BETTER men than me have warned of the perils of allowing John Bull’s Sky Sports unfettered access to the playing fields of the realm and behaviour we raise our eyebrows at – familiarity having bred a resigned indifference to some of the bizarre tribal antics of the GAA – but which our fellow pilgrims in Christendom might find traumatising.
Sky Sports provides excellent visual coverage of the Gaelic Games, but there are images of Paddy in his indigenous habitat, disturbing images which even Sky can miss, but the invasive camera phone picks up.
For instance, a few weeks ago, “footage emerged” of an incident involving our old friend, the adult male allegedly robbin’ a sack of sliotars – a bag of yokes, as our beloved Rubber Bandits might sing – from the Cork goal, and, according to reports, flinging them into an area of the ground teeming with emotional Clare supporters. C’mon the Banner!
The Lloyd Cole and commotion occurred immediately prior to the throw in for the Munster hurling clash between Clare and Cork. Yer man was allegedly wearing a Clare top. We’re not talking New Scotland Yard here. Similarly, y’all recall the infamous occasion when a ref was locked into the boot of his car after a GAA game. It’s understood that the vehicle concerned was a Renault Mégane, going forward.
But the Mégane episode was before foreigners were allowed to analyse Paddy – courtesy of Sky Sports – while the bag of yokes caper was after the Reformation, so to speak.
Consequently, Nigel in Old Blighty now has access to the back of Paddy’s pole, an area of the cranium which is oblivious to psychoanalysis, according to Sigmund Freud. Sky might also be available in Paris, where Pierre is sitting down to his wine and cheese and an afternoon of resigned shoulder-shrugging – it’s quicker to stereotype: “Zee Irish voler zee sliotaaaaaaars, je suis Paddy”.
Meantime, on the subject of Sky Sports, a group of protestors gathered outside the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick before the recent Mayo versus Cork Gaelic football match.
They were protesting that Sky has bought exclusive rights to certain games, including the aforementioned, and they can’t watch matches live on TV unless they take out a subscription to John Bull’s evil empire – which, in fairness, has visually transformed sports coverage.
I reckon the protestors outside the Ennis Road venue deserve our support. However, we’d be considered auld Luddites. Anyway, it’s too late. First Sky came for the football and I did not speak out. Then they came for the rugby and I did not speak out. Then they came for the bag of sliotars and there was no one left to speak out – and no sliotars – to paraphrase Martin Niemoller.
Elsewhere, the RTE documentary on John Giles was excellent. Giles learned his trade on the backstreets of Dublin in the grim 1950s.
England manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, on the eve of the 1970 World Cup featuring England as defending champions, had this to say about the midfield general: “As I look at all the talent and character at my disposal today, my one regret in that John Giles wasn’t born an Englishman”. The Christian Brothers would have difficulty with the above statement, containing as it does certain words, such as ‘England’.
Giles took issue with the Brothers, explaining how he was humiliated in school by the frocked ones. They called him a corner boy because he played football, implying that he wasn’t a true rain-lashed son of Erin.
“I didn’t consider myself Irish,” the Dubliner said. “I considered myself less than Irish, because of lay teachers and Christian Brothers. They were very anti-soccer, and I was known as a soccer guy. I got a bit of a hard time over that.”
It’s a familiar narrative; the GAA as a de facto outpost of Irish nationalism and Catholicism reached deep into Irish society, even in the inner cities. Some may recall the picture of Michael Collins throwing in the ball in an All-Ireland final. The Bishops, who usually threw in the ball, were acknowledging the irredentist claim of Cathleen Ni Houlihan.
Incidentally, t’was just as well Collins and the Princes of the Church weren’t in Tipp last month or they’d have FA to throw in, given that yer man, allegedly, did a runner with the sliotars.
Back in the day, the Brothers would allow you play any sport you liked – as long as it was Gaelic football or hurling. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the clerics were beginning to find themselves on the wrong side of history, in the urban areas anyway.
The flock, courtesy of RTE, an ungodly crew, were catching glimpses of Old Trafford, Anfield, Parkhead, Elland Road, even the Bernabeau and the Camp Nou. Thin Lizzy was on the wireless and an English artist called David Bowie, who was born to an Irish mother, entered the British charts with Space Oddity in 1969.
Giles, meantime, was content with what he’d achieved in his career. The underlying theme was that he realised his potential: “I never wanted to be a star, I wanted to be a great player,” he reflected. “Whatever gift I had, I’ve been true to that gift. I did the best I could.”
“I think I made the most of what I had. I’ve known a lot of players who were gifted, but never realised it, and didn’t make the most of it. And making the most of it is the important bit. I knew early on that I had a gift to play football, to control it and pass it. I had a second gift — to realise I had the first gift.”
Meanwhile, the new Renault Mégane has plenty of boot space to carry shopping and such – and space for a ref and a robbed bag of yokes. You took the Queen’s shilling, Paddy. Sky Sports is watching you, mate.