With the National Football League wrapped up, it’s a good time to touch base with other facets of society and other events, sporting and non-sporting that are making and not making the headlines.
It depends which news you subscribe to. Sport is brilliant for taking time out, unwinding, letting off steam and a great distraction from the realities and struggles of life. For the modern elite amateur inter-county footballer, it is unfortunately, a way of life. The modern man (the inter-county GAA player) in comparison to my generation which was Stone Age man, is required to immerse himself and completely give himself totally his sport.
This month, April is the month when the inter-county player gives himself completely to the club. We all know that this is a smokescreen to appease clubs. Few counties can afford to release their players completely when provincial championships are so close.
With Brexit now unavoidable (which it always was), the realities of a hard border are beginning to reach the conscious mind. The ordinary working person who is kept distracted with work and glib entertainment, kept in debt, kept in fear and kept confused finds it hard to make sense of this Brexit thing.
Border counties will take the brunt of Brexit. I’ve realised that we hear and see only one side of the story. The controlled establishment mainstream media regurgitate the EU and UN narrative constantly. The Brexit decision will have to stand the test of time. It will certainly complicate our lives in Ireland in the years ahead, both North and South.
Clearly, no-one in Ireland wishes to return to the border controls of thirty years ago. Nevertheless, we must also respect the British referendum result and recognise that it is quite acceptable to desire both significant national independence and close international cooperation. Brexit will be disruptive and challenging in the short term but, in the long term, it could be an important step on the road to greater respect in Europe for national independence and democratic control.
Rather than complaining about Brexit, our focus in Ireland should surely be to work constructively with the British and the EU to find satisfactory solutions to difficult Brexit challenges.
I grew up with the border. Going to football matches was always challenging and unpredictable given the number of checkpoints one had to endure along the way. Republic of Ireland registered cars came in for special treatment on many occasions. The British army and the RUC were particularly fussy on Ulster final day when teams and supporters had to go through a long and tedious process of border control on the way to Clones.
I remember coming back through Aughnacloy with my now deceased father after an Ulster final in which Tyrone were playing. We sat at the Aughnacloy border for three hours in a three-mile tailback. People eventually got frustrated and left their cars to confront our occupiers. My father was one of them. A tense stand-off ensued. The RUC were heavy handed as they drew their batons on Gaelic football supporters who were simply returning from a match. Most people ran from the encroaching RUC officers and British army. This event happened in the early days of the ‘troubles’. It was frightening and something that I will never forget.
The hassle and intimidation continued for years to come. In the late 80s when we were well accustomed to the harassment of border control, a friend and I were going to Strabane to do some shopping. The British soldier with his gun menacingly on show, asked us to get out of the car as was normal when there were two male travelling companions.
When my friend opened the boot of the car and saw the football boots lying there, the soldier asked “Are these your rugger boots mate”? “No, they’re my Gaelic football boots” my friend replied. That was the wrong answer. We were pulled into the corrugated tin shed along the roadside where we were quizzed for hours. The car was forensically and meticulously examined. We got all of the answers right in the tin hut. Then we were compelled to sign a form stating that we hadn’t been harmed or intimidated and that we consented to be searched.
People of my generation who lived and commuted across the border regularly were used to this treatment. None of us want to see permanent customs posts and police checkpoints return, especially those of us who live along the border where genuine mutual respect and friendship prevails.
There’s always great news however. Patrick McBrearty returned to action for his club, Kilcar last weekend. This is a timely boost for the fortunes of Donegal senior inter-county football. Elsewhere, the news is even better. Ireland men’s rugby 7s qualified to be one of next season’s core 15 teams for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens World Series.
And in case you missed it, there is better news still; Becky Lynch is “only getting started”. Becky became the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Raw Women's and the WWE SmackDown Women's champion in the US last Sunday night. I couldn’t contain my excitement after hearing this fantastic news!
Keep the faith!