‘I’m reminded of a feature the Observer ran back in 2011 on “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals”. The list notoriously included Seamus Heaney, Colm Tóibín, and this newspaper’s Fintan O’Toole’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Frank McNally: It is only fair to disavow a case of reverse-colonisation

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves’. Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Flatland central was not short of sons and daughters of the soil

Mitchells GAA club in Magheracloone won the Ulster Intermediate Football championship last week. They lost their pitch last year when a dubhagán opened up in the middle of it. Photograph:  Pat Byrne

Whatever about its name for the month, Irish is not short of words prefixed by ‘dubh’

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt during the warm-up before the Rugby World Cup quarter final match in October between New Zealand and Ireland, in Tokyo. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Book review: Joe Schmidt’s autobiography reveals glimpses of the vulnerable human behind the manicured image

The Kerry-born novelist Rebecca West, whose magisterial book on 1930s Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, I’m still working my way through slowly, had an obvious soft spot for the Serbs too.Photograph: Baron/Getty Images

Savouring the sweet sounds of Irish Stew on a bus in west Cork

Voluntary readers included the multiple-award-winning Anton Floyd, whose poems have been published in many places including this column. Photograph: Frank McNally

Frank Connolly, Anton Floyd and Ian Bailey among the writers who spoke

Alypius the Stylite’s feast-day fell earlier this week. Above, lunette on St Alypius’s arc, mosaic on the facade of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice. Photograph: Getty Images

Kelly managed to sleep on his precarious pitches by hooking his fingers into holes in the flagpoles

Tomorrow is  “Stir-up Sunday”, after which your handiwork will have the requisite four weeks to mature. Photograph: iStock

A convergence of food and faith must have inspired many a homily down the decades

Even in the swinging 1960s, the tragic Roman noblewoman was still inspiring musicians. Paul Simon’s Cecilia is a nod in her direction. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

An Irishman’s Diary: The bonus of becoming C Sharp

Not even President “Bigly” Trump has ever said “normalness”, to the best of my knowledge, although it’s just the sort of word he could make a virtue of resurrecting. Photograph: TJ Kirkpatrick/The New York Times

All the president’s words: How a US president pushed the boundaries

Post-match interviews with the winning captain Siya Kolisi were remarkable for several reasons, not least the fact that he was more modest in victory than his opponents were in defeat.  Photograph: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images

An Irishman’s Diary: Siya Kolisi would have been well aware of historic importance of the shebeen

When hosting re-enactments of the Christmas dinner described in Joyce’s most famous short story, the former owner liked to tell guests they were in “the most important dining room in world literature”. Above, Brendan Kilty, John Sheahan, John Gallagher, Mark Lawler and Oisin Quinn. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

If No 15 were to be preserved and extended it could be a win-win

Harry Ferguson: ‘The man who toils for mere wealth in gold is as bad as the idler because he toils for his own happiness alone. To work for the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the ideal, and when the world realises the happiness that lies there, we will care less about the next world and be happier in this’. Photograph: Fred Ramage/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

An Irishman’s Diary: He laments ‘the terrible conditions now existing in Ireland’

Georgie Hyde-Lees with her husband William Butler Yeats. She became the most influential of his muses. He described the leanhaun shee  as  the Gaelic muse, giving  inspiration to those she persecutes. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

An Irishman’s Diary: ‘Leanhaun Shee’ is the Gaelic muse, giving inspiration to those she persecutes

My fortune was headlined “regular”, so I brought that home. In keeping with the description, it wasn’t very exciting. Prospects for marriage, employment, and starting a trip were only “all right”.

An Irishman’s Diary: Written on a sheet of paper, the O-mikuji (sacred lot) can be bad or good

Rugby fans Kim Somers from Co Meath and Fidelma McGeachy from Co Tipperary watching the World Cup game between Russia and Ireland in Doheny & Nebitts, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The performance never threatened to turn a restrained mid-morning pub session into a party

Japanese rugby fans  at the Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi on Saturday. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Green army joins home supporters’ celebrations – and learns how to cross the road

 Japan’s supporters cheer during the Rugby World Cup victory over Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Fukuroi, Japan. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA

Irish supporters in good spirits despite defeat after friendliest of meetings off the field

Spectators at Ireland’s opening match fixture against Scotland in Yokohama. Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

‘Fukuroi’ sounds like something Mick McCarthy might have said at another World Cup

 General view of Ireland fans in the stands during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Our ability to materialise on any foreign field must be in running for ninth wonder of world

PJ Heffernan and his wife Maureen  left Connemara a month ago in a ‘03 registered Chrysler to drive  to Yokohama in Japan for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup clash with Scotland on Sunday. Photo: ConnemaratoYokohama/Instagram.

Hong Kong airport becomes Limerick Junction of Asian air travel ahead of Scotland clash

Iain Henderson and CJ Stander arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Frank McNally recalls lavish 1988 trip as he prepares to report on this year’s tournament

‘I found myself among the speakers on a panel at Worldcon 2019, an extraordinary event that has brought thousands of sci-fi enthusiasts to Ireland from all over the world’.

Important principles from the catechism of cliché and a parallel development

George Orwell: ‘Marx discovered to be very lousy, ears full of nits, no doubt owing to the hot weather.’ Photograph: Photo 12/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Marx repeated something his friend Friedrich Engels had just written about Hegel

Young Irelander John Mitchel wrote witheringly years later of how England ‘sent round the hat all over the globe’. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

Was Polish Count Pawel Strzelecki a spy for the British government?

Jockey Davy Russell  and Dublin hurler Chris Crummy give jockey Ruby Walsh his jersey before the start of the eighth annual Hurling for Cancer Research,  in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, in St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare.  Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Hurling for Cancer Research brings more than 6,000 fans to St Conleth’s Park

Famine victims: a peasant family in The Life and Times of Queen Victoria, from 1900. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty

Government decisions were in accordance with grim teachings of Thomas Malthus

Unlike other sporting bodies, the IRFU stayed together after partition, but the anthem issue always rankled with players from an Ulster Unionist background, leading to Phil Coulter writing Ireland’s Call. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho.

Frank McNally looks at the challenges that could arise if North and South joined forces

 Blindboy Boatclub: listed Flann O’Brien as one of his great heroes, alongside “Bob Dylan and Tom Waits”

At Swim-Two-Birds pays extended homage to the number 3 with three beginnings, three ends and a similar number of plots in between

 A battering ram is used to break into a house on the estate of Captain Hector Vandeleur in Co  Clare, during an eviction of tenants for the non-payment of rent in 1888. The tenants have stuffed foliage in the doors and windows to hinder entry. Photograph:  Sean Sexton/Getty Images

Evictions combined with advent of photojournalism brought ram under spotlight

Con Ó Drisceoil is among Ireland’s leading practitioners of the comic ballad, an ancient art form. Photograph: from the cover of his book, Hunting the Hair, courtesy of TG4/Gradam Ceoil

Irishman's Diary: Musicians bumped into each other on my desk via respective books

Frances Street in Kilrush, Co Clare. Photograph:  Eamon Ward

An Irishman’s Diary: Frances Vandeleur was given Frances Street as a wedding present

The “Earl of Rone” is presumed to refer to Hugh O’Neill (c1550–1616), aka the Earl of Ty-rone.  Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

An Irishman’s Diary: The festival was banned in 1837 after a man fell to his death during the debauches

‘As for the travails of Monaghan GAA supporters, I would hesitate to compare the seven years we had Malachy O’Rourke (above) as manager –a period that ended last Saturday night – with the time James Stockdale spent in the Hanoi Hilton. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Defining event of Stockdale’s life was the time he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam

Michael Davitt (above) named Martin Hanley Carey  among inmates who became ‘oblivious to their sufferings from temporary insanity’. Photograph:  Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The motivation for Irish participation was humanitarian, in large part

 Bernard Arnault: Even the man who owns Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dom Pérignon, and other luxury brands must have gone to school post-natally like the rest of us. Photograph:  Christophe Archambault / AFP /Getty Images

When the start of a sentence loses touch with the end

“GK Chesterton was certainly no ascetic, enjoying cigars and alcohol as well as food. Unlike most saints, he was also happily married.”

An Irishman’s Diary on the English novelist who was a ‘friendly enemy’ to Shaw

George Orwell: his novel 1984, published 70 years ago today, contains what has been dubbed “one of the strangest coincidences in literature”. Photograph: Getty Images

Orwell's 1947 essay 'Towards European Unity' is still relevant today

Peter Doyle and Walt Whitman, circa 1869. Photograph: Courtesy of William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, Trent Collection.

Irishman's Diary: Born 200 years ago, Peter Doyle was poet's lifelong companion

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