Tuesday 16 August 2016

Fight for your right to watch your own national games!

For once I can't blame Murdoch!

Tommy walked into club with a fat lip and swollen left eye that’d be a right shiner by morning.

“You been fighting again, Tommy? Don’t tell me. It wasn’t you. It was the others.”

The seven year-old lad looked at me straight in the eye.

“Yeh, whazz.” he whispered, pointing his chin to the ground, looking all sorry for himself.

“Maybe next time don’t wear your Dublin jersey to school, eh?”

At that his head shot up, brow furrowed, eyebrows scrunched together in genuine confusion.

“What’re ya talkin’ bout? Was’n me blaydin’ Dublin jersey. Sligo, Mayo, makes no difference wha’ jersey y’wear. They bate me ‘cos dare a bunch of fuckin’ bolloxes, dat’s why.”

“Language, Tommy!”

“Yeh, sorry. I’ll fuckin’ shut up now so I will.”

I’d only been in Ireland a few weeks and knew precisely nothing about this country. My introduction to the ethos of Gaelic Games came through this encounter with Thomas, while I was working at a post-school project for 5-13 year-olds in the Rahoon Flats.

Over the next 25 years I grew to understand the importance of your sports. In no small way their history reflects the history of your nation. Their prohibition through the days of occupation focusing Republican support; the horrific massacre at Croke Park; the ruins of the GPO on Hill 16.

When at the turn of the century they were faced with the successful globalisation of Brand Ireland, the institutional partnership that had defined old Ireland finally fell apart. The Church declined to adapt and lost much influence, while the GAA chose modernisation.

All of a sudden you could play the English game or Rugby and still play GAA. Then, as Ireland blossomed into its first independent boom, those ‘foreign’ games were being played at Croke Park.

The GAA seemed to be leaving behind the bigoted restrictions of the past, willing to forgive, forget, move on and before you could utter the words ‘Dev', ‘grave’ and ‘turning’ in the same sentence, they were playing God Save The Queen at Croker.

Unfortunately the conveyor belt of progress rolls only one way, so it came as no surprise to me that the GAA sold broadcasting rights to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports. Although Murdoch’s my long-standing nemesis, I cannot blame him and his empire this time. 

He’s only trying to make money. That’s the function of a profit-making corporation.

Nobody minds the GAA making a few bob, but that’s not their primary function. Their reason for being is to serve and facilitate everyone who participates, from the Cannings and Careys to Carol who sows grass seed on the bare patches of the parish pitch to Colm who drives the physical contents of the pub to away games. \

Even though I know few of the intricacies of the sports’ rules, I love so much about Gaelic Games.

I love that Tommy or any other kid can wear any county jersey to school without fear, because I come from a culture in which wearing a Liverpool jersey in Manchester means you’re asking for a kicking.

I love the way you all stand mixed together, shoulder to shoulder, sharing the craic with the opposition, because I spent my youth in football grounds where barbed wire and columns of police kept the Away fans separated from the Home fans.

I loved those Friday evenings in the pub in North Mayo, when my friend would be off his stool every hour to pick up the munchkin in the green and red jersey from training in the Community Centre gym and drop off the older lad for his training, later picking him up, as red in the face as half his jersey, to drop the oldest son off for his training.

The village was carpeted by sweating children of all ages in Mayo jerseys, growing up with a strong sense of belonging, a feeling of pride in their community and a love for exercise and the team ethic.

When your county makes the All Ireland Final it’s the lads you know from down the road who bring a tear to your eye. All that is now under threat, as the only games safeguarded for terrestrial television are the two All Ireland Finals.

Gaelic Games start and finish in the parish, just as cricket in England will live and die on the village green. Cricket is the English national game and when it was sold to Sky Sports there arrived a devastating hole in our culture that can never be filled.

My mate and I used to write off five days of our lives to watch an Ashes Test Match. There’d be pork pies, sandwiches, beers, cards and conversation, but now that’s gone forever.

We lost our national game to satellite TV, but you don’t need to lose yours. There’s a review of the situation due at the end of this season and backed by major figures from the worlds of sport and politics, a campaign is under way to ensure that existing legislation (already used to ensure free access to the Six Nations Rugby Championship) will be enforced to keep Gaelic Games on terrestrial TV.

Tuam songwriter Seamus Ruttledge explains: 
“Keep Gaelic Games ‘Free to Air’ is a platform that lobbies for all Gaelic Games to be freely accessible. 

It’s not too late to do something to help, so please contact your local TDs, councillors, your local GAA club, your County Board. Make your voice heard. Demand that Gaelic Games be safeguarded for us all.”

Well said sir. 

Be heard, because Gaelic Games are more important to Ireland than the GAA.

To help call 087-2968651 or 087-8161663, or visit ‘Keep-Gaelic-Games-Free-to-Air’ on Facebook.

©Charlie Adley 07.08.126.



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