Hamill’s Beat - What if Rory plays for the ‘wrong’ team?

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“Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland,” said Rory McIlroy.

“Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland,” said Rory McIlroy.

It came as a jolt from the blue, to mix an old metaphor. Like other sports, golf is still organised on its pre-partition basis and Rory had previously played for Ireland. It would have been reasonable to expect him to continue to play as an Irishman.

“From a PR perspective, what a stupid thing to say,” raged Pat Kenny on RTE radio.

“I just think the gloss has gone off his efforts for this island,” he said. Many will have shared Pat’s sense of hurt and wounded pride.

It’s a measure of nationalist Ireland’s failure when even a Catholic lad from County Down feels more affinity with the UK than with Ireland.

Of course Rory’s free to choose and one individual’s decision isn’t that big a deal but those of us who are proud of our Irishness can’t be complacent about it. There are lessons to be learned.

Last week, this column had something to say about Declan Kearney of Sinn Féin’s call for further reconciliation and nation building.

Here’s an illustration of how much it’s needed.

Those who live on the island, or who were brought up on it, need to be attracted to give their allegiance to Ireland. The business of winning hearts can’t be ceded to unionism.

When it comes to charm offensives, Ireland should be competing to win every time.

The other lesson probably applies more to other sports than to professional golf. Superstar McIlroy, worth an estimated £12.3 million, doesn’t need public funding, but other people do.

It’s obvious that “Team GB” has got its act together. Their haul of Olympic and Paralympic medals proves it.

They have generous funding from the national lottery and superb facilities. Sport in Ireland shouldn’t be allowed to fall further behind.

There’s a new menace on our roads

Sunday afternoon drivers are taking to the road every day of the week now. They’re the greatest threat to human sanity since Josef Mengele.

The high price of petrol and diesel is to blame for the phenomenon.

This column has previously complained about farmers with their “affairs,” as an elderly lady once memorably called farm machinery being towed behind tractors holding up the traffic. The amazing thing is that they always manage to find a different elderly lady to ride shotgun. There she is, safely tucked in behind the “affair” in her wee blue Nissan Micra, to make doubly sure nobody gets past.

Now, that there’s only been a couple of dry days since Jesus was in short trousers, I’m prepared to forgive the hard-pressed farmers.

The new Sunday afternoon drivers are a different kettle of fish.

They’re unforgivable. The surprising thing is that they’re almost always middle-aged or even young men.

They tootle along at 35 miles an hour with a completely clear road ahead. They’re saving fuel at the expense of the half a dozen drivers stuck behind them with steam coming out of their ears. The most annoying thing is that the drivers trapped behind have to change out of top gear and so they all have to use more fuel. Couldn’t the PSNI look-out for these characters and chivvy them along?

The only consolation comes when you eventually manage to escape from the tortured conga line by scorching past. In my case it’s the thought that the middle-aged Sunday driver probably says to his passengers, “Look at that mad young fella!”

Don’t you think I’m being unusually generous in forgiving the farmers?

Well, I’m a reasonable man. “Jeepers, next thing he’ll be forgiving the speed cops for lying-in-wait like highwaymen at overtaking lanes,” I hear you say. Steady on – I couldn’t go that far – we desperately need a wee bit of speed on those lanes.

What my mother would have said…

My mother could have chatted for Ireland. She loved nothing better than chatting to friends and strangers alike.

From one end of the country to the other, from Coleraine to Cork, she had numerous conversations.

She had a nice face that seemed to say, “Chat to me”. Many strangers were even plied with tea and sandwiches or cake from her caravan or from the boot of her car, as well as chat. Maybe that helped to ensure a captive audience!

Never mind Rory McIlroy playing golf for Ireland. My mother was exceptionally good at something most Irish people are accomplished at.

Isn’t it more of a feather in your cap to excel at something nearly everyone does?

On that basis, I suppose, the ultimate accolade would be to drink for Ireland!

Probably most people remember their mother’s sayings. I often recall things my mother said. On hearing the crushing news of the Spence family tragedy in County Down, following quickly on the death of Fermanagh’s GAA player Brian Og Maguire in an industrial accident, I recalled a simple comment my mother might have made.

In a resigned and weary tone, on hearing sad news, she would say, “There’ll always be tragedy”.

Of course, we hope there won’t be. The fatalistic comment always implied a wish – if only it could be otherwise.

In the case of work place accidents, it needn’t be so. If one good thing can come from the Spence and Maguire tragedies let it be a new emphasis on safety.

On a happier note you could never be sure what amusing statements my mother would come out with next.

She and my father drove a lot in the days when hitch hiking was far more common than it is now. They often gave people lifts. One day my mother spotted an unsavoury looking character thumbing a lift.

She didn’t like the “cut of him,” and so decided not to stop. Her comment to my father was, “I wouldn’t give him a lift, even if I was walking!”

My father had a nice little wooden boat with a small outboard motor on it, for fishing trips. The make of the engine was a “Mercury.” It was a ten horse power model and my mother grew tired of hearing how good it was. One day crossing to Scotland on the Larne to Stranraer ferry he happened to pass an idle comment to the effect that, “this boat must have a very powerful engine”. “Would it be a Mercury?” asks herself, quick as a flash.

Sorry about the ‘whataboutery’

The economy is in dire straights but the old political ‘game’ must go on at all costs. The MP for Coleraine and Limavady, Gregory Campbell wants the Dublin government to apologise for their part in the early troubles.

What about his former party leader’s part in the early troubles? What about his present party leader’s part in the early troubles? Remember Clontibret?