America Got Bin Laden. . . and Other Tales Of All Ireland Madness

24 September 2013
Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 17.01.37The 16th Man and Referees in General

What is it about All Ireland winning managers? Is the stress of the job sucking the enthusiasm and enjoyment out winning? Is the winning of Sam Maguire not a time for unabashed celebration? Last year it was Jim McGuinness seizing the headlines at the post match press conference. On Sunday it was Jim Gavin who let rip at refs who he considers all season have had it in for the Dubs. “Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well. . . We play the game with certain values in the squad and we play the game the way we believe it should be played.”

Tis a pity that in the warm Autumnal afterglow of victory that the manager can’t just focus on the positives rather then dwell on perceived slights. It was he who said before the final: “For me, the most important thing or maybe the most enjoyable, is those few moments you can reflect with the team in the confines of the dressing room in the depths of the stadium afterwards.” Enjoy it Jim, it’s what you’ve put your life on hold for.

The Foul Count

And. . .  live from Sesame Street we have the Count: ‘HA Ha ha ha. . . and today’s number is 30 and today’s letter is capital ‘C’ for cynicism.” That’s what the Count thought of Sunday’s game. Do you agree? With all of Dublin’s attacking play they out fouled Mayo by 30 to 12. And the end with the game in the mixer and 13 players on the field, the All Ireland champions did what other teams did all season and disrupted, fouled and delayed Mayo as much as they could to hang on to what they had. Perhaps they learned that from that Tyrone match they played in the league earlier in the year. . . or are we just being cynical.

The 30 Seconds That Were(n’t?)

Not since the assassination of President Kennedy and the Grassy knoll has there been such a conspiracy theory. What did referee Joe McQuillan say to Cillian O’Connor before the fateful free? And where did those 30 seconds go? You wouldn’t see the likes of it in the hurling final. . . . Today in the press the Cavan whistler states unequivocally that he told the player that there was 30 seconds left: “I simply said ‘there’s 30 seconds left’ and that was from the moment he asked me. I said it three times, I’m sure plenty of players heard me and I was on an open mic to all my match officials.” That ends the matter surely. But with twelve Dublin players behind the ball, he wouldn’t have scored a goal anyway. Or would he. . .

The Parade and Other Traditional Routes

Some Mayo people basking in the DTs of defeat have raised the question as to why the Dubs always get to kick in to the Hill 16 end and why they broke away from the pre match parade early. Was it because there were a lot of Mayo folks on the Hill? Well we all remember the last time another team warmed up into the Hill, Pilar Caffrey dozed into John Morrison and Mayo dietician Mary McNicolas was knocked rotten by a flying O’Neills size five. Twas mighty craic for the supporters as seventy or more grown men ran about like kids in a playground. But seriously folks, Croke Park is Dublin’s home patch so surely people should just let them warm up at the Hill 16 end if they want to. If teams aren’t going to observe the tradition of the pre match parade then is it time to get rid?

Osama Bin Laden: ‘My Role in Mayo’s All Ireland’

A videotape has emerged, apparently recorded in a Cave in the Tora Bora in Afghanistan by the late Osama Bin Laden, predicting that Mayo will win Sam Maguire and that all other curses and piseogs are subject to a fatwa. Seriously though, what of Mayo County Council Chairman’s rallying cry ‘America got Bin Laden, Mayo will get Sam Maguire. Is this fair? After all, one is an outfit with extremist fanatical supporters pursuing a series of grievances real and imagined; the other is a former Al Qaeda leader assassinated by the United States. Extremists Abu!

Hands Across the Border

So Martin McGuinness is planning to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth.

My problem with the British Royal Family is more to do with being born into privilege than the fact they represent such unrelenting Britishness which I always abhored but more frequently nowadays ignore.

My father had an apt saying for people that did not merit coming under his notice. Don’t even ignore them he would say.

“By the lonely prison wall I heard a young girl calling, Michael, they are taking you away”

For her part the Queen of England has shaken hands with some fairly distasteful people. Distasteful to me. To her perhaps. To others. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Saudi Princes, Augusto Pinochet, George Bush, Robert Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa.

“For you stole Trevelyn’s corn, So the young might see the morn, Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay”

My daughter sings a wee song the refrain of which goes ‘So let us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.’ Some day next week in a small corner of the Lyric Theatre this minor drama will play itself out. Martin, the alleged former commander of Oglaigh na hÉireann will shake hands with the Commander in Chief of the British Forces.

Last year when the House of Windsor descended on Ireland, the southerners couldn’t have been more sycophantic fawning over a British Queen. Since then Martin made his own pitch for Head of State and realised in the process that he was probably less popular in the Country whose freedom he has dedicated his life to, than the Monarch from whose chains he wished to unshackle his countrymen.

“By a lonely prison wall I heard a young man calling, Nothing matters Mary when you’re free”

Somewhere along the election road did Martin realise the futility of it? Today’s statement by Gerry Adams was interlaced with the sort of coded language designed assuage his more militant comrades. Sinn Fein are still sticking to their task. A United Ireland is still on the cards. Such is their sensitivity, that Martin rubbing hands with QE II won’t be photographed. That is a clinch too far.

How far we have come in the last few years. The pride of the Irish nation is at rock bottom after the bankers and the developers and the gobshites and the planners were let loose on the country. Truth be told they did more damage to Ireland than Martin and his comrades. The place has never been worse.

In the last week we have had a former Republican Hunger Striker turned developer assert his British identity in the bankruptcy court. Did he foresee that day would come on the blanket in the Kesh. The Irish soccer team’s abject capitulation caused a salvo of navel gazing not seen since Saipan as we asked are we a nation of competitors or cheerleaders cum beer leaders. Toasting every defeat with another pint of booze as the latest disaster befalls our hapless people.

“Against the Famine and the Crown, I rebelled they ran me down”

And the anthem that plays behind this farrago of faded green is the dirge-fest funereal Fields of Athenry that laments the single biggest disaster to befall our nation. Still it could be worse, I suppose it could be the dreaded Ireland’s Call, the Shoulder Song as my brother in law calls it.

Still, for Martin and Elizabeth Windsor, to give her republican name, Ireland is Calling.

“Now you must raise our child with dignity.”

Get on with it, behind closed doors if necessary, so we can all move on with the real business in hand.

Sing Then You’re Winning?

So Ireland were outclassed and outplayed by a superior Spanish team, who are after all reigning European Champions and World Cup Winners.

No-one seriously can have expected a different outcome can they? The performance and result were disappointing, particularly given what we’ve seen before from Trapp’s team with its defensive organisation and ability to frustrate.

In the aftermath of last night’s game, many commentators have commented on the tremendous support for the Boys in Green coming from the stands. The support was unconditional, the chanting designed to get the faintest of hearts pumping and the rendition of the Fields of Athenry that reverberated round Gdansk, well it was a thing of wonder.

Or was it? Was this, as John Delaney of the FAI described it, the ‘Abiding Memory’ of Poland? Or should we be looking for something more. Maybe something on the pitch? Are we as Irish people starting to become weary of this stereotype that we’ll go along for the sing song and the party and enjoy ourselves irrespective of the result.

Or are we accepting of results, win lose or draw so long as we can have a good time, sinking a few pints and having the craic with the locals and the other fans. Harmless and roaming free with the wife’s permission and the Credit Union’s cash?

There is no denying the gulf in class between Trappatoni’s Ireland and the likes of Spain. The personnel just aren’t there to go toe to toe with the likes of the better teams. Really once qualified, are we just going along for the craic? Are our expectations too high?

And as one academic commented last night, are we also content to leave as our abiding legacy at this tournament a lamentable dirge about the biggest single catastrophe to befall the Irish people.

To hell with Trevelyn and his bloody corn.

Run This One Up The Flagpole

I have had several engagements on Twitter with various people concerning the juvenile goings on in Belfast City Council. It was ever thus. I wrote about the general tenor of Belfast City Council earlier.

During one of these engagements I pointed out that the red saltire on the Union Flag referred to as the Cross of St Patrick has little connection with this island and is in fact an English creation.

It is frequently trotted out as the ‘Irish’ part of the Union flag, but the St Patrick’s Cross itself was invented by George III in 1783, following his establishment of the Chivalric Order of St Patrick. It is as Irish in origin as St Patrick himself. He was by various accounts Cornish or Welsh. He also drove the snakes out of Ireland according to legend. Were there any here in the first place I dare ask?

One of my correspondents on Twitter, a DUP Councillor called Lee Henderson very helpfully advised me that the St Patrick’s Cross was used earlier on Coinage Maps to do with Ireland ergo it is an Irish symbol. A red cross on a white background? Surely some genius prior to 1783 may have already used this device to signify something. I beg to differ.

This is a DUP man arguing with me over the Irish or non-Irishness of a symbol. In the action of making this assertion is he asserting his own Irishness? In denying that it is an Irish symbol am I undermining my own Irishness? In my mind all the time is a-rattling around Seamus Heaney’s ‘Be advised my passport’s green. . .’.

But there is a particular obsession in these parts with flags. In Portstewart this summer past, the local tribe asserted their territory by hoisting a very large Union Flag right in the middle of the Diamond.

It was unnecessarily large. It was a statement. It was a “look at this big flag and take it down if you dare” Statement. There it fluttered and flew proudly all through the marching season. The flag of their Union.

A few people mumbled about that bloody flag and threatened to make a few calls to ask could it be removed when the marching season had come and long gone. Still it flew, billowing out, telling all and sundry, all the golfers and tourists and day trippers, that this was a red white and blue town. I’m sure a few of them stopped and wondered. But sure what the hell matter a few tourists, especially if they’re from the South. Don’t want them back anyway even with their Euros.

Then along came a good autumn storm from in off the sea. The sort that can blow a man off his bike; wreak havoc with the washing line; hurl your flowerpots and shrubs up the street and send bins slewing across the road.

The flag in the diamond already slightly bedraggled from the long damp summer had a bad time with the storm. It slipped one of its bindings and flew crazily in the wind, no longer flag-like but denuded, tattered, like a dishcloth on a clothesline attached with only the one peg. The edges frayed and tattered as it jerked and shuddered in the Atlantic wind. And then, when the wind died, there it hung, limp, demoralised. Spent.

The people that put it up were concerned about the statement made when erected, but when the standard fell it made an even stronger statement. There was no-one there to save its blushes. It was a frayed and torn shadow of its former self.

Eventually it disappeared. Perhaps it was put out of its misery.

And no doubt another one will appear next time, perhaps bigger and stronger. And it will billow and dip and flutter all summer. And maybe if the owners care about the flag as much as they claim to, they will take it down a bit earlier. Before it becomes nothing more than a ragged dishcloth and a symbol of dis-Union.