The revisionists might say otherwise, but the GAA? A class apart

TV View: Not afraid to recall our history, GAA provides us with a weekend of magic

Brendan Gleeson speaking at the GAA Bloody Sunday Commemoration at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho

Brendan Gleeson speaking at the GAA Bloody Sunday Commemoration at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho

 

Ah here, as Joanne Cantwell put it, “what a weekend”, among the highlights Tipperary winning the Munster football title for the first time in 85 years, Cavan winning the Ulster title for the first time in 23 years, and TG4 winning the ‘Mná na hÉireann Abu!’ trophy for the first time in forever for not having a single boy on their presenting/analysing/commentating team for the Pro14 clash of Leinster and Cardiff Blues.

It wasn’t all perfect, mind, Ireland’s trip to Twickenham a bit on the harrowing side, by full-time the RTÉ panel wishing they’d been asked to join the Mná at the RDS instead.

The confidence levels were already low enough before Bernard Jackman put the wind up us with his pre-match video analysis, which largely featured clips of England pulverising us in our most recent encounters. If Andy Farrell had shown the lads the same video in the dressing room, it wouldn’t have fired them up, they’d just have refused to go out on the pitch.

Stephen Ferris, in fairness, had forewarned us. “England are a double decker bus and Ireland are not a double decker bus and if they’re travelling at the same speed, there’s only going to be one outcome.”

And so it proved. “We’re no shrinking violets,” Donal Lenihan reminded us, but up against 15 immovable double deckers, we looked like dinky cars.

By half-time Stephen reckoned that it felt like “we’re 35 points down instead of 12”, himself, Eddie O’Sullivan and Jamie Heaslip at a loss to explain why our line-outs, in particular, were cack. And Jamie was fretting over our fiddly carry-on in the centre of the pitch, or, as Donal exhorted: “DON’T BE FLUTING AROUND THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD!”

With six minutes to go we were still fluting around and untroubling the scoreboard, by then Farrell beginning to relate to Stephen Kenny’s life, but Jacob Stockdale’s try at least erased the zero.

Other than that, best forgotten.

There was, mercifully, no forgetting in Croke Park on Saturday evening, after a week when the airwaves were filled with assorted voices telling us that we needed to revise our view of what happened in the stadium 100 years ago. One soul even suggesting that the GAA was at fault because they didn’t postpone the match, thereby laying the blame on the association for the murder of 14 innocents. If you didn’t laugh at revisionism, you’d cry.

The Bloody Sunday commemorative jersey being worn by Tipperary’s Kevin Fahey. Photograph: Inpho
The Bloody Sunday commemorative jersey being worn by Tipperary’s Kevin Fahey. Photograph: Inpho

As ever, the GAA got it just right, the commemoration a thing of beauty. “They are our family, our friends, our people - we remember them all,” said Brendan Gleeson, while 14 torches burned brightly behind him.

Come Sunday, Colm O’Rourke, on duty at the Munster final, just wanted to forget Meath’s mullering at the hands of Dublin in the game that followed the Bloody Sunday ceremony, but Cantwell was cruel enough to remind him. Pat Spillane, pre-match, had vowed that “Meath, like last year, won’t be beaten by 16 points.” He was right, this time they were beaten by 21.

After lauding the “dignified” commemoration that preceded the game, and saluting Gleeson’s beautiful contribution, Colm only went and said: "If they waited a couple of hours they could have commemorated two massacres in Croke Park.” As the young people say: facepalm.

Ciaran Brady of Cavan celebrates his team’s shock Ulster final victory. Photograph: INpho
Ciaran Brady of Cavan celebrates his team’s shock Ulster final victory. Photograph: INpho

No matter, it turned in to a “magical” GAA weekend, as Joanne described it, the emotions and eloquence of Tipp’s Conor Sweeney and Colin O’Riordan and Cavan manager Mickey Graham and captain Raymond Galligan enough to floor you.

And, as the world and its mother noted, we have the same four football semi-finalists as 1920. Spooky. “It’s fate,” said Colm, who then doffed his cap at an “historic” weekend. And the spirits it lifted.

“Old people in nursing homes all over the country with a great passion for the GAA, people who haven’t been able to get out much, these games have brightened up their lives,” he said. “I think the GAA have handled the whole thing very well.”

That they did. The revisionists might say otherwise, but the GAA? A class apart. No fluting around. Not afraid to recall our history, nor honour its victims.

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