I’ve never been a big GAA supporter. For those of you outside of Ireland the GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association. Its the governing body of the national games in Ireland. These include Gaelic football (sort of a cross between rugby, Australian rules and soccer), hurling (men with wooden sticks beat a small ball and often their opponents around a pitch), handball and rounders. The GAA is on a par with the Catholic church in terms of influence in Ireland.
But I’ve never been a huge follower of the sports. This is partly for two reasons I think. The GAA players have maintained an amateur status and so the glitz and glamour and tomfoolery that goes on in soccer and rugby were much more attractive to watch and read about. Secondly, I come from Monaghan. Apart from a golden period in the late 1980’s, Monaghan has never (in my lifetime) been successful in Gaelic football or hurling. S0, it was often best not to even bring the subject up in conversation.
This year however things have changed. Monaghan reached the Province finals for the first time since 1988. Yesterday they played Tyrone, a county just north of Monaghan with a strong track record in football. And while I was up a hill just south of Basel in 33°C heat enjoying the scenery, Monaghan went out and played their socks off. They got off to a terrible start but clawed their way back into the game. Alas, even though they closed the gap they couldn’t quite pull it off.
They lost by two points, but they did us proud and still have a chance to progress further in the competition by playing some qualifiers. I hope they can keep it going, from what my parents say, the county is covered in flags and banners and bunting for the team. I haven’t seen that in a while at home.