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21 May 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY

Political football from the Hogan Stand

IT’S NOT often that I regret my family’s having left the ancestral hearth in North Tipp but this election has provided one reason. If I was there then I would be able to vote for someone other than Seán Kelly in the European elections. Toireasa Ferris, obviously, but the main object of the exercise would be NOT to vote for Seán Kelly.
Why, you may ask. Well, I have nothing personal against the chap. He appears a quite decent enough fellow when it comes down to it, even if he did play for Parnells when he was in Dublin. And it’s not even so much that he’s a Blueshirt. After all, are we not supposed to be casting our second preferences for the proxy Blueshirts?
From my cold dead hand, I tell you. Or rather someone will have to stand over me like an old -fashioned schoolteacher and force me to make the mark with my pencil. No way, pal.

WHAT I do have against the former president of the GAA is what I perceived to be his obsequiousness when in that position when it came to the issue of opening Croke Park to rugby and soccer. Fair enough, the decision was made but there was too much of the  ‘Oh, aren’t you the fine chaps now to be coming out of your caves and embracing pluralism and multiculturalism and extending the hand of friendship and letting a nicer class of person in’ and all the rest. In two words: Marian Finucane. 
Every weekend she seemed to have poor old Seán on to pat him on the head and ponder how marvellous it would be to hear God Save the Queen while sitting in the Hogan Stand named after one of those who HM’s grandad’s finest murdered in 1920. Only feckin’ marvellous so it would be and especially if herself came over to see it. Now wouldn’t that be only even more marvellous?
So really I have nothing against poor old Seán at all. Still, I wouldn’t vote for him. Or for their historical allies either. Unless it’s a number 10 or 11 for the former TD for Finglas!
Seán’s motivations in subjecting himself to Marian are now clear. Fair play to him. You don’t get elected by hiding your light under a bushel. And, of course, he is not the first person to use his GAA background as a means of enticing the electorate although why, other than sentiment, you would vote for someone just because they were a good hurler or footballer or a former president of the GAA is beyond me, I have to say. Having said that, I would definitely vote for Jimmy Keaveney if he stood. Unless, of course, he was standing for the Blueshirts. Or Labour. 

THERE was a time when it was almost de rigueur to have a GAA background.
In 1969, not only was Taoiseach Jack Lynch a multiple All-Ireland winner in hurling and football but several of his TDs had also played, and some like Des Foley of Dublin and Seán Flanagan of Mayo had also won All-Irelands.
Fine Gael had John Donnellan of the famous Galway three-in-a-row side and Labour had Dan Spring, who had captained Kerry to an All -Ireland in the 1940s. And, no doubt, there were other inter-county players from places where they never won anything. Like Monaghan.

IN MY own family’s old club, Good Counsel in Drimnagh, there was a political dispute in the 1960s when one of the members decided to run as an Independent candidate and demanded the backing of the club.
One of the uncles was chairperson or secretary at the time and pointed out to him that our family had never brought its politics - which were progressive trendy tree-hugging anti-populist liberal anti-vivisectionist social democratic, like all republicans of the time, obviously  - into the club and no one else would either. Except when it came to waging war on the occupation forces in the 1950s - but that was above politics! 
So your man took the hump and ran a spectacularly successful campaign to top the poll.
In the course of the election he even managed to commandeer the front page of either the Evening Press or the Evening Herald (probably the Herald, actually) to highlight his claim to have a list of 500 communists who were working in Dublin Corporation and who he pledged to smoke out after the fashion of his great hero, the senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. I’m not sure if he ever did find all those reds under their dustbin carts.

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