As Ireland enters one of its darkest hours, wavering politicians half-heartedly utter uninspiring rhetoric and the Irish population winces at the mere mention of “economy”. According to The Guardian, rumours have been circulating that the Irish Central Bank has started printing punts in the event that the Eurozone collapses. The chief economist of Bloxham Stockbrokers Alan McQuaid met the rumours with the stern opinion that “while the idea of leaving the euro and being the masters of our own destiny has appeal, I think the negatives outweigh the positives.”.
In the event that these rumours are true, a pertinent question, to my mind however is, what will this punt look like? Who or what will assume their place on a currency re-introduced as a consequence of astronomical debt and amateur mishandling of affairs? Whose image will represent a successful Ireland? Whose image will inspire the Irish people? Politicians can be immediately ruled out; Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen, Eamon Gilmore? Who would have them?
The answer can only be sportsmen and sportswomen. In the pre-Celtic Tiger days, it was the success of Jack Charlton’s Boys in Green who raised the spirit of the nation. And considering that there is such a wide variety of sport that almost anyone can take part in or at least relate to, there is a near universal appeal; something everyone can rally around and take pride in.
If the experts are to be believed, we will soon see a marked increase in the standard of our sportsmen and women. John Giles, commenting on the ever-declining standards of world football said that the problem is, “that the kids nowadays have got personal stereos and higher education.”. Similarly, his colleague Eamon Dunphy once said that “you need dictatorships and poverty to produce great footballers”. So having a sportsman or woman as the face of the punt will be the perfect way in which to represent this emerging nation of athletes.
McGuigan won the European Featherweight crown in 1983 and two years later, he became the WBA World Featherweight Champion. In a time when Ireland needs a unifying, fighting figure, who better than the “Clones Cyclone” to help Ireland once again punch above its weight?
One of the most successful Irish sportsmen of all time, Roy Keane’s snarling visage was enough to elevate him to the position of captain at Manchester United and Republic of Ireland. Corkonians could argue that, not only is theirs “the real capital”, but that one of theirs is the symbol of the nation. However, taking into consideration the nature of events in Saipan in 2002, having Roy Keane on the punt has the potential to cause the worst divide in the nation since partition, with Munster establishing its own republic.
He won the World Snooker Championship at the first attempt in 1972 before reclaiming the title 10 years later. Perhaps his greatest legacy is that many of today’s household names credit the ‘Hurricane’ as being the man that attracted them to the sport in the first place. Having Higgins as the face of our new currency would be the cue for recovery, but we could end up snookered.
Brian O’Driscoll is a classy, educated leader. He has long been the face, as well as the industrious hub, of Irish rugby. O’Driscoll represents strength and success on the world stage, but Munster fans would inevitably demand to see equivalent Paul O’Connell punts.
Sportsman turned politician, Coughlan remains Ireland’s only ever male World Champion gold medallist. He competed at three Olympics, twice finishing fourth but his defining moment came when he won the 5,000m at the World Championships in Helsinki 1983. Now a senator, Coughlan is in a perfect position to take the lead on the punt as Ireland cuts loose and races away from Europe.
“Big Jack” is the most successful manager of the Irish national football team, having guided the team to three major tournaments, notably taking the scalp of England in Stuttgart 1988. A no nonsense type of guy, Charlton would symbolise a route-one journey to recovery. Nevertheless, there is a danger that having an Englishman on the punt would weaken Irish sovereignty and we wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we…?
At the risk of further enhancing the superiority complex of Corkonians, successful athlete Sonia O’Sullivan could donate some of her many gold and silver medals to the nation in return for having her face on the punt. However, her decision to represent Australia as well as Ireland could be seen as symptomatic of the bane of emigration in these tough times.
A wizard with a football, George Best has the distinction of already appearing on currency, when on the first anniversary of his death, Ulster Bank issued one million commemmorative £5 notes. A high-flying genius on the football field, Best’s image has the capacity to inspire a mazy run from the eurozone and to the goal of economic recovery.