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The GAA was our identity, part of a 'f**k you' to the rotten state we lived in

Joe Brolly


Far from damaging the GAA, the Troubles gave us a real sense of identity

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Tyrone and Armagh supporters at the 2003 All-Ireland final. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Tyrone and Armagh supporters at the 2003 All-Ireland final. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Tyrone and Armagh supporters at the 2003 All-Ireland final. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

In 1969, Francie McCloskey, a quiet, well-liked 67-year-old farmer, was batoned to death by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the door-front of Hasson's draper's shop on Dungiven's Main Street. The joke told about suits from Hasson's was that the trousers were so flared you had to take two strides before the trousers moved, but they famously lasted forever, made from thick material that, as Packie Kealey put it, "a nail couldn't pierce".

A bachelor, Francie had come into town that morning to buy his weekly groceries, get a haircut in Doran's, have a glass of stout in McReynolds' Bar and shoot the breeze with the boys. The old man was minding his own business and they killed him. No point calling the police when the police are doing the killing.

Francie was the first fatality of what came to be known across the world as 'The Troubles'. His wanton murder changed everything. It was covered up by the state. No one was arrested.