Up for the match? Or busy boycotting such coat-trailing?

I remember Freddie Perkins.  He came from Watson Park, an all-Protestant housing estate beside our farm, and he smiled a lot.  He also was a pretty hand-goalkeeper. He played soccer but (pace The Ban) he also played Gaelic. I can still see him diving  and punching clear one of those old-fashioned brown leather footballs. 
I’m thinking of Freddie because later this afternoon, along with hundreds of thousands of my fellow-countrymen and women, I’ll be watching the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final. Not on BBC NI of course – it covers games only when there’s a northern team involved. So even though Tyrone Minors are playing in the final, the BBC cameras will be taking a rest.  South of the border doesn’t exist – check the BBC map next time you’re watching BBC Newsline 630.
Having played it when young and watched it for years, I find Gaelic football a hugely attractive game. It’s got so much better as the level of skills and training has been raised and thoughtful managers lifted teams to heights they never dreamt of. So why are the Freddie Perkins so thin on the ground? I seem to remember  a Protestant player on the Down team a decade or two ago, but that only proves how rare an occurrence it is. 
Maybe it’s because the Irish tricolour is flown at big games and  Amhrán na bhFiann is played. Personally I think the playing of national anthems and the flying of national flags at sporting events is  a bore. Most people and players don’t know the words of Amhrán na bhFiann and they love to interrupt the final line of it with roars of encouragement for their team. I wouldn’t, though, be in favour of doing the cringe-making thing that rugby does and substitute the national anthem with Ireland’s Bawl or some such. So if it were abolished tomorrow I wouldn’t mind – in fact it might stop some people feel they’ve done their patriotic duty when they face the flag and pretend to sing. It also might encourage more Protestants to share, as players and audience, a game that at its best makes soccer look slow and unnatural. 
But maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe Protestants boycott this wonderful game for other reasons completely. And I’m sure they’ll let me know. Anyway, must dash. Got an appointment with a television. And did I mention that the present Mrs Collins is from Mayo?

8 Responses to Up for the match? Or busy boycotting such coat-trailing?

  1. Anonymous September 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    I think all neutrals will be rooting for Mayo today!

  2. Anonymous September 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Most Protestants aren’t interested in Gaelic games because it’s an exclusive Catholic/nationalist sport of no relevance to them.

  3. Anonymous September 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Funny how opinions differ. As a spectacle the sport to me is uninteresting. The ball appears to spend most of its time booted high into the air, and sky-high boots over the bar favoured over more skilful goals.

    There’s little beauty in this hybrid game.

  4. Anonymous September 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Commiserations to Mrs Collins.As Gerry Adams would say “Tiocfaidh ar la!

  5. Anonymous September 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Most NI Protestants aren’t interested in GAA because the Irish and not the English invented it. Had the English invented it I’m sure they’d love the game.

  6. Anonymous September 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    If you replace ‘the Irish’ with ‘Irish nationalists’ you’re nearly there. Invented by Irish nationalists for Irish nationalists and to exclude Protestants and unionists.

  7. Anonymous September 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Somebody once showed me team registrations for gaelic teams from around 100 years ago somewhere in County Down, it might have been around Banbridge or somewhere. The family names were the same as the unionist names in those areas today. It was suggested to me that many protestants stopped playing as the GAA became more politicised around the early part of the 20th century.

    A pity, because Down, no matter how skillful they’ve proven themselves to be, will always be challenged by having a relatively small population base to pick from. If many in the unionist family can embrace irish dancing, I wonder what it would take for unionists to become comfortable with gaelic football, especially in areas such as south & east down, where relationships between the two communities are generally good.

    • Anonymous September 25, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      The GAA would need to depoliticise, recognise NI, take action against pro-terror clubs etc