In ‘The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man', James Joyce articulated the essence of artistic excellence as silence, exile and cunning.
Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street, Dublin where the late Con Houlihan liked to sup on a curious cocktail of brandy and milk, lies 186 miles from his native Castleisland, County Kerry. This was all the distance he needed to be in exile. The silence he compromised upon, holding his hand up to his mouth to speak. As for cunning, it seems he was without any. His awe of the world around him rendered him an innocent.
It's not enough to describe him as a sports journalist; he wrote of literature with particular fondness of Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas and Philip Larkin, and of art.
His house tumbled down with record sleeves, paperbacks and paintings. His kitchen table always stocked the countryman's breakfast of thick ham, real butter and
a loaf. He was as much at home writing about the avant-garde and swinging straight into a tale of turf cutting.
His sporting commentary reeled the masses in. Few have the imagination to immortalise that famous moment when Dublin goalkeeper Paddy Cullen momentarily forgot himself while out of goal, when Kerry's Mikey Sheehy had a brainwave and took a quick free to score a goal.
Cullen's frantic back-pedalling lacked anything like an athletic appearance, and the following day Con had it nailed, comparing it to a suburban housewife pegging out her washing when she smells a cake burning.
Posthumous evaluation of a writers' works can often be determined by the format of the content. Sometimes, newspaper men and women can be written out of the equation. On a train from Castleknock to Drumcondra on Saturday, Dubs supporters were talking about losing two literary legends in a week; himself and Maeve Binchey. His place is already assured.
The cremation takes place today of a man who only entered the man-child world of sports writing at the age of 46, yet left such an enduring impression.