Thursday, April 3, 2008

The GAA "Mes que un club"

FC Barcelona likes to claim it is "more than just a club". To some of its fans and players, it is a symbol of Catalonia. "To defend Barca is to defend Catalonia".

Many Catalans define themselves through their club. Much like the GAA, particularly in Northern Ireland, it is an expression of their cultural identity. History moulded the club into a civic entity and an extension of politics. From the beginning, FC Barcelona (Barca) had an active cultural and political programme. The club participated in the most significant movements for Catalan autonomy campaigning for Catalan schools, for Catalan language courses for club members and, no doubt, some forms of Catalan dancing too.  Barca's identification with Catalan independence and nationalism were bound together permanently by the Franco dictatorship; with the Catalan flag and language banned, their only sanctuary was the Nou Camp stadium where Catalan's could evade Franco's oppression and express their vision of a Catalan nation with its own identity.  

Historically, the Spanish national football team has not had much appeal in Catalonia. The lack of enthusiasm is highly political. Their distaste for the Spanish national team is proportional to their desire for Catalan independence. Disapproval of the GAA in the Unionist community is somewhat similar. They feel uncomfortable, if not threatened, by the political overtones of the sporting organisation and its representation for a united Ireland.

Fermanagh GAA player and journalist Colm Bradley wants that to change. He would like to see the GAA do more to reach out to Unionists. His appeal seems reasonable. He's not asking the GAA to dilute its cultural aspects, like the promotion of the Irish language or Gaelic culture, just to tone down certain rules like Rule 2 for example, which states: "The Association is a national organisation which has a basic aim of strengthening the national identity of a 32-county Ireland through the presentation of gaelic games and pastimes".

One doesn't have to read too far down the comments on Slugger O'Toole's posting on this topic to see that it's an explosive issue. If it's debate Colm Bradley wants then I wish him luck in keeping it civil. Cleansing the GAA of politics and symbolism would be a minefield--the names of GAA grounds, like Robert Emmets, the singing of "The Soldier's Song" and the flying of the Tricolour. Even just sniffing around these mines is enough to set people on both sides off.

There never will be agreement. There never will be an identifiable point when both sides consider the connotations neutral. Are some of the songs sung by Celtic FC supporters in Scotland "sectarian" or "Irish"? It depends who you ask. 

There's always going to be an "our" story and "their" story. You can't separate the GAA nor FC Barcelona from notions of community and identity. Yes, the GAA can and should take the first steps to be welcoming to Unionists, but there has to be some understanding and acknowledgement of the history and heritage of the GAA from the Unionist side, too.  

GAA still a cold house for Protestants, GaelicLife
A Different Ball Game--The Future of the GAA in Norther Ireland (Part 1, Part 2).

GAA McNamee Awards

The GAA is still accepting nominations for the 2007 McNamee Awards. The closing date is Tuesday, April 15th 2008.

Apparently, the McNamee awards are presented annually by the GAA in recognition of outstanding contributions made by individuals in the area of communications. The concept evolved as a result of the McNamee report published in 1971. 

I can't find any further information about the McNamee report on the web, apart from a reference that says it took 20 years to implement the findings, so if someone is knows some more, please fill us in.

Sadly, there's no category for bloggers, but then that's not surprising is it. :)

Awards will be made in the following categories:

  • Best Club Media Publication (club histories, yearbooks, annual reports etc)
  • Best GAA Website (county or club)
  • Best GAA Photograph
  • Best County Final Programme
  • Best County Media Presentation (to include Yearbooks, County Histories, Fixture Booklets, DVD's etc)
  • Best Local Radio Programme on a GAA Theme
  • Best Newspaper Article

All entries should be sent to:-

Patrick Doherty,

GAA Headquarters,

Level 6,

Páirc an Chrócaigh,


Websites can be nominated by email to 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rossie mob let the GAA down

It didn't take long for my effort at trying to 'big up' GAA fans in comparison to those of a certain foreign sport to be exposed as a fraud. If I'd paid more attention to John Maughan's resignation yesterday I would have seen that it had less to do with results on the field, and more to to do with the ongoing abuse he has suffered from a mob of "Roscommon supporters". 

No manager deserves this kind of ugly treatment. It's sad to see in any sport, professional or amateur. The rabble who hurled abuse from the sidelines and waited outside the Roscommon dressing room on Sunday can only be described in the choice words of Paidi O'Se, who--under the influence of alcohol (still no excuse)--brutally referred to Kerry supporters, in an interview with Paul Kimmage, as "the roughest type of f***ing animals".  

Whatever your opinion of John Maughan--some took exception to his strutting the sidelines in his shorts (and they were short), as he did with Clare in 1992, others for his falling-out with the Mayo stars of the time--he's a real GAA man and deserves more respect and recognition than to be run out of town in this manner. An Spailpin Fanach has an interesting take on how how different things might have been for John: if it wasn't for a certain Meathman, life would have taken a radically different turn and John's life today would have been a lot rosier. 

Unfortunately, for John his managerial career continues to be marred by failure. And, unfortunately for the GAA, it seems that we, just like soccer, have a minority amongst us that disgrace and disappoint us all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

GAA troubles: some consolation

With spoongate, as Willie Joe has dubbed it, still fresh in the minds of Mayo GAA followers, the Mayo News decided to have a bit of April Fool's fun with stories of undercover stewards and segregation of fans next Sunday for the local derby between Mayo and Galway.
As GAA fans we're blessed that we can look back-- at what for the GAA was a serious crowd disturbance-- slap our thighs and have a bit of a laugh. Other sports fans are not so fortunate. The headlines following the Merseyside derby on Sunday are all about police inquiries into serious fan abuse of players, while in France the nation has recoiled in disgust, yet again, at the behaviour of Paris St. Germain's so-called supporters.
At Saturday's League Cup Final against a team from northern France, Racing Club de Lens, Paris supporters briefly displayed--because it was pulled down by stewards on the instruction of President Sarkozy who was attending the game--a long banner which said "Pédophiles, chomeurs, consaguins: bienvenue chez les ch'tis". Paedophiles, unemployed and in-bred: welcome to the home of the ch'tis (in reference to a hugely popular movie about people from the north of France).
Happily, we've no such incidents of hate-mongering and spite in the GAA.

GAA: On disagreeing well

I came across this classification of disagreeing on a blog today--coincidentally, it was not long after I read Dessie Farrell's barbed comments about Of One Belief on Setanta. 

Disagreeing is something the GAA appears to be doing a lot of recently--the Sigerson Cup, Cork's admission to the League, the "eligible expenses" scheme, last minute match cancellations, alcoholic sponsorship to name a few. So, as the author of How to Disagree? proposes, if there's a lot more disagreeing going on shouldn't we learn how to do it well?

Enough name calling, at least try to get to DH4 and produce a good counter-argument.