Monday, December 29, 2008

The Sporting Year in Review and Preview

The man Irish rugby cannot do without. Go bhfoire Dia orainnOne of the many stings of the current recession is the memory of what was. The squandering and the waste of the riches that once were, and are no longer. As far as the rugby public of Ireland are concerned; you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The cold hard fact of the matter is that Ireland and Italy are the only countries in the Six Nations that have not won the Championship in the past twenty-three years. And not only have England, France, Wales and Scotland won multiple championships in that time, each of them has at least one Grand Slam as well in that period. What have Ireland to show for this? A few devalued Triple Crowns and a lot of old blather about rugby in Croke Park and Paul O’Connell pyjamas.

That was the good news. The bad news is that it’s about to get worse. The lack of foresight that characterises Irish government is also becoming clearer as the golden generation ages in Irish rugby. The rise of the provinces – well, one of the provinces – as an entity in the international game comes at a cost. Time was when the clubs were the next level down from the international team; a provincial cap was not a necessary precursor to an international cap. Now the gap is too wide, meaning that there are now only three teams from which Ireland can choose her international side. There is a ragbag of exiles, parental rules and Hell-or-Connacht, but the reality is that the Irish pick of players has never been so small.

Look at the current out-half situation. If Ronan O’Gara slips coming out of the betting shop some frosty January morning Ireland do not have anyone who can replace him. Nor is one likely to appear; in the professional game, the choice between accepting losses as the cost of developing young players in specialised positions and flying in some nearly-was from Australia is a starkly simple one. Munster is now in danger of eclipsing Ireland as an entity in the national sporting psyche – did you notice how both Ronan O’Gara and Anthony Foley were pictured on the front of their autobiographies in the red of Munster rather than the green of Ireland? – but in ten years’ time, how many Irish eligible players will be playing for the Irish provinces? Grim times.

Thank goodness, then, that the Championship still rolls on, giving the summer meaning and definition year after year. The football championship was another classic this year, as Tyrone confirmed their place as the team of the decade. Kerry’s team of all talents lost focus over the Galvin affair, and the behaviour of former Kerry greats in defending the disgraceful antics of their former captain did the proud county no favours. Perhaps if Kerry had cut Galvin loose the Monday after the Clare game they would be All-Ireland champions today? Hubris is Greek for getting too big for your boots.

And how wonderful it is that Kerry have responded to Tyrone’s victory by recalling Jack O’Connor to the colours. O’Connor has a chip on his shoulder the size of the rock of Gibraltar, and he is brought back solely to put down the Ulster rising. How delicious would it be should Kerry meet Mayo in another All-Ireland final? O’Connor’s frustrations would be Olympian. Mayo would get hammered out the gate, of course, but the weeping would be louder in the Kerry dressing room. A backwards sort of victory for the heather county, but at this stage we’d take it.

Not that Mayo should worry about September too much in 2009. Worrying about September, in fact, is partly what has got my beloved native heath into this mess in the first place. It was common in Mayo to remark, in the post-five o’clock agonies of another Final defeat, that we would have been better not getting out of Connacht. Now that wish has come true, how odd that the gloom has darkened rather than lifted.

One of the reasons behind the remarkable momentum of John O’Mahony’s return was the idea that Johnno was the man to take the team “the final step.” Instead, Johnno has dismantled that fine team of 2004 and 2006, and what is to come in their place is far from clear. Falling to a risen Ross in June would find a far less forging Mayo public.

In hurling, the black and amber imperium extends the boundaries of its empire. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh – who else – said it best when the third goal went in against hapless Waterford in this year’s All-Ireland final. “Kilkenny are going after this three-in-a-row,” he said, “like they had never won anything before.”

An Spailpín Fánach notes with sadness the way Kilkenny are being portrayed in some quarters as being “bad for hurling.” What’s bad about taking the game to new heights of excellence? How can that be bad? It’s up to the other counties to match them, rather than have Kilkenny fall back to the chasing pack. If anybody wants to win anything, they have to stop feeling sorry for themselves first.

Speaking of which. The Cork dispute has extended now to the footballers. The Cork County Board’s choice is clear. They must enter teams in all competitions as usual, staring in January, or else absent themselves from competitions. If some players don’t want to play, that’s their privilege. There is no slavery here. The Cork Board should simply find someone else and play them, or else not enter competitions, just as Kilkenny, say, don’t enter the football or Mayo don’t enter the hurling championship. It’s quite simple, really. I’m sure I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Finally – An Spailpín seldom bothers with the soccer, due to the high preponderance of cheats, cowards, spivs, divers and other wastrels in that game. But I am an unabashed admirer of Giovanni Trapattoni, and the more he digs in over the so-called Andy Reid controversy, the more I like him.

The fact of the matter is that Ireland just do not have any world class players right now. Andy Reid is not a world class player. He isn’t. So Trapattoni has to take what he’s stuck with and he’s making the best of that. Seven points out of a possible nine is good going, and the home support getting anxious because of an overly-defensive style just don’t realise that they’re dealing with a man with a completely different way of looking at the world. Catenaccio isn’t a type of pasta you know.

Perhaps they’re like this fellow over on the right, pictured after Trapattoni’s Italy lost in World Cup in 2002, who demands that Trapattoni be hanged with his fecking catenaccio. I translate out of the fear that as most of those boys who would criticise the vecchio Italiano struggle through their Star of a lunch break, the language of Dante and Da Ponte is more than likely beyond them. Bulgaria are next up at home in March; if Trapattoni can get a result, Ireland have one foot on the plane to South Africa. No-one in the state will be able to afford the trip to go out and watch them of course, but still. It’s the principle of the thing.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas to All, from An Spailpín Fánach

No matter how much any of us believed that the boom couldn't last and that soft landings were spoken of more in hope than expection, I don't think anybody anticipated that the end would be so sudden, so jarring and severe. And the worst is yet to come, of course.

So in these cheery circumstances, maybe it's best to give thanks for what we do have instead of mourning what's lost and gone forever. Here's wonderful Renée Fleming singing O Holy Night - Nollag shona daoibh uilig, agus go mbéarfaimid go léir beo ag an am seo arís.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Two CDs

One of the more notorious of RTÉ’s acts of cultural vandalism over the years is the decision to wipe all TV tape of Seán Ó Riada from the archives. Now, An Spailpín is getting worried that the damage is even more extensive than we thought.

Gael Linn, as part of their policy of re-releasing Seán Ó Riada’s albums over the past few years, have released three more, as a triple CD set called Pléaráca an Riadaigh. These are three original studio recordings of Ó Riada at the height of his powers – Reacaireacht an Riadaigh, Ceol na nUasal and Ding Dong. But what’s bothering An Spailpín is a throwaway reference in the sleeve notes to a weekly radio show that Ó Riada did for RTÉ in the sixties. Reacaireacht an Riadaigh, the first of these albums to be recorded, is essentially a collection of the greatest hits of that radio series and if they’ve all been wiped since like the TV recordings – well, it’s a scandal is what it is.

With the country going down the tubes at a rate of knots this Christmas it’s good – if not vital – to be reminded of why it was all worthwhile in the first place. Why the Irish deserved independence; what separated us from the other three kingdoms. And Pléaráca an Riadaigh helps us explain part of it.

Seán Ó Riada is part of the landscape now but it’s always important to remember just how revolutionary his approach was. Irish music had no respect in the general population before him; Ó Riada’s great gift was to be able to show how the ancient airs have their place in the pantheon of world music, before that phrase was even invented. For anyone who wants to know who we are and where we came from Pléaráca an Riadaigh is an essential purchase.

Funnily enough, the sleeve notes are the most disappointing aspect of the whole presentation. Other Ó Riada releases have included full lyrics for the songs in the sleeve notes. This does not, and their loss is keenly felt. All the more so because it is Darach Ó Catháín, not Seán Ó Sé, who does the singing on Reachtaireacht an Riadaigh.

What makes this significant is the fact that Darach Ó Catháin was a sean-nós singer. Sean-nós is the diametric opposite of easy listening music. Sean-nós is hard work. The best way to approach it is to realise just how very old it is – it’s a medieval form of music, really. It’s solo chanting more than singing. It does not record well, and soft chat about sean-nós being the soul music of Ireland doesn’t cut it. It’s a terrible pity that Gael Linn didn’t see fit to print the lyrics, or the words of the pices spoken by Seán Ó Riada himself. Certain hollow men in the media like to speak of “spoken Irish”; An Spailpín is pretty sure that he is not alone in thinking it’s easier when it’s written down.

An Spailpín has not seen John Spillane’s new album, Irish Songs We Learned at School, but it will be very surprising if that isn’t comprehensively annotated. There’s no point otherwise. The song selection is good of course – these are great songs – but the decision to have actual children sing on the record is misguided. The idea is clearly that kids will respond better to kids, but the idea of having the songs sung as well as they can be sung seems the stronger notion to me. Maybe it’s a matter of taste.

Why does it matter in the first place? This is why. If that rotten Carlsberg ad of earlier this year had its protagonist say “Beidh aonach amárach i gContae an Chláir” instead of the rubbish he did come out with, they would have got their point across, got the echo of the schoolroom and shown some respect for the language into the bargain. That was a bridge too far it seems. So three cheers for John Spillane then, for doing his bit ar son na cúise in these dark and empty winter days.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Ceacht Brónach Foghlamtha ag Nua Eabhrac

Tá do scríobhnóir rialta ag scríobh i seomra feitheamh éigin in aerport JFK faoi láthair. Seo an saol sa chéad aois is fiche; na daoine agus a ríomhairí ar a nglúine acu, ar líne i gcónaí i ngach chuile áit.

Seo an dara chuairt riamh a thugas ar Nua Eabhrac, agus tá an domhan athraithe go deo ó laethanta an chéad cuairte, cé nach raibh sí ach trí bhliain déag uainn anois. I 1995, bhíos im' chónaí i gcathair Jersey, agus an traen á thógail isteach go dtí an Ionad Trádála Domhanda an am sin. Tá na túir imithe anois, agus toradh an lá úd a chailleadh iadsan beo laidir fós sa chathair.

Thugas cuairt ar an Empire State Building an chuairt seo, rud nár bhac leis roimhe seo - nuair nach mbíodh deoch le fáil ann níor bhacainn le tada an uair sin. An uair seo, tá cúrsaí slándála chomh dian seo bíonn siad cosuil leis an aerphort. Is cuimhin leis na Meircéanaigh go ghearr cad a tharla ar 9/11 agus bígí cinnte agus lánchinnte go bhfuil a gceacht fóghlamtha acu, agus foglamtha go maith.

Is é Times Square ceann de na h-aiteanna is cáiliúl sa chathair. Tá ionad thógáil ag an arm i gcroí-lár Times Square anois, ar thaobh an áit a cheannaítear ticéidí do na seóanna ar an mBealach Breá Bán, mar a chuirtear air. Os a chomhair tá dealbh in ónóir an tAthair Pronsias Ó Dufaigh, sagairt a sheasadh leis an "Fighting 69th" san arm i rith an Chéad Cogadh Domhanda. Tá cúrsaí mar a gcéanna i Times Square roimh an ionsaigh ar 9/11, na saibhir is daibhir lena chéile agus gach uile duine acu ar thóir a mbríonglóidí féin, ach tá blás níos dáiríre ann ag an am céanna. Tuigeann na Meiricéanaigh go bhfuil cogadh ar siúl, cogadh atá níos laidre ná an Iaráic amháin, agus cogadh nach mbeidh thart go deo na ndeor.

Chaith iriseoir éigin a bhróga chuig an Uachtarán Bush inne ins an Iaráic. An t-aon rud faoi a chuireann ionadh ar an Spailpín ná go bhfuil an iriseoir beo fós - shíleas go mbeidh pílear trína chloigín roimhe a bhuailfeadh an bróg an talamh arís. Bhí alt ag fear éigin sa Guardian ar maidin go mbeidh orthu dul isteach chuig crinniú iriseoireachta anois agus a gcosa nochta acu; ní thuigeann an fear sin go bhfuil cogadh ar siúl, ach tuigeann na Meircéanaigh.

Chuaigh an Spailpín isteach chuig Gypsy oíche Dé Sathairn - is é an seó cheoil ar Bhroadway ceann de na rudaí is fearr a thug na Meiriceánaigh don domhan. Is ceol dochais é ceol Broadway - "Everything's Coming Up Roses," mar a chastar i Gypsy. Tá an dochas ann fós i saol Meiriceá, ach tá fios acu anois go bhfuil namhaid ann, agus go bhfuil an saol soinneanta thart anois, gan filleadh ar áis go deo.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008


“In Poland,” said the man on the bus, “we don’t let our children put their feet on the seats.”

An Spailpín was on the bus home, queuing for the next stop. Ahead of me, a man was talking to the driver. They knew each other. Perhaps they spoke in English in order to practise; perhaps the driver wasn’t Polish as well, but an immigrant from somewhere else. I don’t know.

“If the children are on their own, of course, they will put up their feet – it’s the natural instinct to rebel,” the man continued. “But what I can’t understand is why they do it when they are accompanied by a parent. Why don’t the parents stop them from being so selfish?”

An Spailpín has thought hard about that Polish man in the past few days since the horrific shooting of Aidan O’Kane in East Wall, Dublin, on Sunday night. An Spailpín does not attempt, of course, to draw a parallel between putting feet on bus seats and gun crime. But your correspondent is pretty damned sure that if a child has sufficient consideration to put his or her feet on the floor and leave the seat opposite open for other commuters, that child will not then collect a dozen eggs when he or she gets home and goes off with his or her friends for an evening’s hooliganism.

The bigger picture here is not this particular shooting, terrifying though it is. The issue is that there is a sub-strata of feral youth that exists outside of the society that supports them, and there is zero political will to tackle the situation. Because tackling the situation would mean a radical rethink of the way Western society has been organised since the Second World War.

In certain areas of cities, there are gangs of children hanging around outside convenience shops in the evening. Their pastime is to harass and annoy the people working in the shop. Does it ever occur to them that these shop workers are people just like themselves, trying to get by, who don’t need a depressing job made worse by this hooliganism? No, it does not. All they are into is themselves. They show exactly the same ability to empathise or look to the future as an animal.

And what can the shop security do about this? Nothing. That’s why the kids persist. Their parents don’t care. The children know they can’t be touched. What’s the point in chasing them if you can’t do anything once you catch them? What’s the point in calling the Guards? What are the Guards going to do? The Irish Times reports that Mr O’Kane contacted the Guards on Saturday night after an attempt was made to torch his car. But what were the Guards to do? What do they ever do?

There are two factors here. The first is that there is a tremendous abdication of parental responsibility. You only need a license for a dog, not a child, after all. The second is that the Guards’ hands are tied by a judicial revolving door process. If you have twenty previous convictions, what earthly difference will a twenty-first make to you? How deeply depressing is it to read in this morning’s Irish Independent that a thirteen year old being held for questioning in the Aidan O’Kane killing is out on bail, while the prime suspect, a fifteen year old, has “made several court appearances in the past?”

At some stage, unknown to ourselves as a society, we lost the big picture. At some stage the needs of the many became less important than the needs of the few. Societal order is held to ransom because nobody is willing to be judgemental; nobody is willing to say that hooligans are not victims. They are hooligans, full stop.

How unwilling are we to say that? We’re so unwilling that the only person who uses the word “hooliganism” to describe people throwing eggs at other people’s houses is myself. “Anti-social behaviour” is what hooliganism is called now – look at the story in the Irish Times again. Anti-social behaviour is turning down an invitation for after work drinks in Neary’s; throwing eggs at people’s houses, annoying shopkeepers and shooting people is criminal hooliganism, and should be punished as such.

Mr Dermot Ahern, Minister for Justice, said in the Dáil debate on the Shane Geoghegan killing that “the Government will rule nothing out which is reasonable and consistent with the rule of law in tackling these gangs head on.” Note the phrase “reasonable and consistent with the rule of law.” That phrase is a copout. That phrase allows all manner of squirming to avoid taking actions that will cut this sort of stuff off at source.

The opposition are no better. Mr Charlie Flanagan, the Fine Gael spokesman on Justice, has called for tougher sentencing on murder and possession of deadly weapons. Tougher sentencing is a marvellous idea. The only thing is that tougher sentencing means longer sentencing, which means bigger prisons and more prison officers. How are we going to pay for that? It’s fine in principle, but it helps all the old people living in Ireland who are now even more terrified of hooded youth than before not a whit. It’s nothing more than pointless hand-wringing.

If the political class want to do anything to cut down on this hooliganism, why don’t they introduce legislation – and that’s what they’re paid to do, isn’t it? Legislate? – that allows shop security, for instance, to use necessary force to defend the premises. This means that a security man can give a hooligan a shoe in the hole and not have to worry about losing his job as a result of it. Some people will claim this will lead to victimisation, and this is an example of the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many once more. But if some guy gets a busted lip when he didn’t deserve it, it’s worth it if it allows people to do their shopping and get on with their lives in peace. Nobody every died of a busted lip.

The other common argument against a return to common sense is that these sort of measures victimise the vast majority in communities who are good and upstanding citizens. Aidan O’Kane was one such good and upstanding citizen, and Aidan O’Kane is dead today because neither he nor the police could stop hooligans from pelting his house with eggs or setting his car or his bins on fire. That’s the bottom line. It’s that simple.

In Poland, they don’t let their kids put their feet on the seats of the buses. We need to take a lesson from Poland.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Sow's Ear Year - Will Brian Cowen Ever Catch a Break?

The Celtic Tiger, such as it was, was fuelled by the Jumbo Breakfast Roll. Two scholastics from two entirely different schools, Mr David McWilliams and Mr Pat Shortt, both identified the Jumbo Breakfast Roll as the very asphodel of the Irish economic revolution.

If the country were not catapulting to Hell in a handcart at a genuinely astonishing rate of knots, this would count as a delicious irony in the light of the weekend’s pork recall. Instead, the very word delicious will only serve as a goad to the memory of the fries that were not eaten this morning in Erin, and the tears return again.

Bertie Ahern gloried in the nickname of the Teflon Taoiseach, as everything he touched turned to gold. Bertie’s greatest gift was his singular ability to always steer clear of disaster. His successor, in marked contrast, seems to attract disaster the way Newry attracts shoppers.

The late John Healy wrote at the height of the GUBU crisis of 1982 that if Charlie Haughey had ducks, they would drown; to borrow from the great man a quarter of a century later, it seems fair to say that if Brian Cowen had ducks, not only would they drown, they would pollute the lake, kill the fish, sink the final nail into the coffin of Irish tourism, the only industry left, and would then turn out of to have copped it in the first place because they were being fed on that diesel-flavoured feed as well.

A week without fries the country could survive. Porridge is fine food, irrespective of Doctor Johnson’s teasing of Boswell. But my Lord and my God, Ireland Inc does not need another industry to collapse after the building industry went to the wall.

This is the point. While the empty shelves, such as Tesco’s in Phibsboro, D7, above, are evocative, the bigger picture is that the world woke up this morning to the news that Irish pork isn’t safe to eat. No matter how that’s qualified as the week rolls out, that’s what people will remember. After the collapse of the building industry, and the sudden ending of the many streams of revenue that industry supplied the public purse, Ireland Inc now faces the prospect of hard times for another major industry and the double jeopardy of another queue of people outside Government Buildings looking for compensation.

This is in keeping with yesterday’s protest by the INTO on O’Connell Street. If An Spailpín were in danger of losing his job he wouldn’t like it either, but it was hard to disagree with Brendan Keenan of the Irish Independent on RTÉ Radio 1's This Week this afternoon when he queried where exactly the INTO thinks the Government will get the money to pay their salaries?

Charles Dickens has Mr Wilkins Micawber, that marvellous man modelled on Dickens’ own hopelessly profligate father, explain the simple facts of life to our protagonist in David Copperfield, a lesson to which the nation could do with hearing right now:

“‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six; result, happiness. Annual income twenty points, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six; result, misery.’”

It really is as simple as that. An Spailpín would have some sympathy for the teachers, as they provide a vital societal function. But if every dog and devil on the public purse thinks that benchmarking can continue in the teeth of current events, then they are living at a considerable remove from the real world. Don’t forget, the people whose job it was to stop illegal feed being fed to pigs are benchmarked; they will get their hearty pay rise this year same as ever, even as the country collapses around their ears.

There are 350,000 people employed by the Irish state, between civil servants, public servants and whatever one calls a person that works for a quango – leisured servants, perhaps? That’s enough votes to elect ten to twelve new TDs, or else show the road to ten or twelve in there already. Something else that Brian Cowen will be all too sadly aware of as he munches his kiwi and grapefruit tomorrow morning, neither much of a substitute for the rashers and sausages.

The Taoiseach’s party piece is Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore; perhaps in the light of current events, he’d be as well off to consider a change to Born Under a Bad Sign? Right now, the refrain of “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” seems all too terribly apt.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

What's in a Name?

Is there anything that the Mayo County Board will not do for money? It was to be hoped, if there were any good to be gained from the continuing reality check the nation is currently enduring, that the current financial crisis would have reminded people of the value of money.

The news that the Mayo County Board are seeking to hawk the naming rights of McHale Park, currently under-going a process of development and refurbishment, to the highest bidder would suggest that we have learned nothing at all.

Mr Seán Feeney, Secretary of the Mayo County Board, remarks in an interview in the Mayo News last week that “the money has to come from somewhere.” He is correct in this regard, but he is mistaken if he thinks that there is that much available for naming rights. There’s a recession on – how much can a company possibly make from sponsoring the name of a provincial GAA stadium in a recession?

Mr Feeney is also quoted as saying that “we did a lot of research into what other counties had done to raise money, naming rights, and the selling of seats.” When that lot of research is finished, Mr Feeney is going to discover that there is only one other provincial GAA stadium in Ireland that has a sponsored name – Kingspan Breffni Park in Cavan.

This suggests two things. Firstly, there isn’t that much money in naming rights to a stadium in Ireland, because if there was there’d be more than one sponsored stadium in the country. Secondly, the fact that Kingspan is a building company and also the sponsor of the county team would suggest that the relationship between the Cavan County Board and Kingspan is complex, and therefore their stadium sponsorship may be part of a bigger picture.

Mr Feeney remarks in that same Mayo News interview that “in an ideal world, we’d like to have a Mayo company’s name on the stadium but that may not be possible,” and this is the most troubling remark in all of the interview. Because you have to ask yourself the question: why would a non-Mayo company want to sponsor the Mayo county ground?

The only reason that a non-Mayo company would be interested in naming rights to the Mayo county ground would be because they were getting it cheap. What’s to lose? And if the Mayo Board are selling the naming rights cheap then they should be run out town on the first bus leaving the station.

An Spailpín Fánach is sick, sore and tired of the riches of my county and my country being shilled for a bag of beads and nuts. Events at Rossport, fifty miles north of Castlebar, show exactly what happens when you sell out cheap. The Government neglected their duty of care towards the people in North Mayo when they made their sweetheart deal with Shell, and the Mayo County Board will equally betray their heritage if they sign over the naming rights to McHale Park for three gobstoppers and the string from a yo-yo.

The GAA, as has been mentioned in this space previously, is not just a sporting organisation. The GAA is a cultural organisation, for which the remit of preserving and promoting indigenous culture and heritage is every bit as important as running sporting competitions. And that is why the name of the stadium is important – because Archbishop McHale was a Mayo hero, and in naming the county ground after him Mayo GAA does honour to a man who stood for his people against pressures both within and without.

Archbishop John McHale’s time of influence is so long ago now – over one hundred and fifty years – that it’s difficult to remember what he did, and why the stadium is named after him. In even thinking of changing the name of the stadium the Mayo Board seems to have forgotten. A quick history lesson, then.

John McHale was born outside Laherdane in 1791. He went on to be ordained a priest during the time of the Penal Laws, rose to Archbishop of Tuam and his role in history is as one of the chief supporters of Daniel O’Connell in O’Connell’s campaigns for Catholic emancipation and Repeal of the Act of Union.

Emancipation was passed, Repeal failed, O’Connell died and McHale was eventually silenced by the new Cardinal, Doctor Cullen, who did not believe in rocking boats. The mother church’s policy was always to get along with whoever is in charge; McHale, by contrast, put his people – the people of Mayo – first, and suffered the consequences.

And that’s why the stadium is named after him. Because the GAA is also about heroes, about standing up for where you’re from and what you believe in.

If the Mayo County Board can generate a sum so sufficiently enormous to overcome this statement of belief in heroism and local pride in the name of future development, so be it. We have to live in the real world. But if the deal is anything less than that, if, come next summer, Mayo are playing a Championship game in the Iceland Foods Stadium, with the ball thrown in by Ms Kerry Katona, we will all have lost a great part of our souls.

But it won’t matter to An Spailpín, because An Spailpín will not be there. As a friend of mine remarked in regard to share prices recently, there is such a thing as a point of no return. An Spailpín will be monitoring the situation with a heavy and anxious heart.

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