Arts community shouldn’t begrudge GAA, say dual performers

Government accused of starting ‘turf war between sports and arts’

Brave Giant playing during the half-time interval of the 2018 All-Ireland hurling final. ‘GAA and music are both hugely important,’ says frontman Podge Gill.

Brave Giant playing during the half-time interval of the 2018 All-Ireland hurling final. ‘GAA and music are both hugely important,’ says frontman Podge Gill.

 

The streets around Croke Park will be thronged with up to 24,000 GAA fans again this weekend for the All-Ireland senior football semi-final between Kerry and Tyrone.

For musicians and artists, it will be another reminder of the stark division between how their sector and sport events are allowed to operate during the latest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Those in power have started a turf war between sports and arts,” says Podge Gill, frontman of group Brave Giant and a former full-forward with his local GAA club in Longford.

His band performed on the Croke Park pitch during the half-time interval of the 2018 All-Ireland hurling final - a game which saw Limerick end a 45-year wait for a title.

“Watching the final on Sunday brought back memories,” he said, noting that music has always been an integral part of All-Irelands.

Last Sunday, it was the sound of a recording of Dreams by The Cranberries that boomed around the stadium as Limerick raised the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the third time in four years.

“Impossible to ignore,” Dolores O’Riordan sang, and for Gill that phrase sums up his feeling towards the two-tier nature of the reopening.

“GAA and music are both hugely important” and one shouldn’t be pitted against the other, he argues.

Brian Ó Doibhlin is another who straddles the worlds of sport and the arts. While playing as a half-back for his club Erin’s Own Cargin in Co Antrim, he performed regular live gigs around Belfast, Derry and North Antrim before the pandemic. He knows and appreciates the merits of both realms.

“For me, I love and miss playing music but it’s not always guaranteed that the audience responds well in a live setting,” he said.

“On the other side, you have the buzz of playing GAA. In front of a crowd, it’s something else. I played a championship match last week and there was a great atmosphere. When you play GAA, you represent the entire community and it outweighs the feeling of playing music, for me.”

Begrudgery

Dubliner Barry Ó Séanáin originally played centre-back for his local club Cuala in south Dublin and now with the Manhattan Gaels. He routinely plays gigs in bars and restaurants. While the reopening of Croke Park has irritated some people in the arts community, Ó Séanáin - like other “dual performers” - counsels against begrudgery.

“I would say 70 per cent of the arts sector are totally supportive of the GAA being back and 40,000 attending a hurling match - because you see that it means a lot to supporters,” he says.

“It’s not fans’ fault. There’s just no sense behind the Irish Government continuing to postpone - or even give a checkpoint of when they’ll consider - reopening live events for artists. It’s an indictment on the country’s leaders, not the people.”

A spokesman for Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said the Government would shortly decide on “a clear roadmap for the sustainable reopening of activities in the live entertainment, culture and arts sectors”.

A further meeting with industry representatives - at which Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have agreed to attend - is scheduled for next Monday.