Fayth Harriers inquisition a throwback to dark days


HOLD THE BACK PAGE:IN 1952, the crusading Archbishop McQuaid persuaded the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to cancel a match between Yugoslavia and Ireland. His tack was the commies weren’t even believers, never mind Catholics.

That was a result for the Grand Wizard of The Holy Ghost fathers, who three years later unsuccessfully called for a boycott when a second match was arranged for October 1955.

A furious McQuaid did, however, persuade famous RTÉ broadcaster Philip Greene not to do the commentary on the second game, which reportedly led to the memorable newspaper headline: “Reds turn Greene Yellow”.

From his trophy estate on Killiney Hill in South Dublin, McQuaid had a habit of misreading the public mood but maintained he and his Roman God knew best. Sticking his crozier into athletics, soccer and the Irish Constitution and belting whatever fell within his range was invariably supported by a stoic interpretation of a rule book that instructed fearful Catholics how to behave and occasionally how to think.

McQuaid discouraged women from taking part in athletics because running around baring flesh would generate carnal thoughts in red-blooded Gaels that could lead them along the road to sin. Oh yes indeed, it was the woman’s fault.

No matter how peculiar the missives of McQuaid, they were invariably backed up with a perverse logic. There was always a law or a theological text or the musings of a conclave that could fortify his position and successfully queer the pitch.

And so schoolboys were told in 1955 it was morally wrong to attend the footy match against Tito’s heathens.

Earlier this month, Wexford club Faythe Harriers were investigated by the GAA rules police after allegations were made against them. Holy, sweet Jesus what did they do? Well, in a civic sense, their duty. Just like Nemo Rangers did last year they followed the impulse of many GAA clubs in helping their hamlet or parish, playing their part in the building of community spirit and expressing the first commandment of sport, which is that it should always be inclusive.

The Faythe Harriers inquisition was triggered by a snitch who reported them to HQ for allowing their facilities to be used for non-GAA purposes. Whazzit? Dogging? Beasting? Keys in the hat at the end of bingo? Farm animals? No, no simply that GAA property “shall be used only for the purpose of or in connection with the playing of the games controlled by the Association”.

Oh yes, there is a rule for it.

So Nemo are looked at askance for digging out a 32-county Irish rugby team when they needed to use indoor facilities. Faythe Harriers are under investigation for an equally egregious transgression as clubs in Wexford and elsewhere struggle against emigration, unemployment and paying bills in a wretched economy.

The GAA have had English rugby and God Save the Queen at Croke Park. We lived. They’ve buried the ban and McQuaid. We’ve opened the gates for the PSNI, RUC and things are better.

Crossmaglen are no longer in danger of taking out a British helicopter with a high ball into the square. But for chrissake, don’t rent your hall to the local badminton club.

John Charles would be proud to hear that shrill voice ringing out from Jones’s Road, a great organisation sticking to their guns and applying the rules for their own peculiar, logical reasons even if that means belittling themselves in the process.

Over 21,000 ignored the archbishop’s call for a boycott in 1955 and went to Dalymount Park to watch Irish Catholics lose 1-4 to communist atheists. There is always a time for defying authority and doing the right thing.

Iconic swimwear still lives and thrives Down Under

TOTAL DISCLOSURE. There are swimming tog issues in the background. First “The Coolers” in the Falls Park in Belfast. Togs ripped off by 10-year-old friends, who disappear into the bushes of the adjacent City Cemetery with the over-sized swimmers on stick; second as a teenager, suffering the wardrobe malfunction of a badly-perished inner gusset while lolling poolside; third the Speedos not tied tightly enough for the racing dive and . . . jeez right down to the ankles.

This week Speedos appeared again, this time in a shot of bathers in Australia. It appears the Aussies love a pair of “Budgie Smugglers”. Are we missing something? Speedos have been the uniform of champions. Swimmers are a gamey lot and all shapes and sizes have been wedging into a togs designed for washer-board stomachs of teenage boys and Olympic athletes.

A delightful history of the Speedo evolution appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald, taking us through from the inception of the iconic brief in 1928 to this year when Australian Tony Abbott burned a pair on live radio. The MP was reacting to having been criticised for wearing them.

This year Speedo reported a 17 per cent rise in Australian sales and a 44 per cent rise worldwide, mainly on the back of Sex and the City 2, which featured a scene of nine Australian rugby players wearing them.Prior to Gay Pride parades of the 1980s churning out hundreds of marchers in their neat Speedo packages, straight men used wear a shorter and more “tightly-fitted” swimming brief. The homosexual link has pushed men towards the less revealing territory of Bermuda shorts.

First wool, then satin, cotton and finally nylon, the Speedo lives and thrives. Perhaps just one hint during any purchase. Try them on, find a size that fits snugly and buy the next size down for the full experience.

Rugby facing injury conundrum

YOU NEVER believed you could wish hurt on a rugby player. You never before considered the possibility it might be better the young prop leaving the pitch is not fit enough to return.

Heartless thoughts accompanied the departure of Munster’s loosehead Dave Ryan, who seemed to be in difficulty with his shoulder as Munster desperately held on in injury-time against Connacht last weekend in Galway. You wanted Ryan to be injured because you wanted Munster to be doing the right thing.

The scrum was a mess. Connacht were going to push Munster over the line or extract a penalty try and Ryan went down, allowing the starting South African prop, Wian du Preez to come back on and steady the ship.

Coach Tony McGahan says Ryan was injured and you believe him. But Connacht coach Eric Elwood was not so totally convinced.

In this instance there was a case for the Connacht medical team to examine Ryan just as the Leinster doctor Arthur Tanner tried to examine Tom Williams when he was ushered off during a Heineken Cup match with blood foaming out of his mouth. Tanner was not allowed into the changing room to assess the Harlequins player but his impulse was correct. “Bloodgate” was the result of that episode.

The second Lions Test match in 2009 in South Africa will be many peoples’ reference point for a similar scenario. Having taken a winning lead, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers decided to warehouse some of his key assets and whipped off two frontrow players, including captain John Smit.

Then as the Lions roared back, a prop went down and Smit reappeared back on the pitch to do “a du Preez”. Everyone cried foul. But how can you determine an injury that allows the number-one choice prop back on the pitch having already been replaced?

Where does it leave rugby, a game that is so comprehensively and intrusively controlled by the referee for most of the time, except when an injury occurs when it effectively resorts to self-policing?

Munster have no questions to answer but maybe the sport does.

The Final Straw

Tennis proves a nice money spinner

SO your pension is shot. It’s time to put young Molly on the tennis court. If that doesn’t rock her boat, then buy her a set of golf clubs. Why? Of the top 10 highest paid women in sport this year, five are tennis players and three are golfers.

Forbes, who work this stuff out, have Maria Sharapova at the top on €18.4 million. She earned more than €750,000 in prize money between August 2009-2010 and the rest came from endorsements.

What that tends to say is Molly need not be hoovering up the Majors when she turns professional but needs to get her pretty face out there as the real action is off court.

Sharapova has struggled in recent years, as has seventh-placed former French Open winner, Ana Ivanovic (€5.3 million), while eighth-placed Jelena Jankovic (€4 million) has yet to win a Grand Slam.

The second and third biggest earners are Serena (€15.2 million) and Venus (€11.5 million) Williams, both of them minority holders in the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

Sharapova earned the €18.4 million or so last year through deals and endorsements with companies Canon, Colgate-Palmolive, Motorola, Tiffany, Nike, Sony and Ericsson.

So it’s not about the tennis. It’s the economy, stupid.

Kindly gesture does Garcia no favours

STRANGE things make sports fans feel faint. Such an episode in 2010 was watching Sergio Garcia faffing around in civvies during the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. El Nino posing as an assistant captain because his golf game is shot to bits was oddly jarring.

A kindly gesture but you might have thought the Spaniard would have been better somewhere else. Just where, who knows?

While Pádraig Harrington will also want to say adios to the season after missing three cuts in four Majors and watch his world ranking slide to 23, having been no lower than eighth the four previous years, Sergio has plummeted to an abysmal 78th in the world.

Being a Ryder Cup assistant captain is all very well for the golfer who has paid his dues, won his tournaments and is about to slide off on to the gravy train that is the Seniors Tour.

But Sergio, the urgent, energetic shot-maker who not so long ago was chasing up the fairway after a ridiculous iron shot from the roots of a tree, will only be 31 years-old in January.