The THEME of the Ulster GAA Conference in Armagh last Saturday was “Old Fashioned Values.”
The conference began with a discussion on the Irish language. The plain speaking Culture Minister, Caral Ni Cillin, was keen to promote her ‘Liofia’ (fluency) project.
The idea behind it is to create 1,000 fluent speakers out of people with basic Irish by 2015.
The role of TG4 was discussed. Ex GAA president, Peter Quinn, the channel’s chairman, made the point that their GAA coverage helps to prick people’s interest in the language. This is undeniable, even if there are certain advantages in not being able to understand Jarlath Burn’s analysis!
Peter, making a typically focused and interesting contribution, said that if president-elect, Liam O’Neill (who was present in the audience), were to do one thing in his term of office, it should be to make decisions purely on the basis of what was good for the GAA community, not on the basis of the likely media reaction.
Rising to his theme, he said: “We shouldn’t give a bollox about them Liam.”
This is, of course, right. The media and wider society has ceaselessly tried to infect us with the disease of political correctness.
The thing about traditional values is that nothing will destroy them more quickly than this disease.
The GPA is also dangerous (another theme of the conference), relentlessly sticking a pound sign on everything and importing the language of commerce.
The GAA is an anachronism, since its values are the opposite of modern standards. The rest of the world espouses individualism and capitalism. We espouse the twin ideals of communitarianism and volunteerism. We are, it seems, the only organisation of our kind in the world still standing.
As Mickey Harte noted on Saturday morning, other sporting bodies are purely sporting bodies.
If individuals perform well, they become professional. If they continue to perform well, they are paid more. Everything has a pound sign on it. With money, comes selfishness and deceit.
On Tuesday afternoon, two of Pakistan’s most revered cricketers were convicted in London of ‘sport fixing.’
The trial heard that millions of pounds had been paid to some team members over the years by betting syndicates, probably channelled through the convicted cricketers’ agent, Mazhar Majeed.
But for the undercover reporter from the ‘News of the World,’ they would never have been suspected, never mind caught and convicted.
The game with England, which nailed their coffins, demonstrates the point. Mohammed Amir, the teenage bowler, was brilliant that day, scuttling four of England’s key batsmen (including Cook and Pietersen) for no runs in a spellbinding 13 ball spell.
He was feted on television and beyond as a result, becoming an overnight hero in his homeland.
But a filthy needle was hidden in the golden haystack. In the middle of his bowling spell, he delivered a no ball with the first delivery of the third over. His co-accused, Mohammed Asif, delivered his no ball in the sixth delivery of his fifth over.
This is no big deal, since the bowler’s front foot landing beyond the delivery line is an occupational hazard. But the “News of the World” knew how big a deal it was, given that they had paid the players’ agent £140,000 in marked notes to ensure ‘no balls’ at precisely those moments.
At the trial, the evidence was that the possibility of each ‘no ball’ being coincidental was one in 1.5 million. Captain, Salman Butt, was the vital link between the agent and his players, ensuring they were picked to bowl at the correct stages.
But my favourite moment from the trial was the covert video of the players’ agent telling the undercover reporter: “I’m very good with people and instincts. I believe you are genuine.”
Like Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain believing Hitler when he told him in 1938: “England is perfectly safe from the Nazis Herr Chamberlain!”
New Ice Cream Parlour
Throughout the trial, Asif and Butt lied their . . . . well, their butts off!
Butt’s explanation for the “News of the World” marked notes found in his briefcase was that it was an advance payment for “opening an Ice Cream parlour in Tooting.” Boom Boom!!
Funny how often professional sportspeople’s defences resemble the story of the Conservative MP implicated in a sex scandal who comes to the front door to make a statement to the Press.
As his wife stands grimly beside him, he says: “I was walking with my dog’s collar and leash on Clapham Common last night. Without warning, I slipped on a Murray mint and knocked against a young transvestite pedestrian.
“I reached out to steady myself, and somehow managed to pull down his zip, overbalancing onto him and coming to rest with my head on his lap.
“In the confusion, the collar and leash became attached round my throat. I hope this clarifies the matter.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s John Terry is at it as well (the one who was caught a few years ago conducting unauthorised tours of Stamford Bridge for £10,000 cash a pop).
In Mel Brook’s racist spoof, “Blazing Saddles,” as the black sheriff saunters down the street, he politely greets an elderly lady with the words “Isn’t it a beautiful morning ma’am?”
“Up yours nigger!” she says, before stomping off.
John would have enjoyed that.
TV Footage from the QPR game a fortnight ago clearly shows him calling Anton Ferdinand a “f***ing black c***.”
Terry’s defence is plucked straight from the archives of the Tory party. He now says that the first part of his sentence (which was unheard and unseen) was obscured by a team-mate walking in front of him at the wrong moment.
What he actually said was “Oi Anton, I did not call you a f***ing black c***.”
Mel Brooks would have given his right arm for that joke. This sort of sordid and selfish behaviour is now so commonplace in professional sport that it isn’t even shocking.
I came away from our conference on Saturday with a spring in the step. On Sunday, I went to Casement to see Cross and St. Galls.
St. Galls formed a guard of honour for the All-Ireland champions. Their talisman, Sean Kelly, was at the end of the line, close to the pitch. As the Cross lads burst out onto the field, at least three of them drove him back with the shoulder.
Back to the Future
From the whistle, Cross brought us back to the future. They played with furious aggression, kicked long and accurately, caught beautifully and barely gave a handpass. They played man-to-man (save for a five minute spell in the second half when David McKenna went in to snuff out Darren O’Hare’s resistance) and rattled into the Belfast men at every opportunity. Their midfielder Johnny Hanratty actually knocked himself out cold in the second half in his eagerness to burst the Gall’s midfielder.
As I left the park afterwards, I got a text from John McEntee. “A victory for the purist today Joe.”
And so it was. In a way, it is a victory for the purist and for the GAA every time Cross step onto the field. The least politically correct club in the country are a credit to the GAA and an inspiration to all who love it.
Old fashioned values been never been so important.