nuances and what have yous. Though this cunning linguist coins his own language every few breaths or so. And no one complains. Sure how could we? They are the GUBUs of this generation. Great. Unique. Bonkers. Unforgettable. He turns the mundane into the insane.
Take just this year, for example. Ennis, June 2018. Epic game of the tightest margins. Our voice-lord was covering it. He was reveling in it. Loving every poc and catch of the game. His commentary did not belie his passion. We all heard how the ref had got a call right, the next one wrong, a miss should’ve been scored, a block was sublime. We all heard how one point was scored with the legs to land it the far side of Ennis, and how the next took such flight it wound up in Boston.
His sagacity extends to the highways and byways of the land. “You never have Kilkenny beaten till you’re driving down the motorway,” he roared in the next game, with more energy than a box of plastic explosives. He has been breathless during games, talking so wildly that he has literally run out of breath. But no more honest a man will you find, owning up to it immediately “I can’t keep up, I’m out of breath, it’s unreal.”
The author may have missed her chance to sit beside the voice-lord on a flight back from an Old Firm game a few years ago. She may have chosen to swap her seat and sit beside a special Mr. something or other, for reasons that will never be discussed in public. Although when the swapee came back to point out that he was delighted with the swap because it meant he got to sit beside the Waterford legend, she did feel a pang of guilt. A flight bantering with him about Celtic would have been epic, no doubt. Besides, her mother loves him and if she knew that her daughter had flunked the chance to sit beside him, she’d be given the back of the hand fairly sharpish. Her mother was never informed. And never will be.
In a world of wonderful sports commentators, there’s no shortage of choice when you pick your favourites. We all know a few hyper-dyed dudes that are pretty good and a few iconoclasts who no longer take to the airwaves but are forever echoing in our ears. And then there’s John Mullane. An absolute legend who talks and breathes hurling. And sometimes, hurling takes his breath away, just as listening to him does mine.