An ode to hockey and an anthem for Ireland

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Sir, – Tom Cooper (August 8th) says, “Why some players feel so threatened by playing the Irish anthem or flying the Irish flag is beyond my comprehension”.

The wonderful RTÉ programme about John Hume reflects Hume’s assertion that, if we could all play, socialise and work together, the politics would eventually take care of itself. The hockey players are the latest example of wonderful Irish people playing and winning together, with their politics (happily) left at the door. They are taking practical steps down the path of Hume and the path, possibly, to the objective to which Tom Cooper aspires.

Not entirely (I think) tongue-in-cheek, I heard a unionist suggest some years ago that he would accept Amhrán na bhFiann as the anthem for games south of the Border, so long as God Save the Queen was the anthem when an Irish team played north of the Border (or, presumably, in Great Britain).

I would share with Tom Cooper a view that a Northern majority has no right to shove its politics down the throats of its minority. I believe the principle should apply to the whole island.

Like many, I would love to get rid of the dirge which is Ireland’s Call. But until we agree on an anthem for the people of the whole island, or find something better, I will put up with it if it keeps us on the path of John Hume. – Yours, etc,

TERRY NEILL,

Dublin 18.

A chara, – Ireland’s Call was supposed to be acceptable to both cultures on our island. However, the problem for me and the reason I cannot and will not support (much to my regret last week) teams that use it to the exclusion of Amhrán na bhFiann is that it in no way reflects my identity, history or culture. The Irish language does not feature anywhere in this song.

If a true joint/compromise anthem is to be formulated, then it must contain elements of our native tongue.

Why not Ireland’s Call with the chorus in Irish and the verses in English (or vice versa or even both)? Either that, or a new anthem which can be entirely sung in both languages, is the only way to have a truly representative (and rousing) musical piece which reflects us all. – Is mise,

PÓL Ua LAOÍNECHÁIN,

Baile Áth Cliath.

Sir, – It has been a couple of wonderful weeks for those of us interested in Irish sport in general and the efforts of our women hockey players in particular. Among so much favourable coverage in your paper it was depressing to see that you had given column space to a small number of letters dredging up the lamentable criticism of the team’s use (with great and obvious enthusiasm) of Ireland’s Call or to be more exact non-use of the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland.

Anyone who writes such letters fails to understand the dynamic of the many and varied sports teams who represent this island and have brought us all so much favourable publicity especially in recent years.

Truly these 19 “girls”, their coaches (especially Graham Shaw) and all the travelling supporters have answered Ireland’s Call. – Yours, etc,

CHRISTOPHER HARTE,

Bangor, Co Down.

Sir, – The misconception that hockey is a minority sport needs to be corrected.

Throughout Ireland, hockey clubs are thriving, international hockey players have hailed from every province, and at underage level, schools and clubs from the entire country are represented.

On a worldwide stage, if Peadar Mac Maghnais, who suggested that “hockey is a minority sport played in a minority of countries” (Letters, August 9th) had checked, nations in which hockey is a major sport, include India, Pakistan, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, USA, South Africa, China, Korea, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Argentina.

From this I think we can see that the winning of a silver medal in a World Cup by our amazing women’s hockey team is so far ahead of any achievement by any other Irish team. We may never see this repeated in any sport.

We dare to dream of Olympic honours for this team, but proper funding is needed. Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, please take note. – Yours, etc,

MARY FLAHAVAN,

Naas, Co Kildare.

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