W HAT began as an attempt to refresh my memory as to who is playing this weekend in the Allianz League ended up with musings on Fine Gael's proposals on the Irish language.
I was rumbling around the GAA diary, which contains all the fixtures, and I began to scan the names of the members of the GAA's most important committee, An Coiste Bainistí, or Management Committee.
I could not help thinking that these names might as well have been written in Chinese as in Irish as far as most people are concerned. I had to work hard myself to figure out who everybody was but I could imagine some people ringing them up if they wanted something (numbers are included) and the first question might be, who are you anyway? The name in Irish means absolutely nothing to many.
Fine Gael, it seems, say that Irish should not be compulsory at Leaving Cert level. The diary shows that there is a wrong attitude towards the language which the GAA continues to be a party to. Lists of players and secretaries in Irish and a few bellicose words from a captain don't promote anything; all they are is an insult to the language which should be promoted through listening and speaking and not in this totally artificial way. In school, I see many weaker students struggle with Irish at Leaving Cert level and they would be better off doing Home Economics, IT skills or something which they would not become totally frustrated with.
The methods of teaching and examining have improved, with a sizeable proportion of marks for oral and aural tests, but the war was lost through stupidity in trying to ram poetry and literature down young people's throats. Now is the time to build from the ground up with a more sensible, user-friendly approach. And even though I think our language and games are worth protecting, the sky won't fall in if those who find it absolutely impossible drop Irish after the Junior Cert. It would make teaching much easier and develop a proper respect and love for something which is important in creating national identity.
From a GAA point of view, all lists should be in English or Irish which means no forced translations of both Christian and surnames, especially those which have no Irish in them whatsoever.
The league is up and running and while losing a first-round game is never a major worry, nobody will want to be pointless this evening. Division 1 is a fairly cut-throat affair but it is the place to be as teams are measured by the best in every game.
That is where the All-Ireland winners come from most years and, apart from Tyrone, all the leading contenders are in the top bracket. Perhaps a case can be made for both Kildare and Meath in Division 2 but it would certainly be an advantage for both to have gained promotion over the last couple of years.
Most of the first-round games in the top flight were very competitive, the exception being the mauling that Monaghan gave Galway. It was a long way back from Clones to Eyre Square and there are early signs of disquiet emerging out west. Last week the cry of the sea was being heard, man overboard or even men overboard. It is not easy for Tomás ó Flatharta. I am not a fan of players jumping ship. The best thing is always to stay and fight. Football is full of hard knocks and hanging in when things may not be going well strengthens both mind and body. This is a test of what Galway are made of. Most expect them to be one of the sides for the trapdoor but nothing is inevitable.
The Cork-Kerry match was full of great endeavour and laced with wonderful skill. And there was a share of dodgy refereeing decisions too which had Conor Counihan lamenting in his quiet way the lack of consistency. The same sentiments are expressed every year that young men chase after a round ball. Cork have the wind at their backs now and if they can dig up a few more players, they could have a period of domination as the bulk of the team are at the right age. But Cork have had plenty of great players and great teams before and usually end up with less to show for it than the talents suggest. The next internal convulsion can hardly be too far away, after all, it has been several years of relative quiet by the banks.
Kerry can afford to lose about one more match before some of their supporters fear that they are facing into the blackest night; that usually ends up with them winning only three of the next five All-Irelands. So I would not worry about them yet, even if replacing some of their golden crew will take time. Judging by the performance of Eoin Brosnan with Dr Crokes, he still has a lot to contribute. In most counties, he would be an automatic choice.
The other side who need to make hay in this division is Dublin. They now have a big panel of players, many of the hard-running, honest type and just need a quality midfielder, a half-back and one more scoring forward. Sounds easy but that search is going on in most counties. Many are chosen but few make it.
One of the features of the inter-county scene is the general blandness of teams. There are no real characters. Interviews appear all the same: "we knew coming up here today that we were going to have a hard battle", or, "we have a lot of respect for this team" and so on. With Conor Mortimer in the recovery ward there will be no quotes from that quarter. Maybe James Horan would prefer it like that. Enda Kenny is going to get one part of the Mayo double up, now the easy part will be to win the All-Ireland.
Sunday Indo Sport