Saturday 21 April 2018

Shutters come down in Ballyragget as fierce loyalty to town chases off prying eyes

A sign wishing the St Patrick’s team good luck in their hurling county final. Photo: Mark Condren
A sign wishing the St Patrick’s team good luck in their hurling county final. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A hand-painted sign outside the town reads: "Best of luck to St Patrick's from Ballyragget Scout group."

The eager eyes of youngsters had been on their club as they went for the Intermediate County Hurling final last Sunday, beating off Graigue Ballycallan.

This had been a crucial fixture because they had been relegated, after losing the past three county finals in recent years.

The local papers described St Pat's speed of touch as being "almost frightening" and their work-rate "superb".

They had played a "classy brand of hurling", that took them back up to the senior grade, the papers said.

The maroon and white club colours were still hanging in Ballyragget - but the gloss had gone off the victory and the shutters had come down.

Questions were being asked around the country about why this event had taken place in the first place - and how had the photos been circulated to WhatsApp groups of the parents of Under-10 GAA groups.

"Why are you here? What do you want?" demanded one young woman out on the main street in the town.

To a man and a woman, nobody wants to discuss the ignominious result of the team celebrations - with two topless strippers pictured alongside a player in his underpants and the official silver GAA cup at a party in Fitzpatrick's Bar in the town on Tuesday night.

Whatever their private view of what transpired, fierce loyalty - to their young men and to their town - understandably trumps the prying eyes of intruders.

In the post office, the woman behind the counter stands up, arms folded.

"No comment," she said firmly.

It is the same in the cafe.

And among passers-by on the streets.

The mood is one of tight reserve - with an undeniable underlying embarrassment.

This was an unfortunate transgression that got out of hand - and now the whole country is talking about it.

In Fitzpatrick's, patrons look up from their drinks as we come in.

"On holidays?" asked one man laconically, knowing the reason for the call.

Paddy Fitzpatrick, the proprietor, emerged from the back. It was a private function, it had nothing to do with the club, it got out of hand, he said. "Bye, bye," he added as he walked away.

Read More: Eight questions the GAA must answer

Disapproving murmuring follow us out on to the street - and a young man and a woman emerge.

This issue needed to go away, the man indicated, in an agitated manner.

This was a small town and they didn't need this trouble.

"Nobody understands what is at stake here - we're afraid St Patrick's will be thrown out of the Leinster championship," he said.

"You don't know how these things go."

Why were we interested in this anyway, asked the woman, warning us not to return to the pub because we weren't welcome there.

This was a non-story and shouldn't be of any interest to anybody, she says.

"It was just young lads having a bit of craic," she insisted of the incident. "It was just a party," she added.

Irish Independent

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