There's no harm at all in showing your hand
Páidí ó Sé is sticking to his guns on football . . . and on rural livingMY observations last week about the need to preserve the social fabric of rural Ireland notwithstanding the very necessary clampdown on drink driving really set the cat amongst the pigeons. This is a very serious subject, and a very difficult issue on which to find the right balance between saving lives and the social requirements of people living in country areas.
At least I hope we provoked a spirit of debate, and the letters the Sunday Independent received indicates that this is so. The letters were a mixed bag, some took my point and others severely criticised me, which is fair enough. It is an exceptionally sensitive and potentially fractious issue to raise at all, and I knew that I could be on a hiding to nothing for even mentioning it.
I note that Paddy O'Brien of Balbriggan denigrates me as "just another whining whinging publican talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time". He is entitled to his say, but my own business as a publican was not at all at the forefront of my mind when I dealt with this subject last week -- it was more a concern for the isolation, emptiness and loneliness of rural life if sensible, mature and moderate people are denied the social outlet that every human being needs.
George Ledwith of Moate calls for "a sensible return to the redevelopment of rural life which has been developed over several centuries". Mick Nolan of Kilcolgan, Co Galway, said that while I might be right in some of my arguments, "I'm afraid it's the price we pay for the success of the anti-alcohol campaign".
Frank Gaffney of Sutton says to me: "I know you will probably tip Dublin and Kerry to become All-Ireland champions this year" -- wrong on both counts, Frank -- and he goes on: "Real life and death are not always that simple, sometimes we have to make responsible choices."
A good point, but I was at pains to say last week that there are no easy answers. What I really want is the issue to be examined calmly and clinically because of the very high price being paid in so many parts of the country where people's lives are on a different planet to the lives of those in the big towns and cities.
N Scarlett, from Berkshire, takes me to task for wrongly attributing the invention of concentration camps to the British during the Boer War. He says the concept was Spanish, in their struggle to retain Cuba in 1895. He could well be right but it is historically true that the British concentration camps during the Boer War set an unfortunate and brutal model for the rest of the world.
Back to football for the moment, and it is heartening to see some counties gaining a modicum of success from a very competitive National League campaign. Down wintered well and got full value from the league with their promotion, as have Waterford, Limerick and Armagh.
There is a school of thought that Cork played it clever in their encounter with Mayo by taking it easy and not showing their hand. If that is so, it was, in my opinion, too clever by half. I would like to think both teams were trying to their utmost and that Cork were genuinely beaten by a Mayo team with great potential.
My belief is that every team should go all out in every game during the league, and that is the true spirit and essence of competitive sport. To tell you the truth, I would be surprised if that is not the case when you have so many very fit, ambitious, and committed young athletes involved.
(See special letters forum, Section 1, Page 12)