The Friend Of My Enemy

I don’t want to seem shallow or feeble minded – sez he, about to demonstrate both characteristics in spades – but my opinion on certain subjects can be changed by seeing who agrees with me on the subject. A good example is Kevin Myers. If I find myself in agreement with him, I immediately wonder what fascist viewpoint I have found myself allied with. If Kevin Myers thinks it’s a good thing, then it must be bad.I had a similar experience at the weekend. I’ve always been quite ambivalent towards the idea of opening up Croke Park to other sports (see Build It, They Will Come.) Surely the mad clamour to allow “forin’ sports” into Croke Park was motivated by filthy lucre? And the idea of letting the FAI in made me want to chuck, with its glorious celebration of the term “Republic of Ireland.”

Which reminds me. My old primary school principal once upbraided me for calling this country – the 26 Counties, that is – ‘Ireland’. “We live in the island of Ireland,” he pompously informed me. “The country we live in is the Republic of Ireland.” I was only 11 at the time, but if he said that to me now, I would whip out Bunracht na hÉireann and point out Article 1, which states that “the name of the country is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland.” He was heavily involved in schoolboy’s soccer, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.

They should be sweating over at WordPress now, because I’m probably going to libel the bould Frank, but to see this . . . respected and venerated figure in the GAA community preventing a recount simply on the basis that it had never been done before had me reaching for the Rennies.

I have no doubt that Frank Murphy is a hard working and efficient administrator, and has devoted a lifetime to the GAA – and yes, I am damning him with faint praise here – but Frank Murphy is only concerned with one thing: Cork. If it’s good for Cork, it’s good for the GAA. Anything else can go hang. This is the same Frank Murphy who regularly ensures that Aodhan Mac Suibhne referees big Cork matches. This is the same Frank Murphy who ensured the National Football League final was played in Cork a few years back so that more money could be pumped into Páirc Uí Caucescu, that crumbling monument to Rebel ego by the banks of the Lee.

I also have no doubt that if Linfield were to propose paying the Cork County Board sufficient readies to play in that aforementioned dump, Frank Murphy would suddenly wax lyrical about the need for reconciliation, how we have to be pragmatic and sure aren’t the Loyalists of Windsor Park really Irishmen, they just don’t know it yet.

I’m probably being unfair on Frank Murphy. My own county also spoke out against change with Pat Fanning making the bewildering comment that we must “hold fast to the past”, whatever that means. The Waterford County Board has a spectacular ability to fail to gauge the pulse of the nation. In 1996, they voted overwhelmingly against the back door system. Two years later they were doing the exact opposite, although at least they were honest enough to admit to the change in heart being completely self-serving.

And a lot of hogwash has been said about the undemocratic nature of the decision. Okay, it was undemocratic. But a free and open discussion took place, and everyone accepted the result. Even Frank Murphy. Compare and contrast the cloak-and-dagger deals done in Merrion Square with regards their ill-fated Eircom Park. When the FAI’s own Treasurer couldn’t get access to the books, you knew something was wrong.

When Pat O’Connor called time on the 1998 All-Ireland semi-final after only twenty seven seconds of injury time, he was prostrating himself at the altar of tradition. Waterford had their one chance and they didn’t take it so hard cheese. It’s not a conscious thing, but you can be sure that if the situation had been reversed the sheer enormity of the achievement would have been too much and the ref would have carried on for as long as was acceptable. When John Bannon let Kerry back into last year’s football semi-final against Armagh, he was succumbing to this habit of refusing to give the weaker county a break because it might upset tradition.

And for all the dismay at the decision, it really only delays the inevitable. Grassroots support (what an awful term; always reminds me of the Tories in England) is overwhelmingly in favour of change and delegates will be sent to Congress next year with explicit instructions to vote for change. The only question at this stage is how to accommodate interested parties and whom we should accommodate. Interesting times lie ahead.